Why Do Dogs Dig?

elo puppy digging a hole

Our dogs do a lot of weird things sometimes. Sometimes, we know why they’re doing it. Other times, we may have no idea. Sometimes, it’s normal behavior. But, sometimes, it could be a cause for concern. One of these behaviors is digging. Why do dogs dig? Here are a few reasons your dog might be digging:

1. It Might Be Instinctual

If a dog is digging on instinct, there could be a few factors behind it.

Chasing Prey

They could be digging due to a predatory instinct, which is particularly true in dog breeds with a high prey drive. Terriers are notorious for digging because they also tend to have a high prey drive and urge to chase. A dog digging because of this might be chasing moles, groundhogs, etc.

Hiding Valuables

If your dog is digging in order to bury something, like bones or toys, it could also be related to a predatory instinct. Similar to squirrels hiding nuts, your dog could be attempting to hide food or valuables from predators or competitors.


Dogs may also dig due to a nesting instinct. Dogs like to nest and have a comfortable, secure place, so they may be digging in order to create that for themselves. This can be particularly true if your dog is pregnant.

What to Do With Instinctual Digging

When digging is instinctual, it can be very difficult to stop because it is a natural behavior. It can be curbed by redirecting and providing other activities, but it also means you can’t leave your dog unsupervised in the yard.

You can also try designating a special place in the yard where your dog can dig freely to help control the digging and contain it in that area. If your dog is digging in order to create a nest, provide a secure, comfy place for them so they don’t feel the need to make one.

2. Your Dog Might Be Hot

The dirt under the surface tends to be cool. Not only does digging give your dog access to this cool dirt, but they can also make a small shaded shelter for themselves.

So, if your dog is digging a hole and lying in it when it’s warm out, they could be hot and trying to cool off. If this is why your dog is digging, providing other ways to keep your dog cool can help curb the behavior.

3. They Might Be Trying to Escape

There are some dog breeds that have an instinctual urge to wander. For example, Siberian Huskies are notorious for their urge to wander and are known to be talented escape artists.

Sometimes, digging is your dog’s attempt to escape or get out of wherever they are. If your dog is digging next to a gate, a fence, or a door, they could be trying to escape so they can roam more freely.

Digging Due to Separation Anxiety

It’s also possible that your dog is digging as a result of separation anxiety. In this case, it’s still fueled by a need to relieve stress and escape, but it also can be a cause for concern.

Dogs who dig due to separation anxiety can become obsessive about it. And, if it’s not managed, the separation anxiety can get worse and produce more undesirable behaviors including some that can harm your dog.

4. Your Dog Might Be Bored

Digging is a fun activity for dogs. So, if they’re bored or not getting enough exercise, your dog will find their own entertainment. When this happens, some dogs will chase their tail, some dogs will chew, and some dogs will dig.

If your dog is suddenly digging, and they’re not chasing some type of prey, think about the last time you spent some time with them and how much exercise they’re getting. If digging is a result of boredom, being more active with your dog and spending some more time with them can help curb the behavior.

5. Their Nails Might Be Irritating Them

Digging is a natural way that dogs can help wear their nails down. If their nails are growing too long and irritating them, your dog might start digging to try to wear them down and ease that discomfort. Digging could also be a reaction to any discomfort related to your dog’s feet, which could be also accompanied by biting, chewing, or excessive licking of their paws.

So, make sure you check your dog’s paws to make sure their nails are trimmed, paw pads are not cracked, and that there is nothing stuck between their toes or paw pads. If it seems like they are digging because their nails are too long, get back on the grooming train and cut your dog’s nails on a monthly basis or more often if needed.

If it’s not quite time for the monthly trim, but you hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor or they are getting caught in things, it’s time for a nail trim. If their paw pads seem dry or are cracked, you can use a paw balm to moisturize, soften, and protect them.

You can even make a DIY paw balm! If their paw pads are really cracked or your dog just gets stuff stuck in their paws, you can also invest in a pair of dog booties to keep them protected and free of debris.

Digging is a common dog behavior and it can certainly be an undesirable behavior at times. But, with some patience and reward, you can redirect that energy to a better activity. Knowing a few answers to the question “why do dogs dig?” can help you narrow down why your dog might be digging and then take the next steps to curb the behavior.