The Root of the Behavior
As a pet parent, you want to first rule out the possibility of sickness being the cause of the behavior. Dogs that dig holes when they feel sick often look a bit sad or depressed. This is evident by their facial features and soulful eyes not looking quite as happy as usual. In addition, your dog will attempt to hide under furniture such as the coffee table, bed, sofa, and any other dark cozy place they can find in the house. They are usually silent when hiding in their den-like environment or express themselves with soft whining if they are injured or feel pain internally. If you think your dog could be sick, injured or feeling pain for any reason, contact the veterinarian or local animal hospital immediately. Once you have ruled out the possibility of a medical issue causing the behavior, you can look further into other possibilities such as anxiety.
Dogs experience anxiety for many reasons but the most popular is separation anxiety. As a pet parent, you are the leader of their pack, which means they depend on you for everything in their life such as food, water, shelter, toys, grooming, exercise, love, and care. When you leave the house dog sometimes feels scared to be without you because they look to you for leadership and guidance. Dogs that experience separation anxiety often act out in a variety of ways such as crying all day, destroying furniture or other objects, and digging holes. If you get home from work and your sofa looks like your dog tried to dig a hole or you return home from a quick errand only to find your dog digging a tunnel in your yard, it could be related to separation anxiety. This is evident when your dog only digs holes while you are away from the house and never does it in front of you.
Encouraging the Behavior
Since digging holes is a natural behavior in dogs, you don’t need to encourage it. However, if it is causing issues for your home or interfering with your life, you can take steps to stop or lessen the behavior. In the past, dogs lived in the wild and dug holes to hide their food for later, trick predators, comfort themselves while sick or injured, and to have babies. Digging holes is a skill that was required for survival in the wild. Today most dogs, especially yours, are domesticated and now part of a human family. They live in beautiful houses, eat highly nutritious meals, get plenty of exercise, and play with cute little toys. Their lifestyle doesn’t require digging holes but the instinct is still embedded in their DNA.
Usually, this inherited behavior is caused by a specific reason. As a pet parent, you need to find out the trigger that is causing your dog to dig holes. Sometimes dogs get bored playing with the same toys so they find other ways to entertain themselves. Digging holes is fun and natural for dogs, so they enjoy the task. If your dog is digging holes close to the fence so they can escape, your pup may just be a bit curious about what he will find on the other side of the fence.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Whether your dog is an escape artist, feeling sick, or just bored, you need to determine the cause of the behavior and help prevent the issue from happening in the future. Depending on the cause, you should consult with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer for further assistance. Digging holes is natural but doing it excessively is a sign of something deeper that needs to be resolved.