Some dogs like to dig. If your pup has suddenly become obsessed with landscaping the yard, you are probably wondering what is making him act this way. Several explanations are possible. Some breeds have digging in their blood, while other dogs burrow to satisfy psychological urges, chase prey or in an attempt to escape an enclosure.
Born to Dig
There's no doubt that purebred dogs share a lot of traits with their ancestors. Generations of breeding creates habits in offspring even if the youngsters aren't trained in them. Terriers are prime examples of born diggers. The very word "terrier" means "earth dog," and terrier breeds were originally developed to assist hunters by opening rabbit burrows, badger dens and rodent nests, according to the ASPCA. Huskies and other arctic breeds are also genetically programmed to dig shallow beds in the earth in hot weather to cool themselves off.
Boredom and Burying
Your dog's digging habit may simply be the result of too much free time, according to the University of California–Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Burrowing is a great way for a bored pup to pass the time when there's nothing interesting going on in the backyard. Your furry friend's burrowing may have a more practical purpose if he has something he wants to hide. He may bury a bone or toy to keep it safe until he wants it again. This is a basic canine behavior and does not necessarily mean your dog is bored or suffering psychologically.
Stress and Escape
Stress and loneliness can also prompt your dog to dig. Burrowing is a comfort activity for some dogs and they may resort to this behavior when they are stressed out. Your dog gets lonely when he's out in the yard by himself, which makes him want to escape to find his "pack." Your dog may also be burrowing to escape confinement so he can chase prey or find a mate, according to the Santa Barbara Humane Society.
Saving Your Yard
Luckily, it's not that hard to keep your lawn intact even with a burrowing dog. One option is to get a sandbox or gravel pit for your dog. This gives him a place to dig to his heart's content without damaging the landscape. If your dog is digging out of boredom or loneliness, get him some durable toys he can bring outside. Exercise is key to preventing digging. Walk your dog several times a day and play fetch with a ball or disk to wear him out. Your pup probably won't dig to entertain himself if he's all tired out from physical activity.
By Quentin Coleman
Santa Barbara Humane Society: Trainer's Tips
University of California–Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: Why Does My Dog Dig? [PDF]
Humane Society of the United States: Dig This: How to Get Your Dog to Stop Digging
About the Author
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.