Why do Shih Tzus Dig?

why do shih tzus dig - shih tzu sitting on a pile of dirt
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Shih Tzus can bring a lot of happiness into your home, but they also come with some issues. One of them is digging, but why do Shih Tzus dig? There are a number of reasons including boredom, trying to escape, and anxiety.

Reasons Your Shih Tzu Digs

It can be rather annoying, not to mention dangerous, for your Shih Tzu to dig up your backyard or under your fence. 

Just keep in mind, they aren’t doing it to upset you or get back at you for some reason. Digging is a natural habit of dogs, and there are several common reasons your dog might be digging, but none of them include being spiteful.

The most common reasons for digging include the following.

They Are Curious or Looking for Some Fun

This is especially true of puppies. The whole world is just one big adventure. They want to see, taste and feel everything around them.

That includes what’s under the surface of your backyard and flower beds. A puppy is just positive there is something interesting in the ground and they are bound and determined to find out just what it is.

Older dogs might also dig for entertainment because they are left outside for too long without having the interaction of their family, so they are a bit bored.

A Shih Tzu might also turn to digging if they don’t have any toys or other items to occupy their time.

white shih tzu catching tennis ball in its mouth
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Burning Off Excess Energy

While puppies do sleep a lot, when they are awake they have a lot of energy that needs to be used up. Even Shih Tzus that are past the puppy stage but aren’t old dogs can have excess energy to burn.

If your Shih Tzu isn’t getting enough walks or playtime with you, they may turn to digging up your yard, to use up all that energy.

A quick fix is to try to get in a nice, long walk every day or a couple of shorter ones. A tired dog is a happy dog and will make you a happy owner as well.

Make sure your pup has plenty of toys to play with as well.

KONG – Classic Dog Toy is a great option. Fill it with dog treats, peanut butter, or KONG Easy Treat and you will keep your Shih Tzu happy for hours.

Boredom and excess energy are the main causes of bad behavior in dogs.

They Are Looking for a Comfortable Spot

If it is hot outside, your Shih Tzu might be digging to create a comfortable and cool space to lay on.

It’s no different than when your dog moves from a carpeted area to tile or linoleum in your home and spreads out on their belly. They are looking for a cooler spot because they are overly warm.

So, if they are outside and it is hot out, but sure they have a cool place to be that’s in the shade. You’ll also want to give them access to lots of water. 

Even better, you should bring them inside so they can enjoy the air conditioning. 

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They’re On the Hunt

It could be that they smell or have seen small prey or even insects that live in your backyard and are on the hunt. 

Some clues that this might be the case are that they only dig at the base of a tree or shrubs close to the root. Or that they only dig in a specific area of the yard instead of all over or around the fence.

shih tzu walking down a path in the woods
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Trying to Escape

Your Shih Tzu might be trying to escape something. If something is making your dog fearful or causing them anxiety, they might dig to try to escape.

If they are only digging along your fence line this might be the case. 

You’ll need to determine what is causing your dog anxiety or what they feel they need to escape from. Once you figure out what it is, then remove the “threat” from your home or backyard.

They Dig To Get Attention

Our little Shih Tzus want lots of attention, even if it isn’t the good kind. If they receive attention for bad behavior they will continue with that behavior and might even intensify it. 

Instead of yelling at your dog to stop digging, simply pick them up and give them a toy to play with. Give them lots of attention when they are doing good things, but don’t recognize their bad behavior.

What You Can do To Stop Your Shih Tzu From Digging

What you need to do to stop your Shih Tzu from digging depends on the reason they are digging in the first place.

  • Hunting pray – find and remove any burrowing animals from your yard. Just be sure not to use any chemicals or traps that could hurt your Shih Tzu.
  • Looking for fun / Burning off energy – be sure you have plenty of fun alternatives that can keep your Shih Tzu entertained and that will burn off their energy such as taking them for a long walk and providing them with the right dog toys.
  • Looking for a comfortable/cool spot – keep your Shih Tzu inside with you most if not all of the time. If they are outside provide them with soft bedding in a shaded spot and access to plenty of water. Put some ice cubes in the water as well.
  • Trying to escape – put large rocks at the base of your fence or use chicken wire around the bottom of the fence to discourage digging.
  • Getting attention – be sure to give your Shih Tzu lots of attention when they are good or just being cute. Don’t reward bad behavior by giving them attention when they are misbehaving.

What You Should Never do to Stop Your Shih Tzu From Digging

One thing you should never do to stop your Shih Tzu from digging is punishing them after the fact. If you come home and see that your dog has dug up your backyard while you were gone, it is too late to punish them.

They will not connect the punishment with the digging. They will just think you are yelling at them or punishing them for no reason. This will only scare your Shih Tzu and confuse them.

They will start to associate you coming home with punishment and that’s the last thing you want.

Related Questions:

Why Do Shih Tzus Dig in the Bed?

This goes back to 1,000’s of years in dog evolution. In the wild, dogs would dig a hole in the ground to make a comfortable place to sleep. Modern dogs still have the same instinct and do it even when it isn’t necessary like in a bed or on other soft surfaces.

Why Are Shih Tzus so Aggressive?

Not all Shih Tzus are aggressive, but if yours is, there might be a couple of reasons for it. One, your pup might be possessive. This can include being possessive over its food, toys, or even you. 

Secondly, your Shih Tzu might be showing signs of aggression because it is looking for its place in the pack. Your Shih Tzu might be a beta dog trying to fill in the alpha position if it feels there is no real alpha in the household. This will cause anxiety and that will lead to aggression.

If this seems to be the case, then you need to show your dog that you are the alpha dog, and your Shih Tzu can move back into the beta position which will relieve its anxiety and aggression.

Do Shih Tzus Bark?

Yes, Shih Tzus do bark. Some may be real barkers and bark at everything while others might only bark when someone knocks on the door. Don’t be surprised, however, if your Shih Tzu barks whenever they hear a noise.

To Sum it All Up:

Shih Tzus dig for all sort of reasons such as having the energy to burn, being bored, trying to escape, and looking for a cool spot to sleep in. Determine why your Shih Tzu is digging, and then the behavior is pretty easy to correct.

The best solution is to not allow your Shih Tzu outside unsupervised. If they are out, then so are you. Then you’ll never have to worry about finding holes in your backyard.


Please Note:

This article is informational only and does not substitute for veterinary advice. Always check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your Shih Tzu’s behavior. This article should not be considered in any way as veterinarian advice.


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