The Root of the Behavior
Viewed through our dogs' eyes, our beds comprise the safest area in the home for them to rest. It is comfortable and its coverings provide insulation against potential inclement weather conditions and camouflage from predators. But more than any of that is the fact that it is the shelter where you rest. The greatest sense of comfort and security for your dog comes from being close to you. Because dogs were originally believed to have been pack animals, your dog feels most at ease when nesting near to his "pack leader." There is safety in numbers. Staying close to you provides him the opportunity to defend you if necessary and strengthens the pack. Though today our dogs have no need to fear predators harming them as they sleep, the instinct remains very much intact. For certain breeds such as terriers or other hunting breeds, it is hardwired into their genetic makeup for them to "go to ground." This going to ground involves burrowing in small, confined spaces on the hunt for prey. A narrow hole that might make a human feel claustrophobic feels quite natural to many dogs, and particularly, to those whose original jobs involved assisting their owners on hunting expeditions. These dogs not only participated in hunts, they relished them! The action of digging underneath the ground in pursuit of quarry was extremely gratifying.
Encouraging the Behavior
A thorough veterinary examination is helpful to rule out any potential medical conditions that might be causing your dog to retreat from family living to cope with pain. If the behavior finds no medical cause, it would be wise to consult with a professional dog trainer to get to the root of the problem. Just as with their human counterparts, weather and noise can also play a role in burrowing behaviors. When dogs experience a fright whether it is from thunder and lightning, a power outage, or fireworks, they run for cover! Since the safest place for a dog in the wild when under attack is hidden a small, covered space, it is instinctual for a dog to seek the same type of environment in our homes when they are frightened. By the same token, cold weather can have a similar impact on our dogs. Just as a blustery, snowy day leaves us longing to remain under the protection and warmth of the covers, so too do our dogs crave this simple creature comfort.