Destructive Chewing in Dogs
Whatever the reason for destructive chewing, it can become quite a problem. Chewing seems to be a matter of individual preference among dogs. Some have an innate desire to chew as a pleasurable activity in itself. Some seem to have no need to chew whatsoever, unless they’re driven to it out of sheer boredom.
The phrase ” destructive chewing ” may sound redundant, because—by its very nature—all chewing is destructive. Your dog has strong jaws full of sharp, pointed 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 chews.
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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 tastes good).
- 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 to teach them that destructive chewing is not allowed, that’s all.
- Take control of the situation and your own possessions. Dog-proof your home against destructive chewing.
- Prevent her from learning the joys of destructive chewing.
- Set boundaries between your stuff and hers. Don’t offer your dog old clothes, shoes, or towels to chew and play with: you can’t possibly expect her to be able to tell the difference between your current shoes and your old ones.
- Provide her with lots of tasty alternatives. Go shopping for toys and chews, then give her two or three things to play with at a time, rotating them every few days.
- Spend lots of time supervising. She can’t learn what’s expected of her if she’s spending all her time in the dog-proof area.
- Interrupt your dog when you catch her chewing something inappropriate and discipline her by making a loud noise: clap your hands or make an “Ah-ah-aaaah!” noise. Then, immediately hand her something that is tasty and dog-appropriate; as soon as her jaws close around it, give her lots of praise. There is no better way to get your dog to understand that chewing “her” toys means praise from you, but everything else means trouble.
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.
It’ll take some time before she’s completely reliable, particularly in the early stages of your relationship when she’s still learning the ropes. Remember to give her time to learn the rules, and plenty of ‘you-time’ to help her learn faster.
For more information on dog training techniques and how to deal with problem dog behavior (like chewing), check out Secrets to Dog Training. It’s the complete manual for dog ownership and is designed to fast-track your dog’s learning.
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