This year I have lost 3 books, a roll of toilet paper and two shoes (each from a different pair, of course) from my Goldendoodle who happens to be a bit of a chew hog! Upon discovery of the destruction I did what any good trainer would do ….smacked myself in the head with a newspaper. After all, I was the one at fault for each of these losses. With each loss of an item I can attest to the fault being mine. Those were days that I didn’t leave something for him to chew on, hadn’t exercised him enough or was gone just a little too long for him too not find something to do! Bad owner….bad owner……Dogs chew for several reasons and not one of them is for “revenge” despite what many people believe. Some of the most common reasons dogs chew are:
- Most dogs have a natural desire to chew. It’s fun, it passes the time, and it’s a self-rewarding, self-reinforcing activity.
- Chewing provides a nervous, bored, or lonely dog with an outlet. Many dogs find the act of chewing to be soothing.
- Underexercised dogs often use chewing as a way of burning up nervous energy and giving themselves something to do.
Preventing unwanted chewing can be a full time job, especially if you have a puppy or younger dog. Those teeth need to go somewhere, so below are a few chewtastic ideas to help you create a chewing machine that you can live with.
1. First, take control of the situation: manage your own possessions. Your first step should be to dog-proof your home. Dogs are opportunistic. If the opportunity arises, they will take it. They do not read books on what to chew and what to leave alone. In their world, everything is a chew toy unless it tastes yucky or doesn’t feel good. 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 and they are opportunistic. Dog-proofing your home means taking whatever you don’t want to end up in her mouth, and making it unavailable. Many dogs are quite creative if need be. Make sure any “precious” items are locked away or in put in another room with the door closed.
2. 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. Manage her surroundings by using baby gates, crates and pet pens when you are not able to supervise her. You can also tether her to you or an area in your house to help keep her “out of trouble”. Never leave a dog tethered if you are not home to supervise.
3.Don’t offer your dog old 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. 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. Be creative with the chews. Try antlers, Kongs filled with yummy treats and then frozen to make them last longer, dental chews, pig ears, and plenty of sturdy toys.
5. Make certain that your dog is getting plenty of physical and mental stimulation every day. Yes, this is a pain at times, but a tired dog is always the best dog. If they are tired then they will rest and a resting dog is not able to destroy your house!
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; as soon as her jaws close around it, give her lots of praise. You should also teach your dog a “leave it” and “drop it” cue.
Above all, remember to keep your expectations realistic. You’re not perfect, and neither is your dog: You may end up losing a few items throughout the life of your dog. Just accept that and move on. You are always better off trying to be pro-active when it comes to chewing then reactive! Planning ahead, using appropriate management and creating enough outlets for your dog daily will help you survive your dog’s appetite for chewing.