Why do Dogs Dig Holes and Lay in Them?

Husky laying in hole dug in the dirt

If you have a yard, a beautiful yard, and a dog, well, you’ll have some problems with your lawn soon. So many people get on the internet and ask why dogs dig holes and lay in them. The answers are very simple, and we are going to go through them and what it means when your dog digs holes and lays in them.

Dogs Dig Holes for Cooling Down Through Thermoregulation

Your dogs has far fewer sweat glands than you do and can easily overheat. While we sweat all over our bodies, according to PetMD, dogs have merocrine glands, located on their paws, but they hardly ever sweat through them. Panting provides little help, but vasodilatation is his best chance of cooling down.

As a dog runs or walks, his blood vessels expand, allowing the warm blood to reach the surface of the skin. Due to instinct, dogs know that if they lie down on the grass, which has absorbed the heat, it is going to be too hot. But if they remove the grass and the topsoil, they can lie down on earth that is cooling.

Dogs Dig Holes Out of Boredom

Dog digging in dirt under a tree

If you are used to being gone most of the day and come back to find your dog has dug holes in the ground, he could be trying to cool off, as I stated earlier. Or, he could be bored. Dogs are just like humans. They need some form of entertainment and as the Pet Health Network points out, digging can provide entertainment for a bored, frustrated dog.

Dogs Dig Holes Because the Roots Play Back

Pet Supreme and the Humane Society believe that dogs find the roots entertaining. If you were bored and the only thing that moved when you dug at it were roots, then you would probably find them entertaining too.

Dogs Dig Holes Because of Stress

dogs head peering from hole dug in the ground

Dogs have stress. Especially those that are left along for long periods of time or  have to deal with a new young, rambunctious canine friend that is always bothering them.

Some Dogs are Bred for Digging Holes

Terriers, Dachshund, Beagles and Schnauzer are all infamous diggers simply because they have been bred to chase small animals through their tunnels and dens in the ground so by instinct, digging is what they do best. Many dogs know by instinct that prey can be underground. It just takes a little digging.

Dogs have amazing ears and sense of smell, well beyond ours. With these, that they use for hunting in the wild, they can hear and smell rodents or other small animals below them, and that means food. So, they are going to dig, some dogs, more than others. According to Dogs N’ Stuff, nearly 80% of dog owners say their dogs dig holes.

Dogs Dig Holes to Bury their Toys or Food

jack russell terrier burring Frisbee in the sand at beach

Many dogs will find something they really like and bury it. This is plain and simply instinct. Many animals do this, including panthers, tigers and wild dogs. Even though your dog is not wild, he still knows that there are other animals out there which might taking a liking to what he has, and take it for themselves. Since dogs don’t have pockets, storage cabinets or safes, the ground is the best place for hiding them.

Dogs Dig Holes to Escape

If you have a terrier breed or another kind of dog that requires lots of exercise and mental stimulation, then the other side of the gate may be more interesting than your yard. According to Dog Mastermind, male dogs can smell a female in heat five miles away, and they will do almost anything to get with that female. You cannot get angry with them over this. This is in their DNA. They are trying to preserve their own species.

Dogs Dig Holes for Shade

husky puppy digging hole in sand at beach

Where your dog digs a hole is important. Near a fence, then he wants to get out, as I have stated before. If it is near the house, then he might be trying to cool off. Or…

Dogs Dig Holes to Get Under House

Dogs have great memories and will remember where they have heard something so they may go to the very spot next to your house and dig, looking for a critter or two that he heard before.

Dogs Dig Hole Imitating Your Own Behavior

dog laying in hole dug in flower bed.

If you have a garden and do a lot of gardening, believe it or not, your dog may do just what you are doing. Why not? You spent a lot of time doing it, so it might be fun for them as well.

Why is My Dog Digging Holes all of a Sudden?

This is a question often asked and the reality is simple. Something has changed. As I have stated before, boredom, lack of exercise, breeding, a small animal scratching around underneath, cooling down or for getting to a female dog in heat and other reasons are to blame. So, it is important you find out the reason is, before you react. Dogs do not just simply start digging around unless it is one of those reasons described above. Which brings me to my next point . . .

Do Dogs Dig Their Own Graves?

dog digging hole under a chain fence

Yes and No. This is a question that has often been asked. Some people have even asked for signs on how to tell if their dogs are digging a hole to die. But here is the reality.

Dogs are not like humans. They do not have a sense of self in the conventional way like we do, nor do they understand death or no tomorrow. So, no dogs do not dig their holes before they are about to die. However . . .

Dogs dig holes when they are dying.

small terrier with muddy face

As Wag says, if they are not strong enough to defend themselves because of injury or illness, their instinct tells them to isolate themselves for protection. Digging a hole gives them a better chance of that and provides them a feeling of safety and coolness when it gets too hot.

But once again, they do not know they are dying. They do not understand that there is no tomorrow despite how much we want to think our canine buddies have a sixth sense, which has never been proven. They are only there to recover. Sure, they may die in a hole they have dug, but the reason for digging the hole was not for dying.    

In closing, we now know why dogs dig holes. Next time we will talk about what you should and shouldn’t do about your dog digging up your yard. Knowing the reasons will help us to determine the correct action to take.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.