If you haven't read the article "The dirt on dog digging" I suggest you do, and better understand our goals.
As in the previous article, we've learned that the best way to deal with the dog digging behavior is to deflect this trait into something we can control.
Much like we used a dogs natural instincts to den to help us in crate training, we don't need a miracle cure for digging. We simply need to train our pet where to dig!
Our goal is to set our dog up for success!
First thing we need is a dig box frame. There are no strict rules here, but the size should generally be large enough for your dog to comfortably stretch out in. For my golden retriever, I made a box 5 by 5 feet.
The railing around the outside is 1 foot tall to really emphasize the idea of a specific area. I removed the sod from the area inside the railing, and buried the perimeter box half-way down leaving half above ground to secure it in place. Then just fill it up with play ground sand.
Choose an location with plenty of shade and ventilation to keep your pet comfortable during hot summer days. Preferably, an area with an overhang or awning to keep out the rain.
Much as we used treats and toys to lure our pet into a specific area in crate training, we can use the same principles in getting your dog to use the dig pit. I was fortunate. My dog could not wait to get his paws in their, but if your dog is not as eager, a little coaxing with treats will work fine.
Just as before start with small steps. To get your dog interested in this new yard item with some treats and praising. Get him accustomed to the outside of the dig pit first, re-assuring him all is well.
Let him sniff about and explore the area. Toss a few treats inside the box and try to lure him inside. Tossing in a favorite chew toy may work as well. If your dog comes inside, praise and treat.
At this point, stand inside and offer a treat in your hand to your dog. This will reassure your pet that it's completely safe inside of the railings.
Place or slightly bury a chew toy inside the dig pit to get him the mood and comfortable. Again, a correct response is rewarded with praise and/or treats. Remember dog digging IS encouraged inside of his dig pit.
Once we have our dog comfortable about being inside of its new dig pit, we need to associate a name with this new area so your dog can understand what we're talking about. Use something simple short and crisp, like pit or box.
From now on, every time you practice getting your dog comfortable with this area call it by that name so he can understand what it means. Why? This is an important step for the future when we tell him where and where not to dig.
If you find your dog starting to dig in this allowable area give him praise and treat him like he just discovered the cure for cancer.
Your dog will associate this great reward for something that he wants to do anyways, but with a hitch. Only in this area.
So what do we do if your pet continues dog digging behavior outside of his boundaries?
Simple, a firm No....... no treats, no praise, no reward. Redirect him to the appropriate area he is allowed to dig in. At the slightest sign he wants to dig when inside of his dig pit area, you immediately praise him for proper conduct.
He'll soon catch on to the fact it's a bigger benefit for him to exercise digging in his allowed area then it is to dig outside of it with no gratification.
Areas outside the dog digging pit may be blocked off with other barriers to re-enforce the idea of a dogs boundaries. Rope or chicken wire work well. WHAT? A piece of rope? Yes, a barrier can be as simple as a piece of rope, given your dog knows what command is implied to the rope.
It's not a physical but a mental barrier, The command maybe a simple as "off" or "out", but that's in the future if your dog does not know these commands yet.
For now, practice with your dog and help him help himself by giving your pet a positive alternative to his dog digging urges.