Why Do Dogs Dig Holes and Lay in Them?

Golden Retriever digging hole in the ground

Your beautiful garden is your pride and joy and it can be quite annoying to find your furry canine digging holes in your beautifully tended flower beds every time your back is turned. While you may find this behavior tiresome, it is important to understand why your pooch is digging holes in your garden and laying in them.

Why Is My Dog Digging Holes?

There are several reasons why your pooch may be digging holes and laying in them. When your furry pet is playing out in the garden, is tired and wants to rest, he tries to find the perfect spot. And, if he’s not able to find the ideal place, he digs a hole in the soil and simply lays down there.

He may dig holes and lay in the mud, to ease some discomfort or feel better. This may be because the weather is too cold or hot and your pet wants to warm up or cool down. Your pet may be stressed and wants to rest in an area they feel is safer and more secure. In this section, we’ll look at the reasons why dogs dig holes.

To Adjust Their Body Temperature

Dogs make use of the ground to adjust their body temperature if it is too hot or cold. On a hot day, your pet may be seeking to cool down by digging the soil to get to the cooler dirt below. And, when gets to the cooler ground, getting inside and lying in it is much more comfortable compared to the hot ground and this also helps to cool his underbody.

Dogs don’t sweat like human beings and most of their sweat glands are located on their nose and pads of the feet, i.e., areas without much fur. Since they have very few areas with sweat glands to cool the body, dogs have to find other ways to keep themselves cool and the ground is the best option. And, on cold days, dogs like to dig and lay in areas where there is plenty of sun to keep warm.

To Feel Safe

Before dogs were domesticated, they were pack animals and lived in large groups, which meant that they stayed and slept together in dens or holes dug in the ground to feel more safe and secure against any intruders.

It also helps to keep them warm by protecting them from the elements. So, dogs carry out this practice even now and when they are stressed or anxious, they dig holes and lay in them to feel safe and secure.

When They’re About to Die

Although dogs don’t know that they’re dying, they often dig holes and lay in them when they’re about to die. When dogs are injured, are in pain or ill, they isolate and hide. This is probably a part of their instinct of keeping themselves safe and protected in the wild.

Digging a hole and laying in it helps to keep the dogs safe from predators because when the dog is weak, he will not be able to fight his attacker, which makes him an easy target. By digging a hole, dogs keep themselves safe and give themselves the best chance to survive. Older dogs and sick dogs whose health is declining are more likely to go away to a private place, dig a hole and lay in it.

Also Read: 13 Ways to Protect Your Drywall From Your Dog

Other Reasons for Digging

Instinct

All dogs love to dig; however, some breeds love digging more than others. Even if your pooch is not a problem digger, you may sometimes notice him “digging” in his bedding or the sofa cushions before laying down.

Dogs may dig because this is an instinctive behavior that they may have inherited from their ancestors and comes to them naturally. In fact, digging is an important trait in several hunting breeds to burrow and catch their prey and some breeds even have paws that help them to dig.

Seeking Prey

Your pooch may be digging for rodents and other small animals that they can smell or hear underground. This can be seen especially for dogs having a high prey drive such as Dachshunds, terriers, etc., which were bred originally to hunt rodents, moles and other small game.

Hiding Treasures

Often, dogs like to hide their treasures such as their favorite toy, bones or treats to keep them safe. However, they often don’t remember where they have hidden their treasure trove, which leads them to dig further, searching for their buried treasures.

Boredom and Anxiety

While your dog may be digging mostly for fun and to relieve themselves from boredom. Often, they may dig if they are nervous or anxious. Chronic digging may be signs that your pet is not getting sufficient mental stimulation or physical activity. However, this could also be a sign of separation anxiety, if your pet has been left alone for long periods.

Attempting to Escape

Your pet may dig if he feels the need to leave your garden or yard and rather than trying to get over the fence, it may be easier for your pet to dig a tunnel under the fence to get out. This behavior may be encouraged by your dog wanting to get to something that’s on the other side of the fence, like a cat or another dog.

Nesting

Digging may be quite common in female dogs, especially if she is pregnant, who is simply following her instinct to nest.

Should I Allow My Dog to Dig?

The decision of whether you should allow your furry pooch to dig depends on where and why he’s digging and how much destruction he is causing. For example, if your pet is digging in one corner of your garden or yard, then it’s probably not a cause for concern.

However, if he’s digging all over the place and very often making holes everywhere and even trying to dig inside your home, then it is a real problem that you must tackle immediately.

How to Stop My Dog from Digging

While digging is instinctive in dogs and you can’t prevent it; nevertheless, you can discourage your pet from digging often or in specific places. In this section, we’ll discuss some tips on how to prevent your pet from digging:

  • Do not allow your pet outdoors in your yard unsupervised for a long time or often more than it is absolutely necessary.
  • Ensure that your pooch understands that he must come home indoors after his playtime.
  • Give your pet sufficient attention so that he doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety when left alone.
  • Make sure that your pet has sufficient physical as well as mental stimulation.
  • Get your dog an insulated dog house or a doggy coat so that your pet can be warm in winter and in the hotter months, provide a small paddle pool in which he can cool off and plenty of shade to rest in. This way you can help to regulate your pet’s body temperature.
  • Get your dog a bed having a raised edge, which will help him to feel more secure and protected when he lays down, similar to laying in a hole.
  • Place deterrents and obstacles in places where your pooch digs very often such as paving stones or rocks in the garden beds, burying chicken wire along the fences, planting shrubs along the yard’s perimeter.
  • Install a sandbox or designate a specific area, where you can allow your dog to dig if he does it for fun.
  • Don’t let your dog carry his toys or treats outdoors if he likes to bury them.

Also Read: Why Do Dogs Steal Your Seat?

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, while the behavior may seem rather bizarre, it is quite common to see dogs digging holes and then laying in them. There’s no cause to worry and your pet is probably feeling a bit too hot or cold and is trying to regulate his body temperature and once the weather changes, he may stop doing this naturally.

However, it is important to monitor your pet and be vigilant. And, if you see your pet digging at all times, then you may have to go to the root cause of his behavior and do everything to ensure that your pet has an environment that he feels safe and comfortable in.

Most importantly, determine the primary cause of why your dog is digging. Only when you do this, you can reduce your pet’s urge to dig, And, completely preventing him from digging may lead him to either find another location to dig in or develop a new behavior such as whining, excessive barking, trying to escape or chewing things.

Try and channelize his digging urges into activities that are less destructive and more productive, ensuring that both you, as well as your furry friend are both much happier.