Dog Behavior The Emotions of Digging

Why Dogs Dig

I have to write this because this is one of the many problem areas, we face when trying to figure out how to stop dog behaviors that we do not like. What I am talking about is our amazing ability to justify everything that dogs do with such complexity that it will render us ineffective in our attempts at modifying said behaviors.

What I’m talking about is the  subscribed theories as to why dogs dig. Here’s a couple of the reasons “behaviorists” give, when discussing canine inherited behaviors.

“The Dog Behavior Communities Reasons For Digging”

1- Denning instinct: The belief is that throughout the evolutionary process, our dogs have an instinctual desire to seek out protected shelter. If no such shelter is available, they will create (dig) their own.

The Spirit Dog says, “Although this may sound like an logical analysis of the digging behavior, wild canid species rarely if ever seek out this type of shelter. They will bed down in any area that they perceive will afford them protection from other predators and during inclement weather.

2- Mothers denning instinct : Again, the thoughts and teachings here are that wild canids dig dens for their litters.

The Spirit Dog says, ” Although a limited number of wild canids will dig dens for their young, woodlands afford them plenty of denning spots without the need to excavate.

There are numerous other explanations as to why dogs dig, according to whats written. And in general, the current explanations of  dogs inherited behaviors.

The problems associated with most of these descriptions are the individuals that studied these behaviors, did not have an intimate knowledge of their subject matter before hand. The results although well intentioned in meaning,  unfortunately has had a negative impact on the dog owners ability to modify unwanted behaviors .

Let’s think about this for a moment, were talking about dogs here. A species that derives great pleasure from the simplest things in life, playing in dirt, mud or snow, chewing stuff up, running around chasing each other, play fighting or wrestling with one another, and yes digging for fun.

Wow, that sounds eerily similar to little kids, doesn’t it ? The difference is, a dogs mind never gets past that child like stage.

If you have previously read some of my stuff you know that not only do I love dogs, but I have devoted my life to saving the wonderful animals that have nowhere else to go. So I am in no way trying to make fun of our dogs intelligence level, although from time to time I may make fun of the dog training communities intelligence, well at least those that deserve it.

In case you missed it above, Dogs dig because it’s fun for them.

The Spirit Dog

COPYRIGHT © 2008 A.S.PAPSZYCKI

2 Responses

  1. Hello Rachel,

    Yup, dogs enjoy digging for pleasure, If more people had your attitude less dogs would be booted out of their home. “I say let ‘em dig! ”
    There are individuals that will freak out and get rid of a dog because it dug holes in their lawn or garden.

    Part off the problem and the resistance I run up again is something you mentioned in your comment. The Inuit people thing, ( which you most likely read, and unfortunately not accurate) If animals have been used for any reason at all by our ancestors (aside from the obvious pet thing, which oddly enough is not often taken in to account when describing “dog and Man” throughout history. Is there ability to warn us when anything or anybody comes around.

    And when you consider the nomadic lives that these people lived, that was a very important behavior attribute in dogs. These days it’s an undesirable behavior. Go figure.

    Good luck with Mals housebreaking.

    Al

  2. I’ve been having a lot of fun (and some difficult emotional responses) to many of the articles I’ve been reading here since I found your site a few weeks ago. I posted a request for help for my Malamute, Jackson, just last week (which you helped me with-thank you!) Mals as a breed tend to dig, as I’m sure they did years and years ago when helping the Inuit people trek across the Arctic. But Jackson lives in Missouri, where there’s no snow drifts to make a den out of and he doesn’t have to pull a thing. He just loves to dig, and he’s only 12 weeks old! If I fill up the hole with dirt, he’ll dig it back up just to find out if I put something in there he thinks he needs. Like you said, it’s fun and given the limited things dogs can do in a fenced in backyard, I’m happier he digs mini-craters rather than eating my siding on my shed (as one of my previous dogs was prone to do). I’m a firm believer that every dog has his own personality no matter what the “breed characteristcs” are and you wouldn’t try to change your kid’s personality to a complete 180 would you? There are so many inherent behaviors we have to “get rid of” to be able to make our pets “acceptable” in society… I say let ’em dig! Maybe he’ll strike oil and we’ll all be rich?

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