4 min read


Why Do German Shepherds Dig Holes



4 min read


Why Do German Shepherds Dig Holes




Does your dog dig at the floor as if he is searching for treasure? You might think there are some delicious crumbs trapped under the flooring but it really is just your dog’s natural instinct to create a den-like environment. German Shepherds are intelligent dogs that often tune into their natural instincts. Digging holes originated with your dog’s canine ancestors back in the day. They were wild and lived off the land, which usually required them to create a safe environment for themselves at various times in their life. If your dog attempts to dig holes or has destroyed your yard, the following information will help you discover the cause of this natural behavior.

The Root of the Behavior

In the wild, dogs dug holes for a variety of reasons which includes protecting themselves and their puppies or hiding their food. Dogs foraged for food and often found it and wanted to save it for later. So they dug holes to hide it from other dogs and animals. This allowed dogs to have nutrition and eat when they really needed it. Dogs love den-like environments because their instinct and DNA craves it for different reasons. If your dog is digging up the yard, he might be trying to cool off from the hot weather, warm up from cold weather, find a safe place to sleep, or hiding food for later. You will be able to determine the cause that leads to the behavior by observing your dog when he digs holes. Some dogs have emotional anxiety from being separated from their owner all day while they are at work while others dig holes to hide from thunderstorms. 

When observing your dog, try to look at the entire picture. What just happened? Is he feeling emotional? Is he scared? Always factor in your dog’s emotions when trying to get to the root of the issue. Your dog might be a happy playful dog that just loves the feeling he gets when digging a hole. This means he might be digging holes for fun and as a hobby. You should also take notice if he tends to dig holes and tries to hide his toys, treats, or food in the hole. This type of behavior stems from his ancestors and symbolizes that he is trying to survive his luxurious life as a domesticated dog. Dogs dig holes for a reason and it will be quite easy for you to figure out once you observe your dog’s behavior. As a pet parent, you will be happy to learn this behavior is not harmful to your dog. 

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Encouraging the Behavior

This behavior does not need to be encouraged since it is a natural instinct. However, some pet parents might want to discourage the behavior if it is frequent and causes damage to the house and yard. This is especially important to pet parents that live in a neighborhood that has a Home Owners Association (HOA). The visible holes your dog digs might cause neighbors to complain about the appearance and get the HOA involved. If you have an issue with neighbors or the HOA, you need to try to prevent the hole digging behavior. This is often quite difficult to achieve since it is a natural instinct and your dog is hardwired to dig holes. However, there are a few steps you can take to prevent your dog from digging holes in your yard. First, you need to determine the cause of the digging. This will help you create a training plan. It’s also helpful to consult with a professional dog trainer. If your dog is hiding food in the holes, chances are he might feel like he isn’t getting enough nutrition and needs to save it for later. Discussing your dog’s diet with a veterinarian will either pinpoint or out rule a nutritional issue. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

Most of the time German Shepherds that spend a lot of time indoors like to sleep under the sofa or other furniture because it feels like a den. If you don’t mind this behavior you can encourage it a bit by making the area more comfortable for your dog. You can add a dog bed, blanket, and toys to help your dog feel extra special in the space. This will be your dog’s go-to place to sleep and feel safe. Don’t be surprised if he runs and hides in the space when he feels overwhelmed with noise or excitement. German Shepherds are strong dogs that lack fear, but sometimes they need some peace and quiet too, and a den-like environment is perfect. 


Beware of moments when your dog is hiding in his den but looks sad or is whining. This is often a sign of illness or injury. Dogs seek comfort in their den which makes them feel safe and secure. It’s very similar to humans sleeping under a mountain of blankets when they have the flu. 

By a Cocker Spaniel lover Shellie Sutera

Published: 04/12/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

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