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Does your pet chew on everything? Do you have to put everything out of reach so your dog won’t chew it up? Are you running out of shoes because your pet destroys them?
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Did you know that one of your pup’s favorite ways to take in new information is to put their mouths to work? Luckily, chewing can be directed onto appropriate items so your dog isn’t destroying things you value or jeopardizing their own safety.
Expensive destructive chewing usually takes place when you are not with your dog. Therefore, it is almost impossible to catch your dog in the act. Until they’ve learned what they can and can’t chew, however, it’s your responsibility to manage the situation so they don’t have the opportunity to chew on unacceptable objects.
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There are many reasons adult dogs participate in destructive chewing, such as:
- They were never taught what to chew and what not to chew
- They’re bored
- They’re lonely
- They suffer from separation anxiety
- They want attention
THE LONELY DOG is one that is left alone for long periods of time in an unstimulating environment. These dogs chew out of boredom. To prevent this from happening make sure your dog is well exercised. Also, provide your dog with a place that he can have all to himself, for example, a kennel crate.
When you are ready to leave the house, put the dog in his crate with a couple of dog toys and go. No long, sloppy goodbyes, just a “see you later.”
For the first two weeks your dog should always be supervised. Put him in his crate every time he is left alone. Do not give him an opportunity to find some valuable object to destroy without being reprimanded.
Starting with the third week, put your dog in his crate with the door open and leave for about 10 to 20 minutes. If you return home to a mess, your dog is probably not bored and lonely, but rather is anxious about being separated from you.
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THE ANXIOUS DOG is one who suffers from feelings of social isolation. Dogs are pack animals and many do not like being alone. What the anxious dog needs is a secure and comfortable place to stay when he is left behind. Once again, a kennel crate is the tool of choice. Introduce the dog to the crate in a positive manner. Never use the crate for punishment. This is your dog’s den — he should be happy and secure when he’s inside. As with the lonely dog, there should be no long, emotional goodbyes. However, before you leave his dog toy with him in his crate, rub the toy between your hands. This leave your scent on the toy and tends to focus the dog on this object.
Excellent results have been obtained by using the following exercise to re-orient the dog’s chewing habits. Take away all of the dog’s former chewies, and replace them with a meat-scented nylon bone (NylaboneTM is one such toy). Make this bone the focus of a fetch and play session at least twice a day. The combination of the owner’s scent with the meat scent makes it an appealing object on which to chew. Since the toy bone has now become the focus of intense interaction between the dog and the owner, the vast majority of dogs will aim their chewing at it.
Like the lonely dog, the anxious dog should be confined to his crate for the first two weeks when home alone. In the third week, leave your dog in his crate with the door open for about 20 minutes. If you return home to any signs of destruction, shorten the length of time you are gone until you arrive at a time that is successful. From that point on, SLOWLY increase the length of time that you are gone until you have reached your goal. If at any time, you come home to a mess, go back two steps and maintain that time frame for at least a week; then proceed with the schedule as planned.
Understand Your Dog
Every new puppy or dog owner should expect a certain amount of destruction from curious puppy. The above-mentioned methods will help to minimize and ultimately solve the problem while allowing your dog to develop a healthy relationship with you.
Give your dog toys that are obviously different from your valued items. Don’t confuse your pet by offering shoes and socks as toys and then expecting them to know the difference between their shoe and yours.
Manage your dog until they learn the house rules. Keep them with you on their leash in the house so they can’t make a mistake out of your sight. Confine them when you’re unable to keep an eye on them. If your dog is crate trained, you may also place them in their crate for short periods of time.
Give your dog plenty of people-time. Your dog won’t know how to behave if you don’t teach them right way to act. They can’t learn these things alone.
Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise. If your dog is bored, they will find some mischief to get into. On the other hand, a tired dog is a good dog, so make sure they get lots of physical and mental activity. The amount of exercise should be based on their age, health and breed characteristics.
If you catch your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise. Offer them an acceptable chew toy instead, and praise them when they take the toy in their mouth.
Offer your dog a treat in exchange for the item in their mouth. As your dog catches on to this idea, you can add the command “Give” as their cue to release the object in exchange for the yummy treat.
Don’t chase your dog if they grab an object and run. Being chased by their human is fun! Instead call them to you or offer them a treat.
Have realistic expectations. At some point your dog will inevitably chew up something you value. Your dog needs time to learn the house rules and you need to puppy proof your home for a little while.
Go easy with punishment
If you discover a chewed item even minutes after they’ve chewed it, you’re too late.
Animals associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they’re being corrected. Your dog can’t reason that, “I tore up those shoes an hour ago and that’s why I’m being scolded now.” Don’t assume that is what your dog is thinking because he ran and hid or because he “looks guilty.”
Dogs tend to show the “guilty look” when they feel threatened. When you’re angry and upset, your dog feels threatened by your tone of voice and body language so they hide. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the bad behavior, but it could also provoke other bad behaviors.
For those of you who take my advice, send me a message letting me know how it worked out.