I don’t think I need to tell you that dogs like to chew, especially puppies. Unfortunately, chewing can and has become an issue for many dog owners no matter the age of their pup. Chewing can become a very destructive behavior if your dog is not properly trained. The behavior of chewing can be damaging to your items, such as shoes, couches, even carpets. When you see an item that is damaged by what you think is your dog’s chewing behavior, be cautious because there may be more items you’re not aware of yet.
Dogs often develop destructive chewing behaviors due to boredom, and keeping older dogs active can help prevent this behavior from occurring. Older dogs have a tendency to act differently than they used to. Perhaps a dog that used to not chew will suddenly chew on your favorite slippers. When a problem occurs with a senior dog, it becomes more of an issue. The dog may not know what it is really doing. Removing the items in question is the best solution for a dog this age.
If you notice that your dog is starting to chew a lot, then this behavior must be stopped by breaking the cycle, otherwise you will end up with destructive chewing! Every time a dog chews on something and you do not take it away, it reinforces this behavior. Immediately redirect your pup’s attention from the chewing behavior. This is a simple behavioral modification technique I have talked about using in many different training situations–you use a toy, stick, take them for a walk, anything to redirect your dog’s attention from what they are chewing on.
Another technique is to teach your dog a ‘leave it’ command. Dogs can learn this command in a matter of hours by placing something the dog really wants, like a favorite snack on the floor, and then saying ‘leave it’ in a strong voice. When the dog backs away from the item, the dog should immediately get a treat as a reward. Once your dog learns this command it must be reinforced daily. When you see your dog chewing on an object they shouldn’t be, you can then use the ‘leave it’ command.
There are also ways you can prevent a new puppy from chewing on things. If you find out why your puppy is chewing on these things you can try and stop the problem. There are causes such as teething or boredom for example. Again, you can help to stop this behavior by redirecting the behavior. If your puppy shows signs of teething, you can purchase a bone or a special chew toy that helps ease the pain from their teething. You can also help to stop your puppy from chewing with a firm “no” and a reward system. If your dog wants to chew on something tell them no. After a while the dog will realize that they should not be chewing on that item. When they respond well to what you want them to do you reward them with one of their favorite treats. Remember, in training consistency is key! A reward system will help your pup to understand that when listening to what you are asking them to do they receive a treat and will learn to follow through.
An important thing to remember is to make sure you spend enough time with your puppy since puppies require lots of attention and can get bored easily. If you plan activities to keep you pup busy and they get enough attention they will not become destructive chewers.
Certain items are chewed on simply because you never stopped the behavior and did not instill good behavior in your dog when he or she was a puppy. Training can be done to correct this problem, but it may be more difficult than compared to when they were young. Taking the time to train your puppy at a young age can help you to correct chewing on inappropriate items before it becomes a huge problem.
It is my hope to continue with the series “ABC’s Of Dog Behavior” articles and discuss other concerning dog behaviors. I ask that you please leave me some comments about what you and your dog may need help dealing with and I can try to address those behavioral issues specifically.