Why Do Golden Retrievers Dig? (How To Stop It)

Golden Retrievers are beloved for their friendly disposition and cheerful demeanor, but there’s one behavior that can leave their owners puzzled: digging. Why do Golden Retrievers dig?

In short, it’s an instinctual behavior rooted in their ancestry. These retrievers were originally bred as hunting dogs, and digging was a way to unearth game. While today’s Golden Retrievers may not have to hunt for their meals, this digging instinct still persists, often driven by a variety of reasons such as boredom, curiosity, or the desire to find a cool spot to lay in on hot days.

Understanding this behavior can help owners manage and redirect it effectively which I’m gonna discuss here in depthly.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Dig?

Golden Retrievers, with their friendly disposition and wagging tails, are cherished members of countless households.

However, there’s one peculiar behavior that leaves many owners scratching their heads: digging. In this article, I delve into the world of Golden Retriever digging, exploring the reasons behind this behavior and offering insights into how to manage it effectively.

1. Ancestral Roots: The Hunting Instinct

Golden Retrievers are descendants of breeds originally bred as hunting dogs. Their digging behavior has its roots in their ancestry.

When these dogs were used for hunting, digging was an essential skill. They would dig to unearth game, such as birds or small mammals, for their owners.

While the modern Golden Retriever may not be hunting for meals, this instinctual behavior remains encoded in their DNA.

2. Boredom Buster: Digging as Entertainment

One of the most common reasons Golden Retrievers dig is boredom. These highly intelligent and active dogs require mental and physical stimulation.

When left to their own devices without adequate exercise or mental enrichment, they may resort to digging as a form of entertainment. It’s their way of keeping their minds and bodies engaged.

3. Curiosity: The Need to Explore

Golden Retrievers are naturally curious creatures. They love to explore their surroundings, and digging can be a way to satisfy their curiosity.

They may dig to unearth interesting scents or to investigate what lies beneath the surface. This behavior is akin to a human’s desire to open a mysterious package or peek into a hidden treasure chest.

4. Cooling Down: Finding Relief from Heat

On scorching summer days, you might find your Golden Retriever digging a shallow hole in the ground. This behavior serves a practical purpose, it helps them cool down.

By digging a hole and lying in it, they can escape the heat and feel the cooler earth beneath them. It’s a natural way for them to regulate their body temperature.

5. Hunting Instinct Redux: Chasing Small Critters

While Golden Retrievers may not be hunting game for their owners anymore, they may still exhibit their hunting instincts when they encounter smaller creatures in the yard.

If they spot a squirrel, mole, or even an insect, their natural instinct might kick in, leading to digging as they attempt to chase or capture their prey.

6. Nesting Instinct: Creating a Comfortable Spot

In some cases, Golden Retrievers dig to create a comfortable resting spot. This behavior is particularly common among pregnant females who are preparing a safe and cozy nest for their impending puppies.

By digging a shallow hole, they create a protected space where they can give birth and care for their pups.

7. Stress and Anxiety: A Coping Mechanism

Like humans, dogs can experience stress and anxiety. In some cases, Golden Retrievers may resort to digging as a coping mechanism.

If they are feeling anxious or stressed, they may dig to release pent-up energy or as a way to self-soothe.

8. Territorial Behavior: Marking Their Space

Digging can also be a form of territorial behavior. By digging holes and leaving their scent in the soil, dogs are marking their territory.

This behavior is more common in intact males, but spayed and neutered dogs can also exhibit it, particularly if they perceive a threat to their territory.

Managing Golden Retriever Digging: Tips and Tricks

Now that we’ve explored the reasons behind Golden Retriever digging, let’s discuss some strategies for managing this behavior:

1. Exercise and Mental Stimulation:

Ensure your Golden Retriever gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation through activities like daily walks, playtime, and puzzle toys. A tired dog is less likely to dig out of boredom.

2. Provide a Designated Digging Area:

Create a designated digging spot in your yard where your dog is allowed to dig freely. Encourage them to use this area by burying toys or treats for them to find.

3. Supervision:

When your dog is in the yard, keep a watchful eye on them. If you see them starting to dig where they shouldn’t, redirect their attention to a more appropriate activity.

4. Training:

Basic obedience training can help curb digging behaviors. Teach your Golden Retriever commands like “leave it” or “no dig” to control their digging impulses.

5. Consult a Professional:

If your Golden Retriever’s digging behavior is excessive or driven by anxiety, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for guidance.

Understanding why Golden Retrievers dig is key to addressing this behavior effectively. Whether it’s their hunting instinct, boredom, curiosity, or a combination of factors, there are ways to manage and redirect their digging tendencies.

With the right approach, you can ensure that both you and your beloved Golden Retriever enjoy a harmonious living environment.

How to Stop Golden Retriever Digging? (Effective Strategies)

Golden Retrievers, with their playful and active nature, are prone to digging behavior. While this behavior is often rooted in their instincts and natural curiosity, it can become problematic if left unchecked.

To maintain a beautiful garden and prevent your dog from getting into trouble, here are some effective strategies to stop Golden Retriever digging.

1. Provide Adequate Exercise

One of the primary reasons Golden Retrievers dig is boredom or excess energy. To address this, ensure your dog receives ample exercise daily.

Regular walks, playtime, and engaging activities can help burn off their energy and reduce the desire to dig out of restlessness.

2. Mental Stimulation Matters

Golden Retrievers are intelligent dogs that thrive on mental stimulation. Invest in puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, and interactive games to keep their minds occupied.

Mental stimulation can be as tiring as physical exercise and can prevent boredom-driven digging.

3. Create a Designated Digging Area

Rather than trying to eliminate your Golden Retriever’s digging instinct altogether, redirect it to a designated digging area.

Choose a spot in your yard where digging is acceptable and encourage your dog to dig there by burying toys, treats, or bones for them to discover. When they dig in the designated area, praise and reward them.

4. Fencing and Barriers

Use physical barriers, such as fencing or landscaping stones, to block off areas where you don’t want your dog to dig.

This can be an effective way to protect your garden or yard from unwanted excavation. Be sure to secure the barriers well to prevent your dog from digging underneath them.

5. Supervision and Redirection

When your Golden Retriever is outside, keep an eye on them. If you catch them digging where they shouldn’t be, gently but firmly redirect their attention to a more appropriate activity or the designated digging area. Consistency is key in reinforcing the behavior you want.

6. Training and Commands

Basic obedience training is essential in controlling digging behavior. Teach your dog commands like “leave it,” “no dig,” or “stop” to convey that digging is not allowed.

Consistent training can help them understand your expectations and curb their digging tendencies.

7. Seek Professional Help

If your Golden Retriever’s digging behavior is excessive, driven by anxiety, or difficult to control, consider consulting a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

They can assess your dog’s specific issues and provide personalized guidance and training techniques to address the problem effectively.

8. Provide Shade and Comfort

On hot days, dogs may dig to create a cooler resting spot. Ensure your dog has access to shade and a comfortable place to rest. Providing a shallow pool or a sandbox with cool, soft sand can also discourage them from digging to stay cool.

9. Correct the Cause of Stress

If your dog is digging due to stress or anxiety, identify and address the underlying causes. This might involve changes in their environment, socialization, or additional companionship to alleviate their distress.

10. Be Patient and Consistent

Changing your Golden Retriever’s digging behavior takes time and patience. Stay consistent with training and redirection efforts, and don’t get discouraged if progress is slow.

Positive reinforcement, consistency, and patience are key elements in modifying their behavior.

Stopping Golden Retriever digging requires a combination of strategies that address the underlying causes and redirect their natural instincts.

By providing ample exercise, mental stimulation, a designated digging area, and proper training, you can help your beloved Golden Retriever develop better habits and maintain a beautiful outdoor space.


1. Are Golden Retrievers prone to digging?

Yes, Golden Retrievers are prone to digging, and this behavior is relatively common among the breed. It’s rooted in their ancestry as hunting dogs, where digging was essential for unearthing game.

While not all Golden Retrievers are avid diggers, many exhibit this behavior to varying degrees. Factors like age, boredom, and individual temperament can influence their digging tendencies.

2. At what age are Golden Retrievers most difficult?

Golden Retrievers, like all dog breeds, go through various developmental stages. While it’s not accurate to say they are “difficult” at a specific age, some owners may find certain stages more challenging.

The adolescent phase, typically between 6 months and 2 years of age, can be a bit more demanding. During this time, they may test boundaries, have bursts of energy, and require consistent training and socialization to mature into well-behaved adults.

3. Are Golden Retrievers big diggers?

Golden Retrievers are not typically considered “big” diggers compared to some breeds with stronger digging instincts, such as terriers.

However, they do have a propensity for digging, and the extent of their digging behavior can vary from one individual to another. Proper exercise, mental stimulation, and training can help manage their digging tendencies.

4. Are Golden Retrievers very needy?

Golden Retrievers are known for their friendly and affectionate nature, which can sometimes be interpreted as neediness. They thrive on human companionship and enjoy being part of the family.

They may seek attention and affection from their owners, but this is generally a sign of their social and loving disposition. Providing them with regular interaction, exercise, and mental stimulation can help meet their social needs.

5. Are Golden Retrievers destructive?

Golden Retrievers are not inherently destructive, but like any dog, they can exhibit destructive behaviors if their needs are not met.

Destructiveness often arises from boredom, anxiety, or excess energy. To prevent destructive behavior, it’s crucial to provide them with mental stimulation, physical exercise, proper training, and a structured environment.

A well-exercised and mentally engaged Golden Retriever is less likely to engage in destructive activities.


Golden Retrievers may dig for various reasons, including instinctual behavior, boredom, a desire for attention, or an attempt to cool down in hot weather.

Understanding the underlying causes of their digging can help owners address this behavior through proper training, mental stimulation, and providing an enriching environment.

By meeting their needs, Golden Retrievers can lead happier, healthier lives while minimizing unwanted digging habits.

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