Random Musings on Dogs, Photography, and the Vagaries of Life

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Dig Dogs, and Dogs...Dig

Next stop, China! Well, not literally, although given the effort some dogs put into digging holes, we in North America could be forgiven for thinking that China is their ultimate goal. But if destination isn't the motivation, what is? Why, in short, do dogs dig?

According to experts, dogs dig for a variety of reasons ranging from predation to boredom to storing leftovers. Specifically, dogs dig because they are:

Hunting. Let’s face it, dogs are—or were—predators, and the ground is a treasure trove of bugs, mice, voles, and other prey just waiting to be unearthed.

Storing toys or food. In the wild, predators, including dogs, often bury animal remains they don't consume right away. This instinct to bury objects of value for later remains in some dogs.

Keeping comfortable. For some dogs, a hole is the perfect place to chill on a hot summer day or stay warm on cold winter afternoon.

Trying to escape. Faced with an irresistible temptation on the other side of a fence, a dog may dig his way to freedom...and the object of his desire.

Bored. A dog left home all day with no toys and nothing better to do may while away the time by digging a hole...because she can.

And sometimes dogs just like to dig. Soil provides a veritable cornucopia of wonderful (from a dog’s perspective) smells, as well as trash tidbits and smelly dead animals to chew or roll in. The smell of recently fertilized soil, in particular, can be irresistible to some dogs. Some breeds, like terriers and Labradors, are very prone to digging.

From the human point of view, digging can be a less-than-positive trait, and one that leads to a variety of creative attempts to limit the behavior. A former colleague of mine, for example, grew up with a beagle that dug under the fence so often that the family had a three-foot-deep, concrete-filled trench installed around the perimeter of the yard. And my husband’s parents would put a brick in every hole their dog dug the yard. I wonder what later owners of the home thought when they unearthed random bricks when doing yard work.

Our dog Ceiligh has invented her own digging-related game, which she also "taught" to our most recent foster, Ghillie (seen in the photos below). It involves digging a hole, dropping a ball or toy into it, then digging the object out again, repeating the process over...and over...and over again.

So much for our attempts to grow grass this year.


  1. Sadie drops a ball so it rolls under the fence, then digs so she can retrieve it.

  2. Fritz seems to dig a hole only in the hot weather, and then plops down in it. I sure wish he would re-use the same hole, though!