Sunday, October 19, 2014

Why Do Dogs Dig?

As I was standing there for about forty minutes, watching Cookie trying to make her way into a mouse hole, it inspired this post.

Why do dogs dig?

Whether we might object to them doing it or not, the reasons are perfectly logical.

I cannot speak on behalf of ALL dogs but I can tell you our dogs' reasons for digging. All legitimate reasons if you ask them.

1. To bury something

Our guys never tried to bury food items outside. In fact, Jasmine was the only one who would bury things.

Frequently, on our walks, she'd find various treasures. Mostly gloves, sometimes other things depending on the place and season. She took it as her duty to take care of these treasures and put them where they belong - underground.

She was very meticulous about it. Not any spot would do. There were times she'd start burying an item and then change her mind and went looking for a new spot. It would take her on average at least half an hour to find just the perfect location.

She also kept a list of all the items and when there was an opportunity she'd check on them to make sure they are still good and safe. When they weren't, she'd dig them out and find a new place.

It was one of her regular activities during our walks and and the friends' farm. There it was a daily job, because they aren't very careful about their gloves and leave them laying around haphazardly. So many gloves to be taken care of, so little time ...

2. To dig something out

Other than Jasmine's maintenance of her treasures, digging something out—namely mice and other little critters, is Cookie's specialty, though JD is taking a lead from her lately.

Cookie typically has little success with this endeavour, but it is not for lack of trying.

She actually does catch mice quite regularly but when they come out, not by digging down to their hiding spot. That doesn't slow Cookie down, though. Just on our last outing of the day, she saw a mouse dash for cover in its hole. She then spent almost an hour trying to dig her way to it.

Cookie is very determined with this too. She'll keep digging until she gets what she's after or has to go home. So far she's always had to go home; poor girl.

3. To make a cool spot to rest

All of our dogs, with exception of Bruin would do this. There is nothing better on a hot day than to find a nice spot in a shade and dig a cool hole to lay in.

If it doesn't make sense to you, try it. I'm telling you, no air-conditioner will do a better job. The ground is always nice and cool, particularly in the shade, and particularly deeper down.

There are certain spots which are particularly favored for this, and each of them features its own custom-made Grand Canyon.

4. Because it's fun

Some sandy or muddy spots seem to be particularly suited for this purpose. Perhaps it's the way it feels to the paws. All of our guys would get all excited and start digging, just before they go nuts playing and chasing each other.

There is clearly no other purpose to this than fun.

How to stop a dog from digging?

I usually don't try. Why spoil the fun? If they make a hole some place where I don't want one I just bury it later.

The only exception is when Cookie starts digging hard at the roots of a tree (trust me, she'd rip out the roots in the process). In those cases, telling her "let's not hurt the tree" actually seems to work. I know, right? But it does.

For those with fancy flower beds, there are a number of great articles on how to make a designated area for dogs to dig in. I think that's a great idea. Make a doggy "sandbox", have your cake and eat it too. Everybody wins.

Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat 
Observation Skills Of Dogs  
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It  
Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks 
What Constitutes The Perfect Dog?
Are Dog Training Classes Really For The Dogs?  
Look Where You Want To Go: Finding My Reactive Dog Training Zen Zone? 
Dog Training And Emotions 
Dog Training And Emotions: Postscript
Dogs Love Sentences In Question Form?
Not All Dog Trainers Were Created Equal Either 
A Thought On Separation Anxiety
Happy One-Year Adoptoversary, Cookie!
About Freedom, Trust And Responsibility: A "Pilot Study"
So, We Have A Bear 
About Happiness: What Makes Your Dog Happy? 
Our Example Of The Use Of "Look At That" (LAT) 


  1. Good post. I have several diggers here. They enjoy their landscaping efforts. Me, not so much. ;-)

    1. Well, I don't really like it either but I appreciate it for what it is. Some of them are so big and deep one has to admire the work that goes into it :-)

  2. Our Golden Retriever only dug to make a cool spot to rest in. He tried several locations in the yard - some worked for US and some didn't. Luckily we were all able to agree on a spot that worked for everyone.

    1. Glad you worked it out and found a spot you were both happy with :-)

  3. Barley likes to try to dig the carpet, so I have to stop the digging--I have several spots that are showing wear from her! She only digs outside if we're on a beach--and then I let her go at it and fill it back in before we leave :)

    1. Ah, yes, Jasmine and Cookie tried that too. How does one explain to them than it doesn't work the same way as in the ground? :-)

  4. Hi Y'all!

    My big Chessie sister, now over the Rainbow, used to dig in the summer to make a cool spot to lay and supervise the work in the garden.

    I never dig. Course when we're in the mountains, my Human discovered you can only get a shovel in the ground for half an inch. To put up the small fenced area they had to drill into solid rock. If I was a digger, all that rock would keep my nails worn down so I'd never need a pawdicure. BOL!

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

    1. Yeah, digging on a rock would keep your pawdicure up par :-) We have a lot of flat rock here too. But a bit deeper, so still enough dirt to dig in.