The Chewer: Identifying and Solving Dog Chewing Problems

on Dec 06 in Dog News


The Chewer

Is it common for you to come home and your house is destroyed by your dog? While dogs have an excellent sense of smell and vision, their favorite way to explore something is to put their sense of taste to work. Dog’s can often injure themselves when they chew on objects around the house, some can even damage their teeth. There are ways to stop the curious or anxiety chewing that your dog inflicts on household items. Direct your dog to an item that they are allowed to chew, every time they are chewing on something they are not supposed to, replace that item with a chew toy. Significant amounts of praise as they chew the new approved item will also help the dog understand that that sort of behavior IS encouraged. You must be supervising your dog to make sure he/she does not get into anything that can be harmful!

The real question is, why do dogs chew? Dogs love to investigate an object by taste, it’s much more fun and interesting to them then just by seeing or smelling it. Also, like babies, puppies start growing into their adult teeth for the first 6 months of their lives. This stage is called teething, and it causes discomfort and sore gums, therefore they chew on things to soothe the pain. Is your dog an adult? Then there are several reasons why Fido is chewing on your couch or favorite pair of Jimmy Choo’s. Maybe he wants attention, and the only way he knows how to get it is through negative behavior, sort of like a rebellious teenager. Possibly he is bored, or it is fear-related behavior. Sometimes dogs are not taught what to chew and what not to chew when they are puppies, and other times they suffer from separation anxiety. If you think that your dog’s chewing is related to fear and/or separation anxiety you should consult with a behavior professional such as a dog trainer.

If the behavior seems to be the cause of other reasons rather than fear, you need to take responsibility for the things your dog is chewing on. Keep them out of your dog’s reach, on a top shelf or in a closet. The most common mistake that pet owners make is toy association. Pet owners will give their dog a particular shoe or sock to chew on, or a chew toy that represents a household object (I’ve seen rubber shoes, or feet) and then expect their dog to know the difference between his shoes and yours. This is not going to work, so keep the toys to non-confusing items such as rubber bones, cones, or rings. If you find your dog with an inappropriate item in their mouth, interrupt their behavior with a loud noise every time. This will startle them away from the toy and they’ll associate touching the toy with the loud noise. Then replace it with an approved toy followed by lots of praise. Until your dog learns to do this, you’re going to have to watch and supervise him all the time. I’ve always found it helpful to keep my dog’s leash on him while he’s in the house, so he can’t leave my sight and chew something. If you cannot always keep an eye on him, such as when you’re in the shower or taking a nap, choose a “safe place” to keep him. This safe place must be somewhere where the dog can feel protected, hydrated and it MUST be dog-proof (ex. a crate).

A tired dog is a good dog. You must give your dog plenty of mental and physical exercise, based on his age, health and breed. When a dog is bored, that’s when he misbehaves and finds ways (often naughty ones) to entertain himself. Exercise is the key to a happy and well-behaved dog. Also, plenty of people time should be allowed and encouraged with your best friend! How is your dog expected to know how to act around you if he’s always in the backyard? Apply all the previous mentioned training techniques while you’re spending time with your pet. You can also make your dog excited and obsessed with his own toys, make sure they don’t grow bored of them and move onto yours. You can do this by filling their favorite toy with treats and surprises, such as a Kong-like toy. Many dog toys sold in the stores are made for this. Make the inappropriate items unappealing to your dog by using deterrent made for animals that chew. This can be harmlessly applied to furniture, shoes and other household items. However, keep in mind that this does not guarantee these things will not be chewed on so supervision is necessary at first. Also, you will have to reapply the deterrent in order for it to continue working effectively.

For teething puppies, wet and freeze a washcloth. Give your puppy that to chew on, the cool washcloth will soothe their gums. However, do not leave the washcloth with them if you leave the house, their chewing on it should be supervised. Another common mistake pet owners will make is punishing your dog after the incident has occurred. Many owners will come home to a chewed up pair of shoes, or a scratched up couch and will yell and punish the dog by secluding or raising their voice at them. However, dogs do not know what they are being punished for at this point, they don’t make the connection to the earlier incident. You must catch your dog in the act and apply the techniques (loud noise, etc.) immediately while he is performing the unacceptable act. This will get through to your dog. If you don’t catch him in the act, clean up the mess when you get home and apply more training and techniques.

In the end, dogs are smart creatures. Everything they do is for a reason, even if it’s bad. Therefore, we must come to terms with this, figure out why your dog is doing it (from the reasons listed above) and solve it for them. The responsibility of owning a dog is a big one, however, very rewarding. We can never repay them for the unconditional love and enthusiasm they give us every day, but we may as well try our best to live up to the great person that they think we are.

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