Why do dogs dig and how to stop it holiday cottages

Canine Care

Why do dogs dig and how to stop it

Battersea 29 April 2024

When it comes to digging, dogs just can’t get enough of it. It's a very natural instinct and a great activity for your canine chum to engage in. However, where and when your dog is exhibiting this instinct might cause problems for us pet parents - for example, dogs digging in the house is not ideal! - and too much digging might be an indication of a stressed or anxious pup.

Our friends at Battersea have shared some handy tips to understand why dogs dig holes in the first place and how you can prevent unnecessary digging from becoming a frequent occurrence.

If you're wondering how to stop your dog digging so much and in the wrong places, read on for some ideas, or click the button below to explore more of our Canine Care guides. 

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Why do dogs dig? 

What are the reasons your canine pal is digging in the garden or scratching up the inside of your home? While it may be a frustration for you and your family, there is always a reason behind this kind of activity. Read on to discover what might be causing your dog to dig so much! 

Ancestral instincts 

Dog digging on a beach

While dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, their roots trace back to their ancestors who relied on digging for survival, creating shelter and protection in the wild. This deep-rooted instinct remains imprinted in their genes, even as modern-day pets. 

The main reason why dogs used to dig holes was as a way to hide food from other predators. That's why, today, you might see your canine chum burying bones and toys in the garden - or doing the opposite, digging up bones, toys and whatever else they might discover in the ground. It's a totally natural, age-old instinct in dogs, so if your pup pal is digging in the garden or park, it might be a sign that they are healthy and actually have great instincts! 

Escaping boredom 

Tired and bored dog lying down

Another reason your pup pal is digging might simply be because they are bored! Just like us, dogs can often get bored from time to time, and this makes digging an entertaining pastime for them. 

If you want to stop your dog from digging inside the house, you might want to find a way to stimulate them. It may mean something as simple as a new toy, or your dog may need a more exciting activity like dog classes or daycare where your pup can socialise with other canines - perfect if they are exhibiting this instinct while you are out at work or away for a long time. Read through our guide to dog brain training for ideas on mentally stimulating your pup pal.

Copycat canines 

Two dogs digging on the beach

Dogs are very observant and can learn certain behaviours from other dogs or even humans. When they see another dog digging, they too can be inspired to join in on the fun! If your dog has regular doggy playdates with friends who love to dig up the garden, there's every chance your pup will pick up this habit too - after all, dogs are incredibly sociable and being part of a pack is how our canine's ancestors used to survive in the wild. 

Puppies that have a 'mentor' are often better at learning good behaviours, and at the same time, they can very easily pick up behaviours you might not want them to - like digging! 

Emotional outlet 

Ginger dog digging in hole

Dogs can experience stress and anxiety too. Digging can act as an emotional outlet for pent-up energy and emotions. Make sure that your dog is getting enough physical exercise, which can include playing fetch, walking, running and swimming. 

If you've got a canine companion in the family, then take a look at our guide to what to get for a new dog, they might be nervous because they don't have a safe space to go to (bed/crate) or they might be anxious because they are struggling with a lack of stimulation and in need of more exercise or mental stimulation. 

If you're planning a holiday with your new dog or a dog that gets nervous easily, take a look at our guide to holidaying with an anxious dog. If your dog gets nervous around people and other dogs, then we also have a guide on building your dog's confidence around strangers

How to stop a dog from digging

Now that you've sussed out why your canine pal might be digging so much, here are a few ways you can prevent it, control the digging, and help your dog if they are stressed, anxious or bored. 

Use deterrents 

Black dog digging in the garden

We recommend restricting access to your dog’s usual digging spots, either by installing garden fencing or a similar barrier. You can also cover the digging spots with rocks and stones to discourage your dog from digging in these areas. 

Another option would be to supervise your dog while they’re outside and direct them to areas where you don't mind your dog digging - a great temporary measure while you decide where you're going to fence off or designate a new digging spot for them. 

Make use of a designated digging area 

Dog playing with ball in a sandbox

Providing your dog with their very own digging outlet can also be a great alternative. If you want to control where they are digging, you might think about getting a sandpit or fencing an area for your dog to dig in.

Keep the pit away from your dog’s usual digging area and fill it with a small amount of soil, then place one out in the garden and let your dog go mutts digging in it! This way, your four-pawed pal can dig freely and play in a controlled environment. You could even try burying toys or treats to encourage your pup to dig in the sandpit and not in other places. 

Provide physical and mental stimulation 

Dog playing with a rope toy

If you're keen to stop your dog from digging, consider if your dog is lacking mental stimulation in their day-to-day life. Involve your dog in enjoyable activities that you both can participate in, such as playing fetch, going for long walks, or having a tug of war. Providing your dog with this enrichment can redirect your dog towards more acceptable behaviours and strengthen your bond with them. 

This is especially relevant if you have a puppy that won't stop digging, as youngsters are full of energy to test themselves and learn from other dogs and humans, so any mental stimulation you can provide them will be invaluable and a brilliant distraction from digging. 

Use positive reinforcement training 

Dog smiling on its back in the grass

Dogs do so much to improve our well-being, so it's important that we give back! Be sure to praise and reward your dog when they dig in their designated area or refrain from digging in their usual spot. 

This will help reinforce the desired behaviour. Keep in mind the importance of maintaining consistency with the suggested efforts. Dogs love a consistent routine, and this will quickly help them to grasp what is expected of them. 

Supporting Battersea

At Canine Cottages, we’re incredibly proud of our partnership with Battersea. Built on shared values, this allows us to support Battersea and its incredible work.

We’re a proud supporter of The Battersea Way pet advice email newsletters – you can sign up here or donate to Battersea to help make a difference to the animals in their care. 

You'll find more helpful advice from Battersea in our Canine Care section, just click the button below.  

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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