Ahh. That perennial question: why do dogs dig?

Dogs, it would appear, love to dig.

Let us see if we can't get to the bottom of this fascinating canine behavior trait and learn the secret as to why dogs love to dig.

Some dogs have practical reasons for digging: It gets them under the fence! They're convinced that there is something underground worth having. Or they simply want to create a comfy, climate-controlled bed in which they can curl up and go to sleep.

Then there are dogs who couldn't care less about practicality. They dig for one reason and
one reason only: It's a heck of a lot of fun. For them, digging is the canine equivalent of sailing on the ocean and enjoying the salty air. They love the smell of freshly turned dirt and the way it feels under their paws. They enjoy the feeling of exhilaration that comes from tossing clouds of dirt behind them. Digging is their sport and their hobby. It requires no special equipment, and they can do it any time and just about anywhere.

The reason that dogs are attracted to dirt in the first place comes down to one thing: instinct. Long before domestic dog beds were created, dogs dug themselves dens, both for sleeping and for a secure place to raise their pups. They dug to catch burrowing prey and to bury leftovers. Digging was one of the few useful tools they had at their disposal, and they used it often.

Aside from searching around in the garden for treasures or making the occasional great escape, dogs don't have many real uses for digging anymore. That's fine for some dogs and some breeds. Greyhounds and Great Danes, for example, were never much into digging anyway. But others can't leave it alone.

For example, terriers were bred to control vermin and snakes, and dachshunds were badger dogs. For hundreds of years, breeders picked the dogs that had the most enthusiasm for digging. You can't just turn that off. Instinct is a powerful force. Add to it generations of specialized breeding, and you have a lot of dogs who will always find a way and a place to dig, even when there's nothing to dig for.

Dogs who are destined to dig usually hit their strides between the ages of 3 months and 3 years. Some get started after watching another dog do it, or even after watching their owners in the garden. Others don't need any more inspiration than an afternoon of boredom and the desire to try something new. It doesn't take much to get them started. They'll paw at a cricket on the grass, for example, and that leads to more pawing, and pretty soon the entire yard is filled with craters. At that point, they're usually hooked and aren't going to give it up easily.

Dogs love to dig. It's in their nature and it seems like it's not going away any time soon!

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