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How to stop dogs from destructive chewing

Friday May 15th, 2009

Column_how-do-i-stop-my-dog-from-biting-and-chewing

Is chewing a destructive behavior? Here's the simplest answer: Only if he's chewing on the wrong thing. So give him something that's okay to chew.

Puppy chewing is an important part of the teething process. As adults, dogs often chew for fun, or to relieve boredom. Chewing or tearing things up (like paper) can also be a displacement behavior, a way to release pent-up energy or stress.

Redirecting destructive chewing

Puppy- and dog-proof your house. As with any type of behavior you wish to change, one of the most important things to do is manage the environment. We are all familiar with "puppy proofing" our houses - we learn to put shoes in the closet, and put pups in the crate when we are not actively supervising them. But we often forget that many adult dogs need the same type of management to keep them out of trouble.

Give him a chew toy instead. If your dog attempts to chew on an inappropriate item while in your presence, simply interrupt the behavior and re-direct him to an appropriate chew toy. It can be helpful to have a stuffed Kong toy in a Ziploc bag in your freezer - so you can quickly produce it when needed. Many pups have certain times of day when they are more likely to chew, so you can head this behavior off at the pass if you choose this time of day to give the dog an approved chewie.

Use bad-tasting repellants and sprays. You can keep puppies and adult dogs away from some items by using impersonal correction, preferably where the "environment" does the correcting. For example, spray items with Bitter Apple spray or Boundary dog repellant, or use a Scat Mat at the edge of a countertop, to stop counter surfers. This type of training operates on the same principle as a child touching a hot stove - if something is particularly unpleasant, most likely the child or the dog will make the decision not to repeat that behavior.

Give him plenty of exercise. Exercise is vitally important for dogs prone to inappropriate chewing or other destructive behaviors. A tired pup will be less likely to get into things. Exercise also produces endorphins, which have a calming effect. In fact, it is these endorphins that are stimulated by chewing, so if your dog is not getting enough exercise, he may unconsciously be seeking to replace needed endorphins by releasing pent-up energy through chewing.

Make sure it's not separation anxiety. Occasionally chewing or tearing things up is a symptom of a more serious problem, such as separation anxiety. If you suspect separation anxiety, the first thing you need to do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Be gentle! A few training books are still on the market that advocate inhumane methods for stopping destructive behaviors, such as putting duct tape around a pet's mouth or physically hitting a dog. Needless to say, there is no excuse for such corrections. Not only are they extremely unfair, they're ineffective. The use of proper management (for instance, crating a dog when he is not under your direct supervision), along with proper exercise, takes care of 99 percent of destructive behavior problems.

Source: Adapted from the ASPCA

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