I have a nice landscaped yard filled with gardens and one dog that loves to dig! He’s a four-year-old Cattle Dog named Taz the Spaz. He’s a joy to watch and play with but he’s a digger by nature and I finally decided to put in a dog-digging pit for him and me! Why fight natural instincts and get upset with new holes turning up in the yard?
I decided my dog would be happier with a pit to burn off some of that energy. A dog-digging pit is actually a lot like putting in a sand box for your children. If placed in a proper area it’s not an eye sore and your dog will be appreciate a place to dig. This spot will become his play area and even a retreat to go when he’s tired or feeling sick.
When deciding where to build a dog digging pit look for a place that is not in direct sunlight and will have some protection against cold winds. A 3 x 6 foot area about 2 feet deep is a good size for your pit. Remove the topsoil and loosen the dirt. Mix in a little sand to help it drain in the rainy season and to make digging easier. This is your dogs new play area so let him watch the preparations and if he joins in to help, praise him.
Once the pit is ready, it is easy to get your dog to dig in it. Take some of his favorite toys or treats out and let him watch you bury them in the pit. Call your dog over and help him dig things up, praising him all the time. Once he gets the idea and starts digging on his own, praise him and repeat, “Dig in your pit.”
If he digs up a ball or toy you’ve buried: play a short game of fetch, then bury it again. If he finds a treat he gets to eat it for an instant reward. Repeat this over and over, repeating the command, “Dig in your pit.” Your dog will quickly learn what the command means, probably in one afternoon. You can test if he has learned his new command
by putting your dog inside the house. Bury a dozen or so treats and his favorite toys, and let him out. Say ‘Dig in your pit’ and praise him if he goes immediately to the pit.
I put a fresh dog bone in his pit for his final trial run on testing his training. He was so pleased and proud of his find that this was now his digging pit. This playing area offered special treats and quality time with his owner. My dog runs out to his pit every morning to check for treats. And I usually sneak out beforehand and bury a surprise for him. It’s fun to watch his face and see his excitement when he finds his treasure.
Remember it’s important to continue to remind him that digging in his pit is fun. An occasional treat, hidden toys and continued praise whenever he shows any interest in the pit is important. Especially if the dog digs there without any encouragement from you. This continued encouragement makes him want to look for hidden treats and treasures and directs his digging to one area. Once your dog understands that digging in his pit is fun and acceptable and he knows the command, “Dig in your pit,” you can teach him that digging elsewhere is not acceptable.
The first step is to teach your dog to stay completely off the flower and vegetable gardens and that he is only allowed on the grass or other parts of the yard. I broke Taz by putting him on a leash and walking him about the yard close to my gardens saying no if he even looked at the garden areas. Then I would take him to the digging pit where there would be a hidden treat. My dog will lie beside the garden or go elsewhere to play and have fun. This took several weeks but the dog behaves perfectly and is happy.
When I am done working in my gardens we play down by the creek or take a walk in the swamp, one of his favorite places to walk.
You can also try the liquid stay off sprays if you are having trouble breaking your dog. Time and patience will usually shape up a dog so that you can all enjoy your yard.
If you don’t want to put in a digging pit, putting in a pool for you’re dog to cool down in may help if he gets too warm. Having you pet fixed will stop the dog who likes to escape to find a friend and long walks to keep the dog busy and gives you quality time with the dog. Last but not least several playtimes a day will help wear away some of the energy that is often the culprit of the “digging Dog” syndrome.