So Your Dog Chews Everything, Ways to Stop it
If you’ve ever come home from work and found the legs of your chairs and table torn to pieces, you know how frustrating it is to have a dog who chews. You leave him alone for an hour and when you return, he has destroyed three pairs of shoes. We love our dogs, but a dog with a chewing habit can be a menace. Some people will simply give up and drop their hound off at the nearest shelter, citing that he is just too troublesome to keep around the house.
This isn’t fair to your dog, however, who probably doesn’t even understand that he’s doing something wrong. Whatever your dog chews on, from wooden furniture, to pillows, to clothes, to shoes, to your children’s toys, you can correct these behaviors once you understand the underlying cause and how to encourage your dog not to chew on your prize possession, but instead on his own chew toy.
Why Dogs Chew
The first thing you want to figure out is why dogs chews on your stuff. If you adopt a puppy, you are going to see chewing behavior start almost immediately. Let’s face it, every dog owner is going to go through this stage unless they adopt a dog a couple years old. Without hands, putting something in his mouth is the only way your puppy can interact with new objects. When he starts to teeth, he’ll chew because it helps with sore gums and growing teeth. At this point, if you do not teach your puppy what is a chew toy and what isn’t a chew toy, he is going to think that everything is game and chew on everything.
If you adopt a fully grown dog with a penchant for chewing anything he can get his teeth into, his chewing behaviors probably began as a puppy. Don’t worry, you can still teach him chew toys from expensive shoes. Grown dogs also start chewing because they are bored, have anxiety or fear, or because they aren’t getting enough attention. If you think this might be the case, you might want to read Separation Anxiety in Dogs: How to Deal with It. Whatever the reason for your dog’s behavior, there are easy fixes, simple changes which will not make your dog feel as if he is being punished.
Remove the Temptation
Dogs that chew because they are bored or anxious will chew on just about anything. It doesn’t have to be a shoe, though, because they are usually stored on the floor, they are readily accessible. If you have something you do not want your dog to chew on, put it somewhere he can’t find it. Putting something out of sight and out of reach are the best way to be sure he won’t get his teeth into it.
Invest in the Right Chew Toys
Like children, dogs love toys. After putting away anything you do not want him to chew on, offer him something he is allowed to chew on. And remember that there is a reason most dog toys are have squeakers and are brightly colored; they are designed to look nothing like your household items. If you give him one sock to play with, he is going to think that all socks are toys.
If you have dogs that can rip any standard toy apart in minutes, there are a number of toys designed to be more durable, they even make some almost indestructible dog toys. Amazon has a great selection, but your local pet store is likely to have some run-of-the-mill ropes and sold rubber chews that will last more than an hour. Tuffy has a great line of plush dog toys, made from durable, pet-friendly luggage material, which will take months, if not years, for your dog to rip apart. Kong also has a line of balls, chew treats, and Frisbees which are fairly indestructible, even for large dogs.
If he is a particularly aggressive chewer, he will need some extra supervision as you teach him about what he can and can’t chew on. Be sure to play with him and his new toy so he understands that the toy is his and that he has free reign to chew on it. Simply handing him the new toy and sending him outside to play won’t do the trick. Without your approval and involvement, he will not understand the purpose of the new toy, so play with him and praise him when he chews on his toy, instead of on your slippers.
Bored and anxious chewers need your attention. Spending as much time as possible with him, ensuring he has plenty of exercise, is a great way to alleviate boredom and anxiety. Remember, a tired doge is a happy dog! As you encourage him to play with chew toys, instead of household items, this reinforces good behavior. He will learn which of his behaviors earn him praise, and which do not, and will repeat the praised behaviors in order to receive more praise. Defiance dogs will grab something that they know they should have and destroy it or even try to get you to chase them. In this instance, a dog correction collar is a good choice. You can use these to teach your dog to obey your command even when they want to play and once they know what it is, you can use the warning tone when you see them going for something that should not chew on.
And be patient! Even the smartest dog will need some time to understand what is expected of him. It is not simply enough to say, “No,” and take the shoe away. Overtime, he will learn what you want him to do and what you do not want him to do.
What Not to Do
One of the most important tenants of dog training is to never punish your dog after an incident has occurred. This goes for house-training and for chewing. When you punish your dog after the behavior is over, for example, after he has already chewed up a shoe and left it somewhere, he does not have the reasoning ability to make a connection between that chewed up shoe and your anger. Instead of encouraging your dog not to chew again, it makes him confused and even more anxious. To stop this from happening, put away anything you’d like him not to chew on and supervise him until he learns the difference between toys and your household items.
If you see your dog chewing on something, instead of yelling, offer your dog his chew toy and praise him when he takes it, while removing the other item. Also, if your dog grabs a shoe and runs, do not chase him. Chasing is part of the game, and if you run after him, he’ll think you are playing along. Instead, offer him his toy or a treat in exchange for bringing the item back to you.
Image Credit: Brenda Anderson of Flikr
I started newdogowners.com for one simple reason, to help prepare new dog owners for owning a new puppy. My goal is to help stop the passing around of dogs. The forever home, should be a dog's first home.
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