Anyone who has a dog or has had a dog knows that dogs like to chew. We as humans like to chew also, but we do it for the activity of eating. Dogs chew for the act of eating but they also chew for other reasons. The other reasons can lead to some destructive behavior if it is not corrected at an early stage.

I’m sure that everyone who has owned a dog can tell a few stories about their experiences with the chewing behavior of their dog.

I was a pilot in the Navy and had taken 8 millimeter movies of some of my flying experiences during the Vietnam War and I kept the movies in a cardboard box in our bedroom closet. We had a collie dog that looked just like Lassie. She was a good dog but still young. I will never forget coming home one day, going into the bedroom and seeing a stream of movie tape coming out of the closet. Our collie had gotten into the closet, found the box of movies and decided they would make good chew toys. Needless to say, I was extremely upset and took my feelings out on the dog. That according to the dog behavior experts was not the thing to do since my discipline was after the fact.

It is not unusual for dogs to take part in destructive chewing. The question is why do they do it and how do you prevent them from doing it?

Puppies are like infants and toddlers in that they explore their world by putting objects into their mouths. Like babies, they teethe for about 6 months. This teething creates some discomfort so chewing not only facilitates teething but also makes sore gums feel better.

On the other hand, adult dogs engage in destructive chewing for any number of reasons. Some possible reasons include:
He wasn’t taught what to chew and what not to chew when he was a puppy.
He’s bored.
He suffers from separation anxiety.
He wants attention.
His behavior is fear-related.

In order to prevent destructive chewing, you as the pet owner have to manage the situation. Some dogs are easier to manage than others. As an example we currently have a border collie that we got when she was 6 weeks old. Having had the collie that ate my movies, a Labrador retriever that chewed up everything in the back yard, I was concerned about what our new dog might do. The first time that she started to chew the corner of our kitchen cabinets I scolded her verbally and to this day she has never chewed on anything that does not belong to her. She is truly an exceptional dog!

So how do you manage the situation?

Take responsibility for your things by not making them available to your dog. Keep things such as clothing, shoes, books, trash, eyeglasses and the remote control out of your dog’s reach.

Give your dog toys that are clearly meant for her and are distinguishable from household items. Never confuse your dog by offering him/her things like old shoes or old clothing items. To them they are the same as new items and they don’t know the difference.

Supervise your dog until he learns the house rules. One way is to keep him on a leash while he is in the house. That way he can not make a mistake while out of your sight. If your dog is crate trained, you can keep her in the crate while in the house. Also, you can provide a safe place that is dog proofed and supply him with water and safe toys.

Make sure that you give your dog plenty of people time. If you don’t teach your dog alternatives to inappropriate behavior, he want learn them while alone in the backyard.

Prevent your dog from being bored by giving him plenty of physical exercise as well as mental exercise. If your dog is bored, they will usually find something to do and it may be something that you aren’t happy with. Remember that a tired dog is a good dog. The amount of exercise that you give your dog should be based on age, health and breed characteristics.

Should you catch your dog chewing on something that he shouldn’t be chewing, make a loud noise to cause him to stop. Then offer him an acceptable chew toy and praise him when he puts the toy in his mouth.

Build a toy obsession in your dog. You can do this by providing a variety of toys. If a toy wears out replace it with another. There are chew toys that you can put food items in so that they have to work at getting it out.

Since most dogs are treat motivated, you can offer your dog a treat in exchange for something they have in their mouth.

If your dog grabs an item they shouldn’t have, don’t chase them. It will become a game and this is what they want. Instead of chasing, call your dog to you and offer her a treat.

Remember to keep your expectations realistic because at some point, your dog will chew up something of value. This is especially true for a new dog in the house. It will take time for him/her to learn the rules of the house.

What you should not do is discipline your dog after the fact. After the fact is anytime that you find something chewed up and you didn’t catch your dog chewing it. Animals can only associate punishment with what they are doing at the time of punishment. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but could provoke other undesirable behaviors as well.

For more information on dog training techniques and how to deal with problem dog behavior (like chewing), check out “ Secrets to Dog Training ”. It is a complete manual for dog ownership and is designed to fast-track your dog’s learning.
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Destructive Chewing
             Brad Fuller