Diggin’ Into Spring

Does your dog love to dig? Puppies love to dig, and some grow into dogs who remain determined diggers, but the human end of the equation doesn’t always appreciate their digging “art.”

Providing enrichment for our companion animals is about giving them as many opportunities as we can to display natural behaviours. Dogs love to dig, so we should try and find appropriate outlets for that instinctive behaviour.

If you have a yard, you could let your dog choose their own digging spot, or you can direct them to a spot you choose. Most dogs will be satisfied with one or two spots, and we can help train them to stick to those spots. However, if you want to preserve your landscaping, you can build a digging pit instead. The bigger the dog, the deeper the pit should be, or they won’t be motivated to use it. 

Options:

A sandbox
A low sided planter box
A child’s wading pool

Considerations:

Drainage – include some holes in the bottom.
Fill – play sand or bark mulch are nice options and cleaner than plain dirt. No matter how thoroughly you clean your dog, some of it will end up in your house.
Maintenance – go through the pit with a rake occasionally to get rid of old buried items that should be cleaned or thrown out, especially if you have children who also share the yard (not the pit!).
• Because winter comes with snow to dig in, empty or cover the pit before the snow flies.
 
The training:
Like any behaviour modification, management is a critical component of success.

• Initially, stay in the yard with your dog to ensure they don’t dig elsewhere and continually direct and redirect them to their pit when they’re inclined to dig.
Bury several items in the new pit so they have something to find immediately (i.e. raw bones, rubber toys with squeakers, big crunchy dog cookies).
Show them to their pit and start digging yourself until they get into the game. Dirt flying is fun!
Frequently bury treats or re-bury items. If your dog is always finding new treasures as well as being able to bury their own treasures, they will soon be hooked!

Some non-yard ideas for dogs who love to dig:

1. iDig Stay, Digging toy for dogs by iFetch. Perhaps the coolest idea I’ve seen! A portable digging toy – it’s expensive but looks like it would last.
2. Snuffle mats. These have become super popular and come in many sizes and materials. They’re also easily made
as DIY projects from directions on YouTube.
3. Ball or water bottle pits. A fun way to hide toys and treats for your dog to find without having dirt flying everywhere. 
4. Old towels stacked together with many small treats tucked amongst the folds.
5. Boxes within boxes and a filled kong inside the final box. As long as your dog won’t eat the cardboard, this is a fun puzzle to solve!

Pro tip: don’t build your pit close to the fence or your dog may dig himself an escape route!