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Why do dogs dig? This dog is tunneling to escape.

There are many frustrating behaviors that dog owners experience and digging is a notable one. Many beautiful gardens have been sacrificed to the antics of a digging dog. If not understood, managing the behavior can be difficult and become a nuisance. So, why do dogs dig anyway?

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Knowing why dogs dig is a helpful tool for managing the behavior, and a visual indication that there may be a greater issue at work. With that notion in mind, why do dogs dig? Several reasons exist.


A dog’s genetics play a large part in the temperament of dogs, and digging is linked to this as well. Many breeds of hunting dogs, such as small hounds and terriers, were developed to dig out prey from their dens.

If your yard has gophers, your dog may dig in an effort to catch them. Furthermore, some dogs simply enjoy digging for prey,


From an evolutionary standpoint, dogs have a natural draw to the shelter of dens. Although we don’t see it as much in our domestic dogs, wild canines are known to still dig dens. Well-developed dens provide cooler shelter in hot weather and warmer shelter in cold weather. This is why many northern breeds of dog, such as Siberian Huskies are known for their excessive digging behavior.

You might see your dog digging on their bed or on the carpet; this is also a natural behavior related to den digging. To summarize, digging dens is instinctual for dogs and the behavior is difficult to break if your dog likes a self-constructed home.

Stress Relief

Dogs often find digging to be an entertaining activity, which makes it a good way to relieve stress. This stress can develop in several different ways, but most digging dogs are either bored or experiencing separation anxiety. In addition, dogs are known to dig when left alone for long periods of time.

Dogs experiencing separation anxiety need to channel their energy into a productive behavior, thus becoming obsesses with digging. Digging provides dogs with physical and mental stimulation necessary for restricting feelings of anxiety and boredom.


As escape artists, some dogs make digging their art. If hurdling the obstacle is out of the question, there’s a pretty good chance these dogs will attempt to tunnel their way under. Many dogs would agree that this method provides decent success rates. Many dog owners don’t have fences that anchor underground, so digging out the tunnel won’t be an issue.

If you have a four-legged escape artist in the house, you should consider why your dog is attempting to escape in the first place. Most dog owners find that digging and escaping behavior is due to anxiety and boredom.

Final Thoughts

Though understanding why dogs dig is helpful for managing the behavior, it’s still difficult to stop. Digging is an instinctual behavior, and this is especially true in breeds developed for denning and digging while hunting. In dogs with this natural desire to dig, it’s often unreasonable to ask the dog to stop digging. In many cases, it’s best to give them alternative activities, or even designate a special place around the house can help control digging behavior.

If your dog seems to dig due to stress, you should address the cause of the stress before acting on the digging. So, why do dogs dig? Because evolution says so. For whatever reason your dog may be digging, the behavior can be managed and in some cases even stopped. However, it takes patience, time, and a good understanding of why dogs dig.

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