Digging – Part 1

Why do dogs dig?

Confinement stress and lack of mental and physical stimulation

Dogs who are confined to a yard, rarely taken off the premises, and provided
with little or inadequate mental stimulation, are far more likely to dig and
be destructive. For yard dogs, often the only way that they can express their frustration
and boredom is by digging!

Stress and anxiety related digging

Dogs and pups sometimes dig to try and let you know that something is
bothering them, or that something is wrong emotionally! Often stress and
other anxiety related behaviours present as destructive digging and chewing

Exploratory behaviour

Young puppies often dig random holes when exploring their immediate

shutterstock_83082100Predatory instinct

Digging may also be connected to a dog’s prey drive or hunting instincts,
especially with breeds such as Terriers, who will often dig in an attempt to
hunt moles and other small rodents who may pass through or reside on the

Hormonal influence

Hormones in female dogs can sometimes trigger this behaviour. It is not
uncommon for a pregnant bitch to dig a ‘den’ for her puppies. A bitch who is
experiencing a ‘phantom’ pregnancy might also dig to create a den for her
non-existent pups!

Genetic predisposition

Some breeds will be genetically more predisposed to digging than others.
Terriers are avid ‘gardeners’, as are Dachshunds, and other dogs who were bred to ‘go to earth.’ Some Hounds are also renowned to be fervent diggers. Breeds such as Beagles and Basset Hounds have a high
likelihood of developing digging behaviour, as do Huskies, who have a highly developed predatory or
hunting instinct. Highly intelligent breeds will be more inclined to dig
than breeds who are not as smart, as they will become frustrated and bored
far quicker than their not-as-smart cousins!

What’s more important: the puppy or the garden?

People often ask me, “Which should come first, the new puppy or a landscaped
garden?” In an ideal scenario, only after the gardeners have left, and the
new garden is established and landscaped, should you acquire a puppy. If you
acquire a puppy when building a house, the odds are that you will not be too fussy regarding damage.
The pup will quickly be able to rehearse bad habits such as digging and
chewing with abandon. Your attitude, however, will change dramatically after
the new lawn is laid and flowerbeds are put in.
And, to be honest, you are not going to take it well when your ‘little
darling’ trashes the new plants and demolishes the manicured lawn, causing
major expenses. So if you are thinking of getting a pup, it is suggested
that you acquire him after the garden is completed and the plants are

Text: Louise Thompson, senior animal behaviourist and professional dog trainer

In the next issue of Animaltalk, Louise will focus on how to prevent future
digging problems in a new puppy and also what to do if your dog has establis


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