ASPCA Logo

Why Dogs Dig and What You Can Do

Some wild dog relatives, like foxes and wolves, dig dens to raise their young. Sleeping in a den protects the young pups from extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) and from predators. Our pet dogs share the desire to sleep in and under things that resemble a den. They often dig at the ground and circle before lying down, as though they're trying to make a softer resting place. (Many dogs do this on the carpet or furniture as well.) Dogs also dig when trying to get warm or stay cool, to entertain themselves, to bury valued items, and when hunting ground-dwelling animals.

Why Dogs Dig

Keeping Cool and Comfortable

Dogs often dig and circle to make a comfortable bed. If a dog is especially hot or cold, she may dig to find a warmer or cooler place to rest. Holes are often strategically located in cool or warm areas, such as in the shade, underneath bushes or outdoor furniture.

Entertainment

Many dogs love to dig. Some breeds, like terriers, are more likely to dig than others. But any dog can develop a digging habit. Dogs who dig for fun usually adopt a playful posture and alternate between digging and running around. Sandy surfaces often trigger bouts of digging. If your dog digs for entertainment, you'll probably see holes located randomly around the area.

Burying Valued Items

Dogs bury food, chew bones, toys and prey. This behavior was once key to the survival of dogs' wild ancestors because it allowed them to leave food safely concealed and then return to eat it later. It's not surprising that our domesticated dogs still feel the urge to dig. If a dog wants to bury something, she digs a hole, places the item in the hole, and then uses her nose to cover the item with dirt. Often the dog will repeatedly bury an item, dig it up and bury it again in a new spot. Some dogs “bury” things indoors, on carpeting or furniture, or underneath dog beds or piles of laundry.

Hunting Ground-Dwelling Animals

Most dogs have the desire and ability to hunt small prey such as moles, groundhogs, etc. If a dog finds a hole with an animal inside, she may dig relentlessly in an attempt to get to the animal.