Why Does Your Dog Dig And How To Get Him To Stop

A dog’s need to dig is deeply ingrained in his genetic heritage, especially the terrier breeds. Dogs dig down into cool earth as a way to cool off and provide shelter from the hot sun. They also dig to hide food, such as burying bones or other food items and will also dig to expose mice or other small rodents so they can attempt to catch and eat them.

For modern dogs, digging is just plain fun and they will sometimes dig out of boredom. While digging may be very distressing to you as it can certainly damage property, for dogs it’s actually great exercise. 

Here are a couple of options on how you might want to handle your dog’s need to dig:

One – Just like you might provide your children with a sandbox so they can dig and play in the dirt to their heart’s content, consider making a place in your yard that is specifically set up so your dog can dig there. This allows your dog to satisfy his digging urges without damaging your entire yard.

Two – Dogs use up energy by digging, so if making a place in your yard for them to dig is not doable for you, then you need to help them find a way to siphon off some of that excess energy. There are lots of ways to do this, including going hiking with your dog, running with him, playing fetch, going swimming with him and more.

If you have a high energy dog and these two options are not working, then you can try to up the level of intensity of the dog’s exercise. One great way to do this is to use a well fitted dog backpack and load it with weight. This effectively takes a half hour of exercise and turns it into an hour in terms of how much the dog has to exert himself. 

Most professional dog trainers recommend using ten to twelve percent of your dog’s body weight as a start. So for a dog that weighs fifty pounds, you would use five or six pounds in the backpack. Of course, your dog needs to be in good health and without any injuries or joint problems to safely do this. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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