Why Is My Dog Digging Up The Garden?


It’s a very common canine behaviour. But why do dogs dig and should you be concerned? Read our Holidays4Dogs article as we dig for clues!

Why Dogs Dig.

Dogs just love to dig. It’s in their genes. When dogs engage in this behaviour, they are following their ancient instincts to bury excess food and hide it from scavengers. It also ensures that other animals can’t smell the meat and steal it.

Long before dogs were domesticated, they had to hunt for food – which often involved digging for animals that live below ground, such as rabbits. Hunting takes up a great deal of energy, so hiding left over meat would help the dogs through lean periods or, after an unsuccessful hunt. Wolves and foxes display similar behaviour known as, ‘caching’

However, when dogs display digging behaviour around the home, it can be troublesome for some owners. Most commonly, dogs dig in the garden – which can be problematic if it happens to be in your newly planted flower-bed.

Some dogs, dig in places where you wouldn’t expect, such as a carpeted floor. They may do this as a means to try and ‘kill’ something – this could be an insect perhaps, or something like a shadow.

The movement of shadows across the ground encourages some dogs to ‘pounce’ and dig. It is a common behaviour seen in spaniels.

Digging can also be a displaced activity and sometimes seen in nervous, or anxious dogs. If a dog cannot perform one activity, he may show his frustration by doing another.

Other dogs dig the ground in an attempt to escape confines – if they are trying to get under a barrier, for example. Some dogs may attempt to dig underneath a fence, while others will display the same behaviour in an attempt to break through a door in the home.

My dog doesn’t want for anything, so why is he burying items?

If your dog buries edible items a lot of the time, it might be he is getting too much food. Burying may indicate he is not feeling hungry and is trying to save his treats for later. By burying things, a dog keeps his, or her, resources safe.

Domesticated pet dogs no longer have the task of finding their own food. However, the instinct dig and bury things is still very strong in many of our pooches. The items buried could be anything from your best leather shoe, to their favourite toy.

Sometimes, dogs with a shy nature may bury their food because they prefer to eat alone or, because they sense signs of danger. It is often seen in pet dogs suffering from anxiety and can lead to ‘resource guarding‘.

Certain breeds are often more inclined to bury things than others. Hunting dogs and terriers, for example, are typical candidates – but it really depends on your dog’s individual personality and environmental factors.

Is burying things harmful to my dog?

Burying things is a natural behaviour for dogs and it isn’t really harmful. However, if the dog is digging frequently, this can result in sore paws. In addition, if the dog is possessive over the areas he has buried items, this also could be cause for concern. If you have worries that your dog is displaying these behaviours excessively – do have a word with your vet.

How can I stop my dog from digging in the garden?

Most importantly, don’t leave your dog unattended in the garden. Dogs left to their own devices are much likely to find their own entertainment. They are also susceptible to theft. If your dog is an avid excavator and is spoiling the garden, here are a few tips you can try;-

Provide enrichment – provide your dog with a filled Kong toy, or a snuffle mat, which will keep him engaged.

Build your dog a sand pit – (you can find out how, here.) You can encourage your dog to use a sand pit, by placing treats or toys in the sand, or soil.

Recall training – practice recalling your dog away from digging behaviour using tasty treats. Reward with an enrichment toy as suggested above.

Limit access – you use could fencing to discourage your dog from digging in your prized flowerbeds.

Don’t correct your dog for digging – remember digging is a natural behaviour and not something you should punish your dog for doing. Rather than correct your dog, provide him, or her, with alternative activities.



It is important not to scold your dog for digging because, remember, this is a natural behaviour. If your dog is an avid digger, you could provide your dog with enriching toys to keep him distracted and occupied.