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Digging is a component of normal dog behavior. Domestic dogs dig for the following reasons;

  1. To mark a scrape on elimination
  2. to bury something
  3. to uncover something they perceive as buried
  4. to thermoregulate, and
  5. to play with something that plays back

Digging as part of or normal elimination behavior

This type of digging usually involves the back feet and results in shallow scrapes and broadly dispersed soil cover. Digging as a marking behavior probably involves immediate and long-term visual displays and long-term scent marking.

Digging to bury or uncover something usually follows exploritory behaviours of sniffing, listening or pawing and may be stimulated by visual auditory or olfactory cues. Extensive digging of this nature is usually in response to some auditory  or olfactory stimulus. Be aware that dogs vary greatly both within and  among breeds in their desire to follow scent and to bury creatures. Some dogs focus more on these stimuli and need to have aerobic outlet for their activity and a more suitable outlet for their tracking needs. The later can be met in competitive situations involving field trials etc.

Be aware that dogs vary greatly both within and among breeds in their desire to follow the scent and to bury creatures. Some dogs focus more on these stimuli and need to have an aerobic outlet for their activity and a more suitable outlet for their tracking needs. The later can be met in competitive situations involving field trials etc.

Digging for thermoregulation

Soil provides both a means by which to remain cool by dispersing heat or to stay warm by allowing the dog to take heat from the soil in cold weather. Dogs that dig when it’s cold should be provided with adequate shelter and clean bedding. Dogs that dig when it’s hot can be accomidated with shelter or a small shallow wading pool or an area that is walled off and filled with slightly different soil type explicity for their thermoregulation needs.

Dogs that dig as a form of self-play that roots and soil play back

This is a formula for gardening disaster. The only remedy of this involves constant supervision so that you can stop the dog as the digging beguins and the active play should increase. When dogs amuze themselves  like this they are not communicating that they would liked to be penned in a cement and chain linked fence kennel – rather they are communicating that they can stimulate themselves  but need aerobic play with people or objects that play back.

There is a learning component for any behaviour including digging. It is possible the the longer any digging in any of the abovementioned categories continues the worse it will become.

The dog learns and the behaviour becomes self rewarding

The occational dog digs constantly in the absence of any of the above stimuli and in a focused, invarient pattern. This form of digging may be a form of anxiety and usually does not respond to the above ‘quick’ management solutions, although they should also be implimented but can respond to behavioral and drug treatment for anxiety

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