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Tip of the Month

Cheryl S. Smith

As a big but basic generality, it's far easier to try and find a way to make a normal dog behavior acceptable than to try and get rid of it. For example, people ask all the time how to stop dogs from digging. You could try, but even if you were successful (not likely unless you're willing to maintain full-time supervision), you are likely to end up with a frustrated dog who takes up some other bad habit, such as barking. So instead of you being unhappy with holes in your hard, you now have neighbors unhappy with your noisy dog. Is that an improvement?

Instead, give your dog a place where digging is not only allowed but encouraged. You can build an actual structure, a digging pit. You could use wood or cinder blocks or whatever you choose, as long as it will contain dirt. Make it at least three times as long as your dog and at least twice as wide. Fill it with a mix of sand and dirt at least a foot deep, more for bigger dogs. Or you can simply choose a place in the yard and till in some sand to make the dirt loose.

Once you have your digging area ready, bury some dog biscuits or other treats, and a toy or two. Go out and run with your dog the digging area. Dig up a treat (while your dog watches) and give it to your dog. Repeat the performance. Encourage any interest your dog shows in the area. Scratch a little where you know a treat is buried and see if you can get your dog to join in. If you dig up a toy, play with it with your dog.

Keep the area stocked with treats and keep leading your dog there until the dog begins going to the pit on his or her own. Praise when that happens. If the dog digs up a toy, take time to play with it together.

If your dog starts to dig anywhere else, clap your hands to interrupt the behavior and lead the way to the digging pit. Praise any digging there.