Disaster! My dog is a digger!

Don't punish me, I'm just keeping busy!
Don’t punish me, I’m just keeping busy!

Have you ever arrived home from work, only to doubt whether you came home to the correct address? Your usually well-cared-for garden has had a make-over, and not the good kind. Next thing Fluffy enthusiastically comes to greet you – his face covered in soil. Turns out, Fluffy is what happened to your garden.

Why do dogs dig?

Simple answer: they love it! Digging to dogs is a natural behaviour and the action results in a release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is involved, among other functions, in reinforcement of behaviour – it makes the dog feel GOOD. When a dog receives reinforcement for any behaviour, the behaviour will be repeated; therefore, with a dopamine release, the dog will feel good when digging, and thus WILL repeat it.

Dogs dig for various other reasons as well: as part of foraging behaviour, boredom, frustration, relief of stress or anxiety, looking for a cool spot to lie in, and many more. When digging becomes a problem behaviour and whole gardens are uprooted, it is imperative that a qualified animal behaviour practitioner is contacted to ascertain the cause of the behaviour. Advice from friends and family should be avoided, as in most cases the behaviour becomes worse and the owner becomes very frustrated, resulting in the breakdown of the precious human-animal bond. Punishment should never be used to change this behaviour as the dog will only get confused.

For a closer look at the reasons why dogs dig, click here.

Oftentimes our dogs have to entertain themselves alone at home while we are at work, and this can also lead to digging! For advice on your dog who has to stay home alone, click here.


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