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Puppy Behaviour: The Science Behind Digging

Be it chasing cats, playing fetch, or digging holes, there are some behaviours that dogs are destined to do. If you’re a fan of your beautifully manicured back garden, your puppy’s digging habits can be extremely frustrating! But why is it that your pooch loves digging so much? Is there a reason that they can’t wait to get their paws dirty? Let’s find out.

Why do dogs enjoy digging?

There are a number of reasons why your dog digs, and it can range from enjoyment to a natural instinct to hunt. Seeking to understand why your dog digs is integral if you’re to challenge this frustrating behaviour, and you can set about providing them with a viable alternative. Just remember that your dog isn’t digging to spite you; the last thing they want is to upset you by digging out your beloved flowerbed. After all, digging is instinctive and enjoyable for dogs, as we explain below.

Digging is instinctive for dogs

For dogs, digging in the mud feels completely natural. You may have even noticed your pup scratching away at the surface of the carpet or in their favourite bed. It’s built into their makeup, and it’s not something we can easily prevent them from doing. On the other hand, some dogs take to digging out of boredom. In this sense, they might be showcasing destructive behaviours if they don’t feel well enough stimulated, which is an indication that you need to exercise them more.

Digging as a form of play

Some breeds enjoy digging because they think it’s fun! They might be trying to bury something that they don’t want you (or other animals) to steal. This could be a delicious treat or their favourite chew toy, for instance. If they’re not digging to hide something, your pup might be in the process of making a den. Again, denning is instinctive in dogs, particularly pregnant female dogs, as they look for a safe space to give birth to their pups. If you’re struggling with your dog’s denning instincts, consider using a dog crate with some blankets inside, as it can make an ideal hideout for your puppy. This might reduce the amount they dig in your back garden, saving you some time and hassle when it comes to garden repairs and maintenance!

Other causes of digging

Certain breeds – terriers and dachshunds, for instance – were bred to hunt. Therefore, it’s perfectly natural for them to go underground to find their prey. So, if you have a hunting dog in your family, their digging tendencies are probably completely natural. Other dogs might be digging as a displacement behaviour. This occurs when they’re stressed or trying to get rid of some nervous energy. The same is true of overly excitable dogs, as well as those that are of a nervous disposition. Another thing to consider is where your dog is digging. If they’re trying to tunnel under the garden fence, it could be a sign that they’re trying to escape. There could be a number of reasons for this, but keep your eye on the garden and make sure you act before they slip under your neighbour’s fence!

Should you stop your pup from digging in the garden?

When you’ve discovered why your dog is digging in the garden, you can try and do something about it. You can physically prevent them from digging by only letting them in the garden under supervision, but this won’t necessarily stop the behaviour in the long run.

However, it’s best to remember that it’s perfectly natural for dogs to dig, and if you can facilitate the behaviour by allowing them to dig in a specific area, it will be better for them. Ensuring your dog has sufficient exercise also ensures that they can expend the right amount of energy and might not necessarily turn to digging up your garden. You should also make sure that you feed your dog correctly. Feeding your dog the right food means they’re less likely to be frustrated and will improve their overall temperament. So, if they are digging because of frustration, improving their diet could help.

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