Dogs are lovable animals and have been living with humans for tens of thousands of years. They are highly adapted to living with us and are astonishingly sensitive to human facial features and bodily cues.
If a human raises its hand high, for instance, dogs become wary, because that human might hit the dog with a stick or club.
Other animals are sensitive to movement, but not this in particular. Dogs are able to tell if a human is happy or irritated according to the expression on his face. Cats, by comparison, judge humans according to cat cues and may run away from a person if it is stared at.
It is a wonder, then, if dogs have been specially bred for human companionship, why they retain annoying habits such as digging without being told to.
The truth is that our canine friends are still closely related to wolves, and have been used by humans for hunting and digging, including flushing out burrowing prey.
Dogs have their own instinctive reasons for digging, and they have not given up the habit simply because people recently developed an interest in perfectly manicured lawns.
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As mentioned, digging is a way to flush out prey. Dogs will still hunt, and may attack wild rabbits in their holes.
If they smell something interesting in the ground, they will scratch at it. If a person has recently dug a hole, then that hole may have a smell interesting to a dog, especially if something organic was buried.
Dogs may dig at a fresh hole anyway simply to see if they can find something good. Even an old bone is valuable to a dog, since chewing cleans its teeth.
This raises another important reason why many animals dig: The ground is much cooler than the air above, and dirt also masks the scent of things.
If an animal has recently killed a prey, and it is too large for one meal, it may bury the kill in order to save it.
For all but a few months of the year, the ground is an excellent fridge – especially in northern areas such as Scotland where the ground tends to be colder for longer periods of time. Since dogs understand this strategy, they look for stashes and raid them. They also like to dig a hole to lie in if they feel too warm.
This is a problem for the pet owner, because dogs do not understand the aesthetic value of a flowerbed, and only react to interesting smells and food.
As smart as dogs are, they are fairly single-minded, being opportunistic scavengers. It is not possible to explain to a dog what you want; the dog may continue to dig, even when routinely scolded when discovered in the act.
There is no point in punishing a dog after the act; animals live in the present.
The last reason why dogs dig is for protection from the elements. They may not excavate a burrow, but a depression in the ground will keep them cooler in the heat of summer.
It is possible to train a dog not to dig in certain spots, but this takes a lot of time and patience as it is naturally going against very strong instincts and it is difficult to train a dog to go against those things that are in their DNA.
The smartest solution is to remove the opportunity, by seeing to a dog's needs.
It’s better to either set out an area where you dog is allowed to dig. You can do this by starting a small hole where you don’t mind your dog digging and re directing them there every time you begin to see them dig somewhere else.
A sand pit is also another great idea. Digging out or purchasing a sand pit can be a great activity for your dogs and the sand can easily be returned to the pit without too much mess.
If you don’t think that this is a feasible for you for the time being, consider entertaining your dog with ball games or another activity as dogs that are thoroughly entertained will not want to head off and dig.
Remember that if you think that your dog is trying to dig a hole in order to cool down, make sure you provide plenty of shade and cool, fresh water.