Digging the Whole Truth

By Marion C. O'Neil CPDT-KA, CTDI

 My dog loves to dig. I think sometimes my dog is digging to China because there is free steak and endless belly rubs at the other end.  I’m a dog trainer but what is more important is I’m human.  I’ll admit it I know it’s my fault.  My husband has a major problem with my (not our) dog making the yard look like a bomb riddled mine field. The most common reason why a dog will dig is because they are plain old “bored.” Doesn’t my dog know I’ve things to do? I’m too busy to entertain & play with her every waking hour. I’ll admit it it’s been too cold and icy to take her out for our daily walks lately. I can’t even play fetch because the ball gets buried in the snow then she has to dig into the snow to retrieve the ball. It’s an endless circle.  Digging in the snow is almost as fun as unearthing the ground. I have to omit It gave her something to do while I was chopping the never ending ice off of my driveway. Face it digging is a great fun for a dog who needs exercise & mental stimulation. As I write this article my husband is wagging his finger at me saying “spring is coming so you better teach that dog not to dig any holes in the yard.” Yes the much anticipated spring season is coming soon. The melting snow combined with the ground defrosting equals fun loving mud for my dog. The temptation is far too great for my dog. Right after a good spring or summer rain is her all-time favorite time to dig. The ground is more pliable and desirable for digging.

  Why is it my job to teach the dog not to dig? I say “let the dog dig!” She should be allowed to dig but not wherever she wants. It’s so much easier to teach a dog what to do then it is to teach a dog what not to do. Here’s my plan - I’m giving her very own personal Puppy Pit to dig in this spring. She can dig to her hearts content or to China whichever comes first. I found a nice spot in the backyard under some big pine trees. It’ll be great shady spot for her in the summer. Last year she was caught excavating in that same area. I was lucky enough to have inherited an unwanted resin raised garden box about an 8’ x 8’ x 2’ square. When the ground thaws I’m going to till the soil while adding in some sand (sand box quality not construction-grade for mixing into concrete) then top it off with the garden box. In the Puppy Pit I’ll hide a couple of old toys maybe a bone or two and some biscuits. I know this will increase the reward for digging in her Puppy Pit. If I see her digging somewhere other than where she is allowed to dig I’ll mark the incorrect behavior with a marker word ”wrong” then take her over to her Puppy Pit to encourage her to dig there. I’ll add goodies from time to time so the Puppy Pit will remain an attractive place to visit. It’ll be very important to remember to praise and reward her when she heads there on her own. I’m making a promise to myself and my dog to keep her exercised, entertained and most importantly to be outside when she is outside as much as humanly possible.  I’ll know there might be a couple mistakes so wish me luck!

Marion C. O’Neil CPDT-KA



At Molasses Creek Dog Training, we teach a lot of families with children. We really like to include the children in the training process because we want them to feel like they are a very important part of the process. Training games are perfect for encouraging controlled fun between dogs and children.

Paw Note: It is very important that an adult always teach games to the dog before including the children.


  •  Hide-and-seek

This game is a blast for both the dog and the children. One child or parent distracts the dog while the child hides and calls for him. The child hiding calls “Sparky, Come!" This also reinforces the “come when called” command, plus this cue can be an important lifesaver. When the child who is hiding is found, she gives the dog lots of praise and a treat. Once the dog gets the hang of the game, the hider can make it more challenging by hiding behind a door or under a bed while another child or an adult encourages the dog to "go find Aislen!" This game provides physical exercise and mental enrichment for your dog. This is a great game for that active dog or puppy that needs to blow off some steam and needs exercise when the weather is not cooperating or you are under the weather!

Paw Note: Remember that adult (active- not playing or talking on your smart phone, PC or folding the laundry) supervision is essential during play sessions since excitement can lead to over-arousal in either the dog or the children.

  • Fetch

The age-old game of fetch never gets old for your canine friend. The dog fetches a ball, a Frisbee, or a toy, brings it back and drops the fetched toy by your feet, and waits for you to throw it again. Start by getting the dog interested and excited about the toy that is in your hand. Now throw the toy a short distance away from you. Say “go fetch” or use any other cue you like. Encourage the dog back to you in a happy, upbeat voice with inviting body language (human squatted down with arms opened as to invite). If the dog brings the toy to you, cue him with “Drop it.” If your dog needs more encouragement to bring back the toy, you can increase your odds by having an identical toy appear in your hands as he returns. Most times the dog will drop what is in his mouth because he sees the toy in your hand. If the dog has the toy in his mouth and will not release it, offer a treat really close to his nose as you say ”Drop it.” The dog usually can’t have the toy in his mouth and eat the treat at the same time. The dog will eventually drop the toy if the treat is especially good. Always praise your dog when he drops the toy. You can eliminate the treats as soon as possible because continuing the game will be the reward for returning the toy to you.

Paw Note: You always start the game, and you end the game.

Do not allow your dog to play to the point of exhaustion. Always finish the game before the dog does; try keeping the dog always wanting more. You do not want the dog to teach you how to play the game! If the dog tries to engage in a game of tug of war or refuses to give up the toy, end the game by ignoring or walking away from the dog. Never chase the dog to get the toy! Count to 10 (one good dog, two good dog, three good dog etc.) before starting again. When the dog has the game down to a science, you can incorporate cues like sit or down before throwing the toy. Now you’re turning work into fun for you and your dog.

Paw Note: Any game that puts the strength or speed of the dog against that of the child could lead to over-excitement and even a biting accident. Adult supervision and proper training are essential.


  • Stay inside hula hoop (clicker game)


This is an advanced game for the family and dog. Place a large hula hoop on the floor and give each child a clicker and some small dog treats. (If you do not have a hula hoop substitute a rope or anything that will make a circle.) The child should toss a treat into the center of the hula hoop to get started. When the dog has eaten the first treat, the child should click before he steps outside the hula hoop and toss in another treat. The goal is to click and reward as often as possible while the dog has all four paws inside the hula hoop. Once the dog has the idea that the place to be is inside the hula hoop, the child can start moving around the room slowly, still clicking and tossing treats into the hula hoop. If the dog stays in the hula hoop, the child can get creative with movements like jumping or waving hands in the air.

Paw Note: Humans need to be patient while teaching their dog any game.

Do not be too distractive too soon. The idea is to keep the dog in the hula hoop. Play this game in different rooms of the house and then eventually outside. The dog will learn to go and lie down within the hula hoop. When that happens, you can take the hula hoop into any situation where you need to establish a boundary for the dog. A hula hoop game is easier and safer than using a rope to tie up your dog! Paw Note: A family that plays together stays together!


More information coming soon!


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New Classes Starting:

AKC Canine Good Citizen 6/19 Mon. 7:00 p.m.

Teenrover/Adult-Manners Day  6/20 Tue 11:15 a.m

Focus with Distractions  6/24 Sat 10:00 a.m.   .

Novice Trick Dog              6/25 Sun 11:00 a.m.

Teenrover/Adult-Manners    7/8 Sat. 1:30 p.m.

Puppy I Manners                  6/25 Sun 10:00 a.m.

Check the calendar for more scheduled classes!