Why Do Dogs Dig?

Dog looking into a hole in the ground
© majivecka/Shutterstock.com

Written by Abdulmumin Akinde

Updated: October 15, 2022

Share on:


Dogs are our closest companion animals. These unique creatures can follow instructions, show affection and communicate their needs. However, as close as they’re to humans, there are still many things that many people don’t fully understand about their beloved pooches. For instance, why do dogs dig? You probably don’t know why your dog is so keen on ruining your yard and getting itself all dirty. 

In this guide, we will explain why dogs love to dig the ground and the most effective measures you can put into place if you want them to stop digging.

Reasons Why Dogs Dig

While digging is a destructive habit, dogs do not dig because they have the desire to destroy your yard. It’s important to understand that they mostly consider it as entertainment or sometimes as a means of escape. Of course, people often get wary of this habit and how it affects their yard or even the hygiene of their pets. If your dog is digging in the yard or even making gestures that looks like it’s trying to dig indoors, here are some possible explanations for that action. 

Searching for Prey

Dogs have a sharp sense of smell, allowing them to detect humans and other animals easily. The ones with a high prey drive will often dig out insects, rodents, and burrowing animals once they smell or hear them underground. They see this activity as a small game and a way to catch prey. If you notice that your dog is focused on digging a particular space in your yard, it’s likely trying to catch a burrowing animal. If the digging does not bother you, you can simply ignore them and let them have all the fun they want. 

For Safety

Just like humans, most dogs do not like hot weather. To cool off when the weather gets too hot, they may dig themselves a big cool spot in the dirt. Dogs may also dig to find shelter from other extreme weather conditions such as rain, cold, or strong breeze. If your dog is anxious or afraid of thunder or lightning, it may attempt to bury its head when it hears the sound of thunder. Gestures like this show that the poor canine is simply trying to find solace and safety.

If you find a big hole near the shade of a large tree or near the foundation of a building, your dog is likely digging for protection or comfort. Dogs are also more likely to dig for this purpose if they do not have a real shelter to protect them from extreme conditions. Consider bringing your pet indoors or making them a better shelter outdoors. 

Sports and Entertainment

If you’ve ever watched your dog dig, you’ll realize it’s an activity they truly enjoy. In fact, just like horses engage in racing, polo, and dressage, dogs also have official sports like herding, lure coursing, and earthdog. Earthdog is a type of dog sport that involves digging. This just shows that digging, as annoying as it might seem, is a form of sport that your dog probably enjoys a lot.

If your dog is left alone for too long without something interesting to keep it occupied, it might turn to digging as a way to stay entertained. This is even more likely if your dog sees you tilling the garden or clearing your yard. They’ll watch what you do and may do so if there’s nothing else to keep them occupied. If it bothers you, you can attempt to correct this by paying more attention to your pet. Dedicate time each day to walk your dogs or buy dog toys to keep them occupied.

Best For Portability
Franklin Pet Supply Ready Set Fetch Automatic Tennis Ball Launcher
  • Portable - work with batteries
  • Suitable for all dogs
  • Features a safety alert buzzer
  • Use standard size tennis balls
Check Amazon

To Seek Attention

If your dog notices that you rarely engage in physical activities with them, they might turn digging into an opportunity to interact with you. Once your dog notices how you react when it digs, it will label that behavior as a way to get your attention. Even when they’re not outdoors, dogs may make digging motions on the couch or carpet as a way to get your attention. Giving your dog some attention or something to keep them occupied can help prevent this behavior.

Burying Treasures

It’s not a myth; dogs do bury stuff. Dogs have their own treasures. These could be chew-toys, balls, or bones you give them to play with. It’s an ancient habit of dogs in the wild to bury food and retrieve it later. This primordial nature is still very much present in your dog, and they may still dig to bury items. However, doing this sometimes leads to even more digging. Dogs often forget where they buried an item in the past. To find what they buried, they may end up digging all over the place, leaving your yard in a terrible place. 

Looking for a Way Out

Dogs are not the only animals that dig to find a way out of a difficult situation. It’s an instinct hardwired into many animals. They do this to try to get away from someone or something. If you find your dog tunneling hard under a fence, it’s probably trying to find a way out. They may exhibit this behavior because they’re trying to escape from something or get to another dog on the other side. 

Our Top Pick
Galvanized Hexagonal Poultry Netting Chicken Wire
  • Durable galvanized wire
  • Made from 20 gauge steel wire
  • Easy to install
  • Lightweight and sturdy
Check Amazon

How to Stop Your Dog From Digging

So how exactly can you stop your dog from digging so much? There are several helpful recommendations that might help. Here are a few of them: 

  • Allow your dog to come indoors, especially during harsh weather. 
  • Make your yard or garden unattractive for digging. 
  • Train your dog and reward good behavior when your dog does not dig or play rough when outdoors
  • Bury chicken wire at the base of your fence. Be sure to roll the sharp edges away to prevent injury. This prevents digging and also helps to keep rodents (which can motivate digging) out of your yard. 
  • Allow your dog to dig in a controlled environment by creating a digging zone. This way, it’s not digging all over your yard and damaging stuff. 
  • Avoid keeping your dog in the yard unsupervised. 
  • Control rodent population, especially if you have a dog with a strong prey drive, such as terriers. However, it would help if you did not use poison for rodents, as this can affect your dog too. 
  • Keep your pet distracted with other activities. 
Best Galvanized Steel
Kensizer Humane Rat Trap
  • Very durable option
  • Made with lightweight galvanized steel
  • Features a highly sensitive trigger mechanism
  • The design is patented
Check Amazon


Dogs enjoy digging, and there isn’t much you can do to deter them. However, you can minimize damage and help reduce how often they dig by learning why dogs dig in order to figure out how best to modify that behavior in your pet. 

Up Next 

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.

What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?

Share this post on:
About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.