Your dog is playing outside and when it is time to rest, he finds himself the perfect spot. He calculates its position to the sun, the softness of the ground, and his proximity to his human friends, so he doesn’t miss any of the action. After much deliberation and careful consideration, Fido decides no spot is good enough, so he digs a hole in the dirt and plops himself down there. A piece of land with just some dirt, no plush grass or leaves to soften his spot. Why is your dog choosing to sit in a hole when there are much more comfortable places nearby?
The Root of the Behavior
Fido considers a lot before resting. Have you ever noticed that when a dog goes to sit, even if he is indoors, he circles several times, scratches at the floor or ground, circles some more, and after great consideration, he sits? He’s making sure his spot is the most comfortable it can be, and this behavior stems is part of his instinct. Humans get picky over the best lounge chair at the pool in the summer and the closest spot to the fire in the winter. Your dog does the same thing, just with dirt. Depending on the weather, dogs will sit in a hole to either keep warm or stay cool. If it’s a hot summer day, he might dig a little to expose cooler dirt and lay down in that to keep his body cool. That cool, fresh dirt feels good on his skin, especially because he does not rely on sweat to cool him down like humans do. Dogs primarily sweat through their paws and pant to cool themselves off. When Fido lays in some cool dirt, that is a nice relief to the summer heat.
In the winter, he might pick a hole that is in the line of the sun’s heat or near something warm, but hopefully, you will let your dog inside before it gets too cold. Before they were domesticated, dogs lived in packs and slept together, sometimes in dens. They get a sense of security from being in a safe place. A dog den looked like a makeshift structure of a hole dug in the ground. The goal of the den was to protect the pack from intruders and keep warm and safe while they rested at night. If a dog is digging a hole and then sitting in it, he is making a den for himself. This gives him a sense of safety as he’s resting after that amazing game of fetch.
Encouraging the Behavior
Dogs sitting in holes isn’t a big problem for your dog’s health or safety, but it might be for his cleanliness or your landscaping design. After your dog lays in the dirt, it’s most likely that he will be covered in it. And your dog knows to shake it off, but he might wait until he walks in the door, shaking the dirt all over your recently cleaned floor. Follow that up with kids dripping water in the house after swimming and you’ve got mud. If your dog is digging holes in the yard to sit in, it might be a problem for your landscaping scheme. You can end up with holes throughout the yard and tending to your lawn might become more of an obstacle course.
Also, if you have guests or younger children who aren’t looking around at their surroundings, they’re liable to trip or fall into a hole, even if it’s shallow. If you don’t want your dog digging holes and sitting in them, encourage him to come inside once playtime is over. He will want to follow the action because some dogs have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), so if you’re still playing outside, he probably wants to stay with you. If he stays outside, you can direct him out of the way and pet him, give him a belly rub, and praise him so he can rest for a moment. That encouragement might be enough to distract him from digging holes as he takes a break from playtime.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your pup is strictly an outside dog and he is digging holes to make himself cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, consider getting him an insulated dog house. In the summer, provide him with shade and even a small pool for him to cool down in. Having the options to cool off in different ways might reduce his digging habit. In the winter, add blankets and a bed to the dog house. If you put a bed with a raised edge, it will add an extra sense of security and imitate a hole. Fido will feel like he can bury himself in it and will have that sense of safety and security.
Dogs sitting in holes can seem awfully strange and sometimes funny to humans, but to them, it is totally normal. Unless it is doing significant damage to your yard, let your dog dig a hole in a specially chosen spot so he can chill out and still be part of the action.