Hi all, Amanda here. Today I would like to write about something that has given me so much joy and prevented some serious anxiety…Lucy’s sandbox.
Lucy is my dog. She is a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix who LOVES to dig. She loves to play, she loves to be outside, and she loves to dig. Did I mention she loves to dig?! I am a very lucky person because I am home more often than most; but when I first got Lucy, I was leaving my house at about 8:15 am and my son was home by 2. My landlord fenced in half of my covered patio so I could safely leave her outside when I went to work.*
It had a cement floor except for right where the door out of the patio was. Lucy dug there the first time I put her outside and didn’t sit out there with her. I don’t want to leave her cooped up inside, but I have always had a fear that she would dig out of her kennel before someone got home. So, cooped up inside it was! That is, until I read an article about dog sand boxes. Redirecting a digger to only dig where you want them to. Give them a place to dig and reward them for using it.
The first step was finding or building a sandbox. I was renting an apartment so building a sandbox was not really a good option. I opted to buy a sandbox. Unfortunately, it was August and without ordering one on Amazon and having it shipped, I had no luck. I really had my heart set on the red crab sandbox with the cover but settled for a cute purple wading pool and a tarp. Before I had even finished filling the pool with sand, Lucy was in there digging. She was so funny and so cute! I sat down in a lawn chair and watched as she dug hole after hole. Every now and again, she would sit down in one of them and ponder. I wonder what she was thinking? Before I could answer that question in my head, she was up and digging again. She loved it!!!
But…would it keep her from digging out of her kennel? One could only hope! I left her out there and took a few short trips over the weekend to see. When I got back, she was laying on the cement with several holes visible in her sandbox. So, she had dug until she got bored. This was a great start but since I had only been gone for two hours, it wouldn’t do on a normal day when she is out in her kennel area for 6 hours.
The article, and several others I read after I researched it, said that giving Lucy a dedicated place to dig would solve my problem. Story after story about dogs that were reformed when given a special digging area. Dogs dig for reasons ranging from boredom (Lucy!), attention, to looking for a cool place to chill out. Because Lucy seemed to dig out of boredom, I combined the sand box with the idea behind a treat puzzle toy. I went out before I brought Lucy out and buried a bunch of toys and treats in the sand. That took care of rewarding her for digging where I wanted her to dig as well. I left her in her kennel for three hours and returned.
She was still playing in the sandbox!!! She had dug up everything I had buried but then she dug new holes and reburied some of the toys. Not only did she have a fabulous time on the treasure hunt I had set up, she had learned a new game–bury the treasure.
That was two years ago and we have moved on a bit. We live in a new place and Lucy has a new kennel and a new sandbox. Her new kennel is on the grass but she still doesn’t try to dig anywhere except in her sandbox. Her current sandbox is an old tractor tire with a tarp on the bottom. I originally had a table cloth on the top (one of those cheap plastic ones that you bring on picnics) but I stopped covering the box. My main reasoning was so that nothing pooped in the sandbox (like the neighborhood cats) but since the new kennel has such high sides, I don’t think anything can get in there. Also when it rains, the water goes through the sand and runs out the bottom, so that isn’t an issue either. Lucy is not usually out there for 6 hours anymore since I am only gone for about 3 hours at a time now, and I have made the treasure hunt a bit more challenging. At the advice of a good friend, I have added some decent sized rocks to her sandbox. These rocks are too big for her to eat or choke on, but not too big for her to move. I routinely put a toy or two under the rocks so she has to move them to retrieve what lies beneath. I look forward to coming home and seeing if she has found all her buried treasure. And Lucy runs right to her sandbox when she sees me reaching for my car keys because she knows I have left her goodies. Win/Win!!!
*Lucy is never truly alone outside, the landlord was home and my mother is home now. Even though her area is safe for her, there is unfortunately a risk that she would be taken out of the yard if unsupervised 🙁