How to Stop a Dog from Digging Holes. Why Do Dogs Dig?

Digging holes, dogs love to dig. Why does your dog dig? Who knows? We sure would like to know How to Stop a Dog from Digging Holes and to control the bad habit. In short, because they are dogs and because it is pleasurable and fun. Dogs dig to relieve boredom, stress and loneliness. To get away, or to get into the house. To get cooled, no to be cool… that’s because holes in the ground are more fresh that the hot outside air of summer days. Have you ever come home from work only to see your back yard looking like a bombed-out battlefield with the perpetrator excitedly wagging its tail, fully expecting your admiration of his handiwork? In one national survey more than 83% of American dog owners said their dog dug holes, and digging typically is ranked among the top 10 common canine behavior problems. Experts agree digging is a normal and adaptive canine behavior often seen in the wild. How do you stop digging?

1) The Denning Instinct: Evolution has provided dogs with an instinct to dwell in a protected area. If such shelter is not provided, the dog will dig to obtain it.

2) Temperature Control: In extreme environments, dogs may use earthen dens to control body temperature. Some dogs dig dens to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Providing a protected, warm area in the winter and plenty of liquids, shade and occasional sprays with water in the summer can help eliminate this need to dig.

3) Hunting: Some dogs, such as terriers, are relentless diggers. Such breeds have evolved to use digging as an essential part of their hunting repertoire. Underground there arecountless bugs, dead animals, old trash pits and live game.

4) Self Care: Occasionally digging will be an instinctive expression of self-care, such as stashing bones or surplus food. This behavior keeps the dogs‘ living areas clean and prevents interference from scavengers.

5) Exploration and Territoriality: Dogs often dig because of their instinct to explore. There is a high survival value associated with being intimately familiar with the territory. Thus, dogs may dig to locate potentially dangerous or useful items. This usually is a temporary phenomenon; however, owners should try to avoid ground disturbances because they may elicit additional investigations.

6) Mimicry: The technical term for this is “allelomimetic behavior.” Dogs often will imitate other animals, as well as people.

7) Reproductive Behavior: Walker explains that females in the wild will dig series of dens. This nesting behavior is quite common, and providing a proper whelping box typically will address this sort of digging. Dogs also may dig to escape from the yard and attempt mating. Neutering, of course, provides a permanent solution for this digging.

8) Aggressiveness and Frustration: Digging, especially at a fence or gate, usually is associated with frustration. Being pack animals, dogs want to join others (human or canine) and feel stressed by their isolation and confinement. Male dogs also may display aggression in response to human teasing or canine challenges. Neutering may help reduce this intermale aggression in some cases. Restricting the dog’s mobility in order to avoid close proximity to gates or fences also may be helpful, as would persuading your neighbors to stop their children or dogs from teasing your dog.

9) Social Interaction Needs: Some dogs require a home range much larger than a fenced-in yard can provide, and they may attempt to escape simply to increase social contact. Walks, a canine companion and a fence that allows a greater range of visibility may help. Smaller breeds, spayed females and older dogs may be more appropriate for limited ranges, and neutering may be considered for males that wander continually.

10) Attention-Seeking Behavior: Digging, as a random exploratory behavior, may become an entrenched habit if a dog is “rewarded” with considerable negative attention because of its digging. Ignoring the digging while giving positive attention for an incompatible desirable behavior generally is the best approach. Barrier techniques also might be used in conjunction with this form of contingency management. Many barrier approaches exist, such as filling the hole with water, rocks, the dog’s own feces, thorny branches, repellents, fencing, chicken wire or cactus plants.

11) Lack of Stimulation: “Dogs will also dig out of boredom”,

12) Anxiety, Trauma and Threat: Dogs often dig when feeling sick or especially anxious. “Dogs that are extremely ill will sometimes go off and try to dig a hole in which to lie and die,” Walker says. Likewise, when dogs are feeling threatened or insecure, a den may provide comfort and help them relax. When digging is related to trauma (often separation) or a genetically anxious temperament it may become an obsessive tension-reducing mechanism that usually provides only temporary relief. In such cases a veterinarian should be consulted to consider possible anti-anxiety medication.

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