It is frustrating when your dog digs anyplace without apparent reason, but when the excavation centers over the prized oriental rug, it's time to come to terms with Rover. Actually, it's not his fault, but his wolf-like ancestor's. Dogs need to dig -- it's just in their genes.
Looking For a Good Spot
Outside digging is easier to understand than the indoor grubbing up of blankets and rugs, but they are actually the same behavior. Your dog doesn't know the difference between removing rocks or dirt and moving man-made things that are in his way when he is looking for a comfortable resting place. He wants a cool spot to lie down on when he's hot, or a warm nest when he's cold, and if he has to dig to China or through your carpet to find that ideal spot, he will do it come hell or high water. Provide him with a bed of his own in a cool or warm space -- depending upon his inclination -- and he will usually settle down with no more than a casual shuffle of blankets and a turn round or two.
If he isn't looking for a cozy bed, your dog may merely be exercising his right to, well ... exercise. Dogs often work off excess energy by digging. It gives them something to do to pass the lonely hours when you're at work or too busy to play. Head off destructive digging from boredom by giving your dog plenty of mental and physical stimulation each day. Take him on a long walk or play a rousing game of fetch. For quiet times and rainy days, exercise his brain by hiding treats in odd places for him to sniff out, or use well-made and sturdy treat dispensing toys like Kong, IQ Treat Ball, Linkables or similar toys, he can safely play with when you are home to supervise, but too busy for outdoor play.
In the wild, dog ancestors would have dug out rodents or other prey, possibly grubs or even tubers to eat. Lots of tasty things live underground, so digging is the natural way to get to them. When he isn't digging to retrieve food, your dog may be digging to put away a tasty morsel -- like that leftover bone -- for a midnight snack. What seems disgusting to us is just delightfully well-aged to your dog. If your pup is seriously digging in one spot, you might try checking under the rug to see if you missed something last time you vacuumed.
Let Me Out
Your dog may dig when he is anxious. Dogs often exhibit destructive behavior under stressful circumstances such as during thunderstorms or when you leave them alone. This is not a deliberate act of revenge because you went to work without him, nor is it a fully thought-out response to other stressors in his environment. He may only be trying to find a safe place to hide or looking for a way out so he can join his beloved humans who have left him behind. Never punish a dog for anxiety digging. This sort of behavior requires understanding and compassionate behavior modification. Ask your veterinarian or a reputable dog psychologist for recommendations for helping your dog cope with his anxiety.
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