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Why do dogs dig holes?

Updated on January 5, 2009

An instinctive behavior

Dogs are compulsive diggers. Digging is an instinctive behavior of a dog. When we take a dog for a pet we know that there is a big chance that one day they will try to “redo’ the garden. It would certainly be frustrating to see the manicured lawn and the well tended garden filled with holes and mounds of earth.  How we wish they would not dig but as it is an ingrained habit the best thing to do is to understand what triggers the dog’s digging activity.

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Reasons why dogs dig


There are various reasons why dogs dig. Boredom is one. Incessant barking is a manifestation of a bored dog. A dog that is left alone for a considerable period of time will dig to combat boredom. Separation anxiety is another reason why dogs dig. Being pack animals, dogs would want to be with their families. With nothing better to do the dog would dig holes to fight loneliness.


A dog wanting to be with other dogs would try to escape. If the yard is secured with a fence the dog would dig tunnels to be at the other side of the fence.  There are instances when the dog’s digging can be triggered by fear. A dog that is left outside on a stormy night may be frightened by the thunder and would dig to seek a safer place. Also, dominant dogs may cause another dog to escape the yard by digging a tunnel.


Dogs have sensitive senses. They may hear interesting sounds on the ground or smell an interesting scent. A borrowing rodent or a buried bone will certainly cause the dog to dig holes. Dogs have the inclination to roll on something with obnoxious smell. Rotting trash, buried animals are considered to be “precious finds” by a dog.

Stopping the digging habit of the dog


Punishing the dog for destroying the garden or the lawn is not a good idea. We would not want to have a lawn filled with holes either. If you know that boredom causes the dog to dig, you can give the dog toys before you leave. Another option is to take the dog for a good run. This will tire the dog and hopefully will sleep for a good hour or two while you are gone.


Putting a sandbox where the dog can dig is a good idea. Burying toys, bones and other treats will encourage the dog to dig on the sandbox instead of digging the lawn or the garden. If the dog is very attracted by your flower beds, a fence would restrict the dog from digging the area. 


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      sasha 4 years ago

      ignoring two animals for another is not a good answer. Ll animals need love and attention. a few minures a day isn't nearly enough and you should have thought about what you were doing to your animals first before you got another.

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      Lucy 6 years ago

      My dog is some sort of really expensive "french terrier", according to my aunt on my dad's side of the family, but that's just her guess from just looking at my dog. My dog is actually a cross somewhere between a basset hound, and some shepard. I've seen the parents, as the basset hound was my great aunt's that was bred with her neighbor's black and white shepard, that came out to be my dog, that was mostly black as a puppy, that later turned to black/gray/white chest/silver fur everwhere else with a black undercoat and honey-amber eyes. However, there was one brown puppy from her litter 9 years ago(yeah, it's been that long).

      Anyways, I started noticing she's been digging a rather average sized tunnel system underground that's gotten rather deep in the past couple months in my backyard, and out of fear it might collapse in on her one day, I went back there and made sure she was in her dog house so I could collapse the tunnel system myself. I can almost see the foundation of my house in one corner, and I'm scared my house might just fall under if she continues to tunnel under the house one day. As for now, All I can do is keep collapsing the tunnels, reburying the area, and watering it down to help the dry dirt settle again. After reading this article, I think loneliness maybe the thing. She's kept company by another dog I have, and they've shared the backyard for years, that later shared it with a cat, that came and went, and then disappeared. I used to spend a lot of my time outside with them when I was younger, that later turned into staying inside to take care of the most recent dog I've gotten a little over a year and a half ago. This one stays inside, so her attached/needy scale is a 100 on a scale of 1-10. House breaking her was what took me from spending time out in the backyard to indoors most of the time. Though, I do make sure to go out for a few minutes each day to give my other two buddies the much needed love they need. Perhaps it's not enough.

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      elizabeth 6 years ago

      my dog just startes didding under my fence what should i do

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      Mischa 6 years ago

      I think most dogs do not get enough exercise!

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      maria 6 years ago

      my american bulldog is 2 years old and he has a hugh digging problem he is like a ground hog he is always inside the house and goes to the backyard only for eating and using the bathroom if we let him free in the back yard alone for about 34 mins to 40 he will destroy the patio furniture and dig hugh holes we do not know what else to do please help me

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      brandon 7 years ago

      I have a French Mastiff and he has a digging problem, we think we've found out why. He has about 15 holes in the yard and when it rains he goes around and drinks all of the water out them then doesn't bother with them until the next rain. he has an easy going temperment and gets a lot of attention so he couldn't possibly be bored or spiteful so water is the only reason we can figure why he is digging holes.

      any1 else have some input on this theory?

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      What's News 9 years ago

      I've never asked myself this question before and never knew that there could be so much information on the subject. I guess we all learn something everyday.