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Digging in Dogs

Digging in Dogs

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Digging is a very common canine behavior. A dog may dig for a variety of reasons, ranging from natural tendencies and instincts to underlying behavioral issues.

Hunting Behavior 

Digging related to hunting behavior often occurs along rodent tracks/mole holes. The dog may be excited, whine, bark, wag their tail, and fixate on the ground.

  • DO get rid of the rodents with dog-safe pest control. Contact a local exterminator for safe products and methods to use around dogs. Implement only supervised outdoor time in the yard. If using traps, restrict access or place the traps in dog-free areas. Keep your pet inside if you have to use toxic chemicals.

  • DON’T use pesticides/rat traps that may be harmful to your pet.

Seeking Cool Spot (seasonal) 

On warm or hot days, the dog may dig a hole to lay in, and has preferred areas in/near shade. This behavior is especially common in dogs with a lower tolerance for heat.

  • DO provide shady landscaping, kiddie pool, kennel/dog house, shorter hair cut, automatic sprinklers, dog door. Always make sure the dog has access to fresh water.

Likes to Dig 

For some dogs, digging is a behavior t hat makes them happy. This usually results in random holes all over the yard with no specific distribution near fences/shade/mole holes. The dog may dig when you are home. The holes are usually deep and the behavior is not linked to warmer seasons.

  • DO build your dog a sandbox, or train to dig in a designated area of the yard that has distinct, diggable substrate (sand). Bury toys/treats/balls in the sand area and train with positive reinforcement and treats to dig in the now designated appropriate place. Consider fencing around flower beds/landscaping.

  • DON’T physically punish dogs for digging.

Boredom – (similar to “likes to dig”) 

Dogs that are bored may dig when alone, especially for long periods. This is an attention seeking behavior and may be accompanied by other destructive or disruptive behavior such as chewing furniture or barking incessantly.

  • DO exercise the dog more, consider getting another dog, doggy daycare, provide toys, enrichment (see above for more enrichment ideas/training).

Burying Objects

Dogs sometimes bury food/bones/toys and retrieve them at a later time, or not at all. They may be protective of resources with other dogs around and retrieve treats when it is “safe” (there are no other dogs around). Holes may not be obvious because they are covered, or they may be small.

  • DO give the dog treats/toys inside the house only, and perhaps only give treats/toys when they are away from other dogs. Provide them with outdoor-only toys.


Escaping may be a seasonal issue if your dog is intact (not spayed or neutered). The dog may bark and run along the fence line, growl/lunge at a fence toward neighbor dogs, escape out open gates, or wait to bolt at gates when people come in/out. Dog aggression may be underlying this behavior, in which case it is best to consult your veterinarian.

  • DO look for potential reasons that your dog may be escaping. Some suggestions for things to implement are to: exercise your dog more, provide enrichment, play with dog in the back yard, provide a clean environment, scoop the poop regularly, setup doggy play dates or doggy day care. Build a false fence to increase distance between neighbor dogs. If the behavior is severe, reinforce fence into the ground with cement/lay chicken wire, install motion detection sprinklers to keep the dog away from the fence and remove direct contact with neighbor dogs or nearby sidewalks. Consider neutering intact males.

  • DON’T chain up your dog.


Anxiety happens when you are away – your dog is anxious when left alone/or you are getting ready to leave. They may exhibit whining, pacing, and be very excited when you get home. You may find destruction around windows/doors, general destructive behavior, and other unwanted behaviors. It is best to consult your veterinarian for this problem.

  • DO determine the underlying cause of anxiety with your veterinarian.

  • DON’T punish your dog for digging.

In conclusion, there are many reasons why your dog may dig and there are many ways you can work with your dog to stop the behavior. This list is designed to give you a few simple guidelines and suggestions that may help. Please consult your veterinarian when implementing any plans, if you have any concerns, or if any problems arise. Remember, safety first!

*This article may not be reproduced without the written consent of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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