Anyone who owns a dog or puppy will eventually run into the
need to eliminate unwanted habits. While most dogs are eager to please their owners and smart enough
to do what is asked of them, it is important for the owner to properly communicate just what constitutes acceptable
and unacceptable behaviours.
Each type of unacceptable behaviour requires its own specific
cures, and in most cases the cures will need to be tailored to fit the specific personality of the
dog. Every breed of dog has its own unique personality characteristics, and every individual within
that breed has his or her own unique personality.
The act of chewing seems to be a matter of individual
preference among dogs: some have an innate desire to chew as a pleasurable activity in itself, and some seem to
have no need to chew whatsoever unless they’re driven to it out of sheer boredom.
Puppies naturally chew, and
they tend to explore their world using their mouths and teeth. While chewing may be normal, however,
it is not acceptable, and it is important to nip any chewing problems in the bud to prevent the chewing puppy from
growing into a chewing dog.
The phrase “destructive chewing” may sound redundant, because
– by its very nature! All chewing is destructive. Your dog has strong jaws full of sharp, pointy teeth: just about
anything she starts to chew on is probably going to show the effects of it inside of a minute. So just to clarify,
when I use the phrase “destructive chewing”, I’m referring to inappropriate chewing: the kind of chewing that’s
focused on your own possessions and household items, instead of on your dog’s own designated toys and
The three main reasons why dogs chew:
Most dogs have a natural desire to chew. It’s fun, it passes
the time, and it’s a self-rewarding, self-reinforcing activity (for example, if she’s chewing on something that
Chewing provides a nervous, bored, or lonely dog with an
outlet for her emotions. To an anxious dog, the repetitive act of chewing is soothing – it’s the doggie equivalent
of comfort food.
Under exercised dogs often use chewing as a way of burning up
nervous energy and giving themselves something to do.
How to prevent destructive chewing -
Dogs are perfectly capable of learning not to chew your stuff
– you just have to put in a little effort first, that’s all.
1. Take control of the situation: manage your own possessions.
Your first step should be to dog-proof your home. Even if you have the best-behaved dog in the world, there’s still
no reason to test her self-control – after all, dogs explore the world with their mouths.
Dog-proofing your home means taking whatever you don’t want to
end up in her mouth, and making it unavailable. Consider her size and agility when deciding whether something’s out
of reach: can she jump? Can she climb, or leap onto something else to reach the desired object? How tall is she
when standing on her back legs?
It is also important to exercise good housekeeping techniques
when training a puppy not to chew on inappropriate items. Keeping the area to which the puppy has
access free and clean is important. Keeping items out of reach of the puppy will go a long
way toward discouraging inappropriate chewing. Try to keep the puppy’s area free of shoes,
trash, and other items, and always make sure that the area has been properly puppy proofed.
Common targets in the home include books, eyewear, clothing,
shoes, garbage, and small crunchy appliances like cameras, cell phones, and remote controls.
It should go without saying that all food needs to be put
securely away: don’t leave snacks on low tables (or even countertops – you’d be surprised how acrobatic she can be
when there’s food at stake!), put all food into containers or the pantry. Rinse your dirty plates clean of any food
scraps before leaving them by the sink.
2. Prevent her from learning the joys of illegal chewing. The
more times she manages to snatch a jaw full of a forbidden substance – a chair-leg, a pillow, a running shoe – the
more readily she’ll target those items in future. If you can prevent her from chewing your stuff in the first
place, it’s a lot easier for her to understand what you expect of her. Practically speaking, this means confining
her in a dog-proofed area until you’re confident of her understanding of the house rules.
If the puppy does pick up an inappropriate item like a shoe,
distract the puppy and quickly replace the item with one of its toys. After the puppy has taken the
toy, praise it for playing with and chewing that toy. Try booby trapping items the dog should avoid by spraying
them with bitter apple, Tabasco sauce or other nasty but non-toxic items.
3. Don’t set her up for failure by blurring the boundaries
between her stuff (OK to chew) and your stuff (not OK to chew). Don’t offer your dog cast-off clothes, shoes, or
towels to chew and play with: realistically, you can’t possibly expect her to be able to tell the difference
between your current shoes and the one she’s got in her mouth that you gave her five minutes ago.
4. Provide her with lots of tasty alternatives to your stuff.
If her environment is relatively barren of attractive, appropriate chewing objects, you can hardly blame her for
targeting your possessions. Remember, most dogs need to chew; if she’s an adolescent (under three years) or a puppy
(less than one year), her needs will be even more pronounced. Go on a toy and chew shopping spree, then give her
two or three to play with at a time.
Rotating the available toys every few days will keep things
novel and interesting for her. Providing a variety of chew toys is important when teaching a puppy what is
appropriate to chew and what is not. Providing a variety of attractive chew toys is a good way to keep
the puppy entertained and to keep his teeth and gums exercised. Scented or flavoured toys
are great choices for most puppies. The puppy should be encouraged to play with these chosen toys, and the puppy
should be effusively praised every time he or she plays with or chews these toys.
5. Spend lots of time in active supervision. Yes, it might be
easier for you to just keep her penned up in her crate, run, or the yard – but that’s boring and horrible for her,
and hardly much fun for you either (if you wanted a pet that you don’t need to interact with, you’d have got a
goldfish, right?) She can’t learn what you expect of her if she’s spending all her time boxed up in the dog-proof
zone: she needs the opportunity to explore the boundaries of your expectations, so she can understand what’s
appropriate and what’s not.
6. When you catch her chewing something inappropriate,
interrupt her by making a loud noise: clap your hands or make an “Ah-ah-aaaah!” noise. Then, immediately hand her a
tasty and dog-appropriate alternative (a rawhide bone or other chew toy); as soon as her jaws close around it,
praise her lavishly. There is no better way to get your dog to understand that chewing “her” toys equals praise
from you, but everything else equals trouble.
Another great strategy is to encourage the puppy to get a toy
every time he or she greets you. Every time the puppy greets you or a member of your family, teach him
to get one of his toys
Maintain a productive attitude -
Above all, remember to keep your expectations realistic.
You’re not perfect, and neither is your dog: there’s likely to be at least one incident where a cherished item is
damaged by her curiosity.
Particularly in the early stages of your relationship, she’s
still learning the ropes: it’ll take awhile before she’s completely reliable (and even then, if she’s left by
herself for too long or feels neglected, she may choose your stuff over hers to occupy her time and jaws with.)
Remember to give her time to learn the rules, and plenty of ‘you-time’ to help her learn faster – and don’t forget
to take precautions and keep things out of reach until she’s got the hang of the chewing rules!