The Digging Pit
Making a digging pit and training your dog to dig there can provide a fun activity for your dog and save your plants and landscaping from destruction.
Create the digging pit in an accessible part of the garden, using finely raked soil, sand, bark chips or similar to a depth of about half a meter. Make sure it is large enough for your particular dog. It needs to be about twice his body length in width and depth.
Mark it clearly with pieces of board, painted white so they can be clearly seen. It helps if these boards are set into the ground and stick up a little bit to prevent material being kicked up out of the pit.
Teaching your dog to use it
While your dog is out of sight, bury some of his favourite toys (non-fluffy ones) and a few chews just below the surface. Wait until he is ready for play and feeling lively, then take him out to the pit and encourage him to dig by scratching at the surface with your hand to get him started. Make excited noises and encourage him. Continue until he finds one of his toys, then pretend to be amazed and celebrate with him by playing and having fun. Then repeat until all the toys and chews have been discovered.
Try to find time several times a day at first to go out with him and help him to find items in the digging pit. Once you have got your dog started, vary the items that you bury to keep him interested and begin to bury them more deeply. Things that can be hidden are:
- rawhide chews
- sterilized marrow bones
- real marrow bones – big enough to retrieve easily if your dog doesn’t find them!
- hard rubber toys
- plastic squeaky toys
- large rubber toys filled with food – big enough to retrieve easily if your dog doesn’t find them
As your dog becomes more experienced at finding things in the digging pit, you can start to leave him to go there by himself more, but, periodically, go out and encourage him to dig there so he starts to form a good habit. Some dogs need more encouragement than others but once he learns to have fun digging in this area where he sometimes finds buried treasure, and it is easy digging because of the loose soil, you should find he prefers to dig here than elsewhere.
Teach your dog how to behave well in the rest of the garden by being there to get him into good habits. Teach him to walk on pathways by calling him back the instant he puts a paw onto soil, and then reward him well for staying on the path. Be especially careful after you have planted new plants as the sight of you digging somewhere yourself, together with the smell of the disturbed earth, will give him ideas for a few days afterwards. If you cannot supervise all the time, fence off areas where you do not want your dog to dig so that he only learns good habits.
Alternatively, if your dog likes water, encourage him to dig in strong water-filled containers, especially on hot days.
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