Why Do Dogs Dig Holes? (Common Reasons and How to Stop It)

Why Do Dogs Dig Holes? Photo fo a dog digging a hole in the snow.

Do you have a dog digging problem? It’s much more common than most people think! Here’s what you need to know about why do dogs dig holes.

Digging holes is an instinct for dogs and a normal behavior across most breeds. In many cases, dogs dig holes to access something. If they lie in them, it’s often for relief from the elements or for protection as they rest and recover. If they simply dig and dig, they are often looking for something, such as a toy they buried previously, a water source, or some tasty bugs or worms that’ll make great snacks.

Common reasons why dogs dig holes

To us, digging holes is an alien and strange behavior. After all, what use a gross and damp hole of diary going to give us? But dogs see it as something else entirely. This “vision” will vary depending on what the reason is behind their dig in needs. The three main instinctive reasons for dogs to dig include:

  • Temperature regulation
  • Comfort/security
  • Access to something that they can smell
  • Temperature regulation

On a hot day, your dog is probably feeling the heat. Since they don’t sweat as humans do, they’ll dig a hole in your grass to get to the cool and damp earth below it. Then they’ll lie there and enjoy the refreshing coolness that will help them enjoy a rest from the otherwise unforgiving heat.

On a cold day, dogs might be seeking warmth. If they are digging past the snow or into the cold ground and hunkering down into it. In that case, they are looking for the warmer earth that will help reflect their body heat to them and get out of the elements/cold wind.

Comfort/security

Dogs are naturally denning animals, so they enjoy the feeling of being in a den. If a dog feels uncertain or afraid, they will often dig a hole and “hide” in it just because it makes them feel better. 

Whether they are upset or injured/in pain, digging a hole will help them feel better and safer so that they can “recover” without anyone finding them and bothering them.

Access to something that they can smell

Dogs have powerful senses of smell. They will be able to smell a tasty treat buried beneath your grass or garden bed, so they’ll start digging away to get to it. It could be an actual treat, or it might be a snack like a bug, or it could be something like water if they’re thirsty.

Uncommon reasons why dogs dig holes

There are also a few less common reasons why dogs might be digging holes. These are more likely depending on your dog breed and/or if you notice that this behavior has seemingly started with no apparent reason. These include:

  • Your dog is trying to escape
  • Your dog is unhappy or angry
  • Nesting

Your dog is trying to escape

Some dog breeds just hate being fenced in. Since most yards have a fence, you may notice that your dog is constantly trying to dig under the fence. Learning how to prevent that is going to be essential for your dog’s containment!

Whether escaping the fence or just escaping in general, he is fearful or upset with something. For example, he feels that he spends too much time outside on his own. Or, he just isn’t happy in his home (for whatever reason) and is attempting to escape.

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Your dog is unhappy or angry

If a dog has a dog-equivalent of a temper tantrum, he might dig a hole. He could be doing it just to spite you, of course, if he knows that you don’t like it. However, this is a common way for dogs to work out their energy, too. From feeling cooped up and needing to spend some energy doing something (like if he doesn’t get enough exercise) to being frustrated, digging is a common reaction.

Nesting

If you have a pregnant dog, you may notice that she is digging a hole that she has very specifically picked out. This is often because she is getting close to giving birth and is searching to create a safe space for her babies to spend their first shaky and vulnerable days and weeks.

Should I let my dog dig holes?

Technically, there’s no harm in dogs digging holes. It’s normal behavior that links back to their primal brain. There is no harm to the behavior itself in most cases (more on that in a bit), so digging isn’t a problem…for your dog. But, it’s most likely a problem for you!

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re frustrated with all of the holes in your yard. It makes sense since there is no feasible reason why our dogs should be digging homes in the yard that we just spent 3 hours mowing, right? 

You don’t need to let your dog dig holes if it’s something that upsets you. It doesn’t look great, the actual digging process gets dirt everywhere, and it can be hazardous to your family’s health if someone trips and falls into one of them. Restricting them from digging will not “hurt” their biological needs or brain. 

How do I stop my dog from digging holes?

If you want to stop your dog from digging, it mainly focuses on getting a feel for the reason behind it. Let’s start with the “common” reasons first.

After playtime outside, make sure that you incentivize your dog to come inside with you and your human family members. This way, they know that they’ll enjoy some treats and more quality time spent with loved ones. This is especially so when looking at temperature regulation and resting. If the house has a more comfortable temperature and a nice soft place to lie down, they’ll have no interest in digging since everything they need is already waiting for them inside!

When they spend time unattended outside in the heat or cold, make sure they have access to areas where they can enjoy a break from the elements. A shaded cool area with lots of water, and a warm insulated dog house, respectively, for example.

As for the uncommon reasons, the most important thing is to understand what your dog is looking for. When it comes to the fence issue, this is something that you’ll need to address by having a proper fence.

For anxiety or emotional concerns, you’ll need to look at something like creating those safe spots inside your home. For example, a covered bed or one with raised edges can often make them feel much safer to rest and recover where they want to. Make sure you put this in a quiet and people/animal-free area of your home, too, for better results.

In the case of emotional digging, this is when digging can be dangerous. Your dog is feeling anxious and upset because he is missing something he needs. This could be safety, and it could even be exercise. Whatever it is, ensure that you address the issue by providing that he has access to safety, comfort, exercise, and love. 

When it comes to the nesting instinct, make sure that your mama-to-be has full access to er designated whelping box inside your home. You’ll want to limit her time outside to make sure that she has her puppies in the right spot!

Do dogs dig holes before dying?

Dogs can dig holes to tuck themselves in when they are dying, yes, but this is because they sense that they are not feeling well and need to hide from harm while they recover. They don’t know that they are dying.

Why do dogs dig holes in the grass?

Dogs will dig holes in the grass when they smell something tasty to eat or water to drink if thirsty. They also may dig when they want to retrieve a toy or bone that they buried or even bury a toy or bone they want to protect.

Why do dogs dig holes to hide food?

Their primal brain tells them to dig holes to hide their food so that predators won’t be able to find it. They also do this to hide it to enjoy it later when they need or want it. This is common in rescue dogs or abused dogs that aren’t always certain where their next meal will come from.

Why do dogs dig holes and eat dirt?

If your dog is eating the dirt in the holes, it’s because he’s found worms or bugs that he likes and is going to have a taste. It also can fulfill his primal brain’s need for nutrition since they commonly find nutrition in the soil and its contents.

Everything considered

Digging is a primal behavior in dogs. It helps them stay cool in the heat and warm in the cold. It gives them access to a hiding spot when they want to rest and recover and helps them bury food or treats for alter.

They may also dig out anxiety or frustration when they need something to do with their energy.

Digging and dogs often go hand in hand. Understanding the reason behind why they are digging will help you to keep your yard looking its best!

Know someone who needs some help with a dog who just won’t stop digging? Share his with them and help save their landscaping!

Andre and Sula the Border Collie from https://bordercollieowner.com

Hi, I'm Andre and I'm the owner of Sula the Border Collie. I love writing about this amazing dog breed here. I joined the Council to be able to reach and educate more people on the joy of having a pet dog.