Why pets dig - Lytle Vet

Digging

Functions of Digging

Digging with the front paws is normal behavior in both cats and dogs.

  • It is seen during play in kittens and in puppies who are exploring the texture of surfaces in their environment.
  • Cats and some dogs exhibit digging just before and after elimination of urine or stool. Cats vary in the amount of digging before and after elimination, and whether they cover their waste with litter.
  • Digging can have social significance. Dogs often kick away soil with the hind paws after elimination. This serves to disseminate their odors and so may be a form of marking behavior. It may be more common in dominant dogs
  • Some dogs, especially the northern breeds, dig to create a resting place in soil or snow. Some hunting breeds, such as terriers, were developed because of their instinct to dig.
  • Dogs also dig holes to store food or bones that may be retrieved at a later time, similar to a pattern seen in their wild relatives.
  • Digging is often displayed during periods of excitement and serves to release anxiety. For example, digging associated with anxiety caused by a pet’s separation from its human family may be an attempt to escape and rejoin them.

Destructive Digging

To reduce digging, increase the amount and variety of your pet’s daily exercise, social interaction, and play Excessive digging behavior can become destructive, causing damage to carpets, wooden floors, shrubbery and grass.

  • It is often helpful to increase the amount and variety of your pet’s daily exercise, social interaction, and play.
  • Prevent access to the pet’s favorite digging area. Limit your dog’s range within your yard by penned areas or tethering (for short periods no longer than 10 minutes or so without supervision).
  • Be sure to provide more interesting playthings so that there are attractive alternatives to digging.

Digging can be a difficult instinct to curb and it is important to have realistic expectations. Sometimes, working toward increasing your pet’s activity in general and social interaction, combined with damage control as suggested above, is the best that can be done. With time, as your pet matures, this undesirable behavior can generally be expected to subside.

Digging Functions of Digging

Digging with the front paws is normal behavior in both cats and dogs.

  • It is seen during play in kittens and in puppies who are exploring the texture of surfaces in their environment.
  • Cats and some dogs exhibit digging just before and after elimination of urine or stool. Cats vary in the amount of digging before and after elimination, and whether they cover their waste with litter.
  • Digging can have social significance. Dogs often kick away soil with the hind paws after elimination. This serves to disseminate their odors and so may be a form of marking behavior. It may be more common in dominant dogs
  • Some dogs, especially the northern breeds, dig to create a resting place in soil or snow. Some hunting breeds, such as terriers, were developed because of their instinct to dig.
  • Dogs also dig holes to store food or bones that may be retrieved at a later time, similar to a pattern seen in their wild relatives.
  • Digging is often displayed during periods of excitement and serves to release anxiety. For example, digging associated with anxiety caused by a pet’s separation from its human family may be an attempt to escape and rejoin them.

Destructive Digging To reduce digging, increase the amount and variety of your pet’s daily exercise, social interaction, and play

Excessive digging behavior can become destructive, causing damage to carpets, wooden floors, shrubbery and grass.

  • It is often helpful to increase the amount and variety of your pet’s daily exercise, social interaction, and play.
  • Prevent access to the pet’s favorite digging area. Limit your dog’s range within your yard by penned areas or tethering (for short periods no longer than 10 minutes or so without supervision).
  • Be sure to provide more interesting playthings so that there are attractive alternatives to digging.

Digging can be a difficult instinct to curb and it is important to have realistic expectations. Sometimes, working toward increasing your pet’s activity in general and social interaction, combined with damage control as suggested above, is the best that can be done. With time, as your pet matures, this undesirable behavior can generally be expected to subside.