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The issue of dogs digging holes all of a sudden may be a peculiar one, but it all starts making sense once we try to perceive the world from a canine standpoint. 

By thinking like a dog, a whole new world unveils, and those odd doggy behaviors are soon finally understood. 

Here's the thing, in the dog world, there is digging and digging, and therefore, to get to the root of the problem, you'll need to wear your investigative hat and start looking at at what exactly drives the behavior.

Digging to Hunt Critters 

If your dog is a hunter at heart, he may be digging to to fulfill his instinctive needs.

There are many small critters who like to burrow themselves underground such as mice, moles, groundhogs, voles and several types of tarantulas. Your dog is naturally drawn to hunt down these critters if they just recently moved into your yard. Consider that moles are more active during the late spring, early summer, and fall.

If your dog sniffs, then starts digging, then pauses, listens, sniffs and then resumes digging, most likely he is relying on his senses to learn more about the whereabouts of these underground critters.

In particular, dogs may be attracted to freshly dug earth, for the simple fact that it's a sign suggestive that vermin might be living underground.

Did you know? Small terriers win first place as diggers. Just take a look at their name. Deriving from the Latin word "terra" which means earth, several dogs listed under the terrier group were purposely bred to chase and kill vermin and other ground-dwelling critters.

Terriers like the  Australian terrier, border terrier, cairn terrier, Parson Russell terrier, rat terrier, Norfolk terrier, Norwich terrier, Yorkshire terrier are dog breeds with a natural aptitude for digging.

Small terriers aren't though the only dogs to win the title of "king of diggers," ever wondered why dachshunds have such long backs? Their conformation made them perfect for entering a badger's burrow!

Digging for an Escape 

Put your investigative hat on and carefully look at the areas your dog digs. Yes, by just looking at the dug location, you can deduce what he's up to. 

Are the holes mostly by the border along the fence-line? If so, consider that your dog may likely not be digging out of boredom or just for the fun of it; rather, your dog is strategically digging for a purpose: getting to the other side. 

Why would your dog want to escape? There may be several reasons. Some dogs breeds with a strong pack instinct like huskies and hounds, may not do too well being left alone for too long, so if there are other dogs nearby, they may be digging their way out of the fence for companionship purposes.

If your dog instead is not altered, he may be digging to get to a mate. And of course, there also many dogs who plan to escape just because they are curious about what's going on outside. They may want to chase those neighbor cats, go visit a neighbor's trash can or simply wander around in search of an adventure to brighten up his dull life.

In some cases, digging by the boundaries may be a sign of separation anxiety if your dog does that when you leave the house.

dog digging hot

Some dogs dig to cool down on the hot dog days of summer.

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Digging to Stay Warm or Cool Down

If your dog is left out in the yard for the most part of the day, his digging may be his way of building himself up a shelter.

 Deprived from a heating or cooling system, he may need to figure out his own way to keep himself toasty warm or refreshingly cool.

In the summer, dogs may dig to build up a nice resting spot by exposing the cooler dirt. When these dogs lie down, they get to expose their belly to the cool soil.

 In the winter instead, dogs may dig holes in the dirt or snow to build their own den-like enclosures so they can stay warm.

A good way to figure out if your dog is building holes to warm up or cool down? See if he's lying down on them or inside them.

Digging to Build a Den

Whether pregnant or not, intact (non-spayed) female dogs are likely to engage in some nesting behaviors. This consists of shredding nesting material by digging and tearing it. The dog may also repeatedly get up and lie down and ask to go in an out of the house.

Suspect this type of digging if you own an intact female dog who was recently in her heat cycle. A false pregnancy is a condition where the female goes through the hormonal and sometimes the physical changes of true pregnancy. 

During her false pregnancy, a female can experience a dramatic variety of mood and sensory changes. These include rejecting her regular food, digging to build a den, and mothering objects such as toys. Some dogs also start producing milk, points out veterinarian Dr. Ivana. 

If your intact female dog went into heat recently and she was able to mate with other dogs, the signs of pregnancy may be very real and she may be start digging the den to give birth to a litter of puppies. Consider that usually, real pregnancies in dogs last for 62 to 65 days.

Digging as a Form of Entertainment

Idle paws are a devil's workshop when it comes to bored and lonely pooches! If you leave your dog alone with nothing to do in the yard for most of the day, don't expect him to just twiddle his thumbs or play a game of Sudoku on the deck.

Left with nothing to do other than perhaps bark at the occasional car passing by or chewing the garden hose, the yard offers an appealing solution to keep that brain happy and those paws busy. 

Your dog may decide to dig several small craters in the yard or a big passageway all the way to China. And if you have planted something recently, chances are high your dog will have fun digging up those roots.

Digging to Get Your Attention

Does your dog dig the most when he's in your company? If so, the digging may be triggered by a need for attention. It doesn't matter if you are scolding your dog when he digs. For a dog who craves attention, any form of attention may do.

Imagine this: you are inside the home and randomly watch your dog through the window when he's out of the yard. You generally ignore him when he's behaving, but the moment you see him dig, you are out in the blink of an eye yelling at him to stop. 

Smart dogs quickly that 1 plus 1 makes 2, so they'll start digging as a way to garner your attention. Dogs therefore soon learn this pattern which translates into more digging. Some dogs may even find the negative attention amusing to the point that they think it's a fun game! 

Now That You Know...

As seen, dog have several good reasons for digging whole all of a sudden. Identifying the underlying cause can help you find the most appropriate and effective solution. Here are some pointers to reduce various forms of digging.

How to Stop a Dog From Digging Holes All of a Sudden

  • Call an exterminator. For dogs who hunt critters, your best option is to employ an exterminator who uses pet-friendly pest control methods. 
  • Own a terrier or a dachshund? If you own any of these breeds, consider that you can turn your dog's hobby into an art, simply enroll him in an earth dog trial!
  • Fence off some areas. While there isn't much a person can do to curtail hard-wired behaviors, managing a dog's environment to prevent him from ruining your landscape can help. 
  • Putting chicken wire under the soil if your dog is digging in specific areas. Dog's don't like the feel of it when they dig.
  • A new product on the market that can prevent dogs from digging certain areas are the Hmyomina Scat Mats. Like the chicken wire, dogs dislike naturally dislike walking over these and its unappealing digging through them. 
  •  It can also help to put large landscaping rocks around the commonly dug areas.
  • Find a compromise. Build your dog a digging pit in the yard and fill it up some soft soil and sand. Then bury his toys there and let your dog have fun. Make sure to rotate the toys you hide there to keep his interest alive. When you catch your dog digging in the wrong spot, tell him to "leave it" and then call him and redirect to the proper spot as you dig with you feet, praising him then for digging there. 
  • Build him a dog house. If it's hot, consider a doghouse or a wading pool or try inviting him indoors so he can spend his day in a nice, cool area without worrying about overheating.
  • In the winter provide your dog with a sheltered place and a warm bed. If your dog though appears to be more cold-intolerant than usual, consider having his thyroid checked as hypothyroidism can cause this. 
  • Reverse the use of your attention. Ignore the attention-getting digging, while you dole out loads of praise and attention when your dog doesn't dig. Soon, your dog should learn that good behaviors yield the oh, so desired attention!
  • Provide more mental stimulation.  If your dog digs out of boredom, you may want to re-think leaving him alone in the yard for too long. Try providing him with more mental stimulation through brain games and interactive toys. Make sure to rotate toys to keep his interest alive. If you are away for most of the day though, consider doggy daycare or hiring a pet sitter or a dog walker to keep your dog happy and out of trouble.
  • If your dog is digging to escape, consider installing vinyl-coated wire fencing to the base of the fence. However, make it your ultimate goal to find a way to let your dog feel less lonely, bored or anxious.
  • Try providing your dog with more outdoor enrichment under the form of treasure hunts, long-lasting edible chews, food puzzles for dogs who love to herd, large herding balls to push around. Always supervise when your dog has access to bones/toys. You will basically need to create a "new drive" for engaging in these activities so to outrank the allure of digging in the inappropriate areas.

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