Problem Solving For Chewing
Did you know…
Rubbing your hands on your dog’s toys increases the likelihood that the toys will be chewed, rather than your furniture.
An important part of pet ownership is teaching your puppy or dog proper pet manners and what is allowed to be placed in their mouth. It is your responsibility to have control over your dog and to correct bad behavior. Your pet should never be left unattended in any area that is dangerous or an area that you do not want destroyed. Obedience training ca be an important factor in this process. Knowing a simple command, such as to "drop it" or "leave it", could save your pet’s life. Corrections should begin at the moment when your dog or puppy starts the inappropriate chewing. Remember, your puppy or dog is like a small child, they have no way to know that the item they just destroyed was your expensive couch or chair, unless you instruct them to avoid those items when they have a need to chew. He might misbehave due to curiosity or boredom, not because he knows what he’s doing is unacceptable. Remember, with chewing as with any unacceptable canine behavior, prevention is easier than treatment.
To correct common behavior problems like chewing, follow these basic steps:
- Get your puppy or dog’s attention using a low-pitched, stern voice saying “No!” or “Ahh!” to stop the behavior.
- Provide an acceptable alternative behavior or distraction.
- Praise correct behavior in a happy voice (“Good dog!”) and pet him or give treats.
Chewing is a normal, natural canine behavior. Puppies usually begin chewing due to teething, boredom or stress. Chewing on anything but designated chew toys should be discouraged immediately, or it can develop into a habit that will carry over into their adult lives. You must catch the dog in the act to prevent this problem. If you catch your puppy or dog chewing on something that is off limits, verbally say “No!” and redirect his attention to one of his toys. When he chews on his toy, praise him verbally and pet him. If you are unable to supervise your pet, put him in a crate, on a tie-down or in an area where he cannot get into mischief. Never give your puppy or dog any objects you don’t want them to chew on. For example, don’t give your dog a shoe, sock or household item as a toy because the dog will think of all of these items as toys. The dog will not be able to differentiate between your discarded items and the good stuff.
Chewing is a normal, natural canine behavior. Dogs learn through their mouths and use their mouths as tools to receive a lot of information. Chewing on hard objects provides an appropriate outlet for your dog's desire to chew. It is an enjoyable pastime for many dogs. Dogs chew because they are bored, they have lots of energy or they're curious. One benefit to chewing is that it is good for keeping tartar from building up on the teeth, which helps prevent bad breath.
Puppies use their mouths to explore their new worlds. As with babies, teething is painful to puppies. Chewing helps relieve the pain and helps them develop strong jaws. That doesn't mean, however, that you should let your new puppy chew his or her way through the house. Chewing can be a very expensive problem, especially when the inappropriate chewing in on your rug, furniture, shoes or other household items. As with any unacceptable canine behavior, prevention is easier than treatment.
Dogs go through two chewing phases. The first is between 4-6 months when the puppies begin to loose their puppy teeth. Puppies like to chew on soft items, like carpet, rugs, rags or soft toys, squeaky toys and rope toys. Then they may stop for a while until the second phase, which occurs between 10-12 months when the adult teeth settle into the growing skull of the dog. During this phase, dogs like to chew on more dense objects, like wood, furniture, plastic, rawhide, hard rubber toys, and Nylabones.
Why Chewing Occurs
Teething - Between the ages of five weeks and six months, puppies will teethe. They will chew on anything they can find to relieve their discomfort. Make sure you have a supply of chewable toys on hand. To make these toys even more appealing to your puppy, place it in the freezer for a few hours. The cold toy will be very soothing to your puppy's sore mouth.
Improper confinement - Dogs are very social animals and do not do well emotionally when isolated from the "pack" or family. Confine your dog behind a see-through puppy gate or in a crate so the dog can see what is going on in surrounding areas. Never restrain a dog behind a closed door in a small room. An improperly confined dog may attempt to chew his way out of seclusion.
Improper chew toys - Never give your puppy or dog any objects you don't want them to chew on. For example, don't give your dog a shoe, sock or household item as a toy because the dog will think of all of these items as toys. The dog will not be able to differentiate between your discarded items and the good stuff.
Boredom or Stress - Dogs may chew when they are bored, stressed or anxious. If chewing helps relieve the boredom or stress, it will most likely be repeated again and again because it is self-reinforcing. Now you have a bad habit that is hard to break.
Problem Solving Techniques
- Puppies can be taught at an early age to limit their chewing to a few appropriate objects, but they should never have the run of the house. Not unlike caring for a toddler, you should always be aware of where your uncrated pup is and what he/she is doing.
- When you catch your puppy or dog in the act of chewing on something you do not want him to chew, say "no…chew toy," then redirect the dog to the appropriate toy and give lots of praise. This is an instructive reprimand, which teaches the dog he is doing something wrong (no) and what he is supposed to be doing (chew toy). Correct a shy dog with a gentle "no"; use a firmer "No!" with a more stubborn dog.
- Keep your dog confined to a kennel or crate when you cannot watch him. Make sure he has a toy in the kennel or crate that he can chew on. You can confine your puppy to one room or area, like the kitchen or laundry room, where there are fewer chewable items. A puppy gate may be useful for this purpose. However, even a kitchen or laundry room will have walls, floors or molding that could be damaged by a curious puppy. Always supervise your puppy when he is out and be ready to redirect the dog's chewing on something unacceptable by offering an acceptable chew toy.
- Give your puppy a variety of hard rubber balls, kong toys, nylon bones and knotted ropes to chew on. Make sure the toys do not squeak or contain bells. Soft, squeaky toys are fun for small puppies and for games of fetch, but are not sturdy enough for chewing exercises for older pups. Supervise your puppy or dog with any new toys to make sure it is the right toy for your dog. Some dogs will destroy their new toys in seconds, even ones that say they are for aggressive chewers. Make sure the dog is not chewing off bits and pieces and swallowing them. Rotate the toys on a weekly basis. That way, your dog will not become bored with his toys and look for new toys to play with--like shoes, rugs, furniture, etc.
- If your dog seems to be bored with the same old chew toys, try offering a special treat. Take some cheese, peanut butter or cut-up a hot dog. Stuff that food into a hollow bone or Kong toy and give the dog the treat. Or buy a Buster Cube or similar food cube-type toy. Fill it with your dog's kibble and as the dog rolls the toy around, the food drops out. This should keep your dog busy and out of trouble for a while.
- Establish leadership through training. Dogs are more secure knowing they have a leader. Don't leave your dog in the backyard alone for long periods of time. Dogs are very social animals and need to be with their pack. Provide 10-15 minutes of playtime with your dog every day. Join an obedience class and incorporate your training sessions with play every day. Exercise works the same way for dogs as it does for humans. It relieves tension and stress.
- Some spray products on the market may help deter unwanted chewing. Products such as Bitter Apple (available at pet stores) or hot pepper sauce may make the chewable items taste bad. What often works is spraying the Bitter Apple directly into the dog's mouth, then sparingly using it on inappropriate items the dog tends to chew on. Once a dog has had that taste in his mouth, he will rarely chew something that has that same taste. For outdoor items (furniture, deck, etc.), you can try using cribbing solution (made for horses that chew) for very stubborn dogs that chew.
As when training any behavior, be persistent and consistent to let your dog know what is acceptable and what is not. With maturity and proper reinforcement training from you, soon your dog will have freedom around your home without you having to worry about what the dog is getting into.
Chew Toys - What's appropriate for your dog
When dogs feel confined, bored, isolated or stressed, they often relieve that stress by redirecting it into destructive behaviors. Toys help dogs reduce that stress and can help reduce the likelihood of behaviors such as digging and chewing. If toys are not provided, some dogs will resort to chewing what is available, which might include shoes, books, rugs and furniture.
Selecting the right toy for your dog
Help your dog use up some of his energy by giving him toys that are appropriate for the size and age he is now. Toys that might have been the right size when he was a puppy might be too small now and should be discarded. Balls and other toys that are too small can be swallowed or become lodged in the dog's throat or mouth. Discard toys that break into pieces or that have pieces torn off.
Provide a variety of toys. Make four or five toys available at a time and rotate different toys on a weekly basis. This keeps your dog interested in his toys. However, if he is strongly attached to a particular toy, don't take it away.
What are your dog's chewing habits
Aggressive chewers will tear toys apart, and if the toy comes apart, he could swallow the pieces or choke on them. Give aggressive chewers durable, hard rubber or nylon toys. Semi-aggressive chews don't usually tear toys apart, but will chew enough to cause wear on a toy. Provide semi-aggressive chews with canvas, plush, fleece, or rope toys. These toys are softer, but will not come apart easily. Non-aggressive or light chewers that are less destructive can have vinyl or latex toys.
When giving your dog a new toy, observe how he plays with the toy. If he is destroying it, take it away. Instead, purchase a toy that is harder and more durable. Toys can be made out of a variety of materials, some more durable than others. Once you understand your dog's chewing habits, you can decide what type of toys are best for your dog.
Vinyl and Latex Toys
These toys are good for non-aggressive or light chewers. They come in many shapes and colors. Many of these toys have a squeaker, which adds interest to the toy.
Rubber and Nylon Toys
These are good for more aggressive chewers. They are durable and some come with a hole in them, which adds interest for the dog when a treat is inserted in the hole.
Toys made with either a nylon or cotton rope material are a good choice for semi-aggressive chewers. These are good for dogs that like to play tug-of-war. They also have the added benefit of providing a flossing action that helps clean the teeth.
Plush, Fleece or Canvas Toys
These soft toys are good for dogs that like to carry a toy around with them. Because of the stuffing inside the toy, they should not be given to aggressive chewers. They often contain a squeaker. If there are any tears in the toy, sew the tear or discard the toy and replace it with a new one. Canvas toys are washable and quite durable even for semi-aggressive chewers.