Chewing is a dog thing. It’s nothing personal. They don’t know a stick from furniture or a doll’s head from a chestnut. Fortunately, they can be rehabilitated. If you have a habitual chewer on your hands, however, you’ll need to be patient and use some of the tried-and-true techniques described next.
Just like kids, pups are curious about the world around them and they love to explore. Kids use their hands; puppies use their mouths. Additionally, pups between 3 1/2-8 months are teething. Your puppy might chew on the furniture or your favorite shoes to alleviate discomfort. To ward off possible destruction, supply and encourage the use of appropriate chew toys.
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Buy Stock in Bitter Apple®:
Bitter Apple® is nasty tasting stuff you can buy at most pet stores that you can spray on items to prevent your dog from chewing them. If you notice your dog chewing on the furniture surrounding her station, spray everything but her bed and bone. Believe it or not, some dogs like Bitter Apple®. If this is your dog, try a Tabasco sauce mixture.
Provide One Main Toy:
Having too many objects to choose from can confuse your dog. Pick a bone or toy that will satisfy your dog’s penchant for chewing, buy multiples of that item, and spread them around the house for quick access. Do the same for play toys.
Avoid Prize Envy Confrontations:
Don’t yell at your dog after she’s begun or after she’s finished chewing. It’s too late. If you chase a dog who has something in her mouth, she’ll be thinking, “Wow, what a great prize…everybody wants to take it from me!” (This is called prize envy.) Instead, learn about the treat cup and use it effectively.
Create Treat Cups:
Making a treat cup is easy. Break up your dog’s favorite treats in a cup. Shake the cup and offer your dog a treat. Continue this until your dog associates the sound of the cup with getting a treat. Now spread treat cups all over your home and be consistent. Use the same kind of cups. Party cups or deli containers work best.
Anytime your dog is chewing on an acceptable object, go over with the treat cup, say “Out,” offer her a treat, and leave. When your dog’s eating a meal, shake the cup, say “Out,” offer her a treat, and leave. Now that you’ve communicated that your approach is not threatening, the next time your dog grabs something, find a treat cup and say “Out.” Treat all objects she grabs, good or bad, as treasures and she’ll be much more cooperative. Praise her when she releases the object and helps her find a chew toy: “Where’s your bone?”
If It’s Gone, It’s Gone:
If your dog has destroyed something, let it go. Yelling or hitting your dog will only make him nervous and frightened, which leads to more chewing. Any dog owner can commiserate and I know first hand how angry you feel, but don’t take it out on your dog. He doesn’t know any better. Remember, your dog’s mouth is equivalent to your hands; if your dog is nervous or fidgety, he’ll chew. I’m sure if your dog could surf the Net, scan the soaps, or pull his hair out, he would, but since he can’t, chewing will have to do.
Catch Your Dog in the Thought Process:
Set up a situation with something your dog’s obsessed with—tissues, shoes, a Barbie doll, whatever her fancy. While your dog’s resting in another room set the object in the middle of the floor. Now bring your dog to it on her Teaching Lead®. The second your dog notices the object, say “No,” and snap back on the leash. Next, pick up the object and shout at it. You read right. Get angry at the object, not your dog. You’re doing the dog version of telling a child the stove is hot. Now walk by the object again. Your dog should avoid it like the plague. Use this technique to catch your dog in the thought process; if your dog already has an object in her mouth, you’re too late.
Still Having Difficulty with Your Chewer?
If you’re still having problems with your dog chewing, go through this checklist to ensure you’re doing everything by the book. If you’re following the list but are still having problems, call a professional.
- Limit your dog’s freedom around the house until she’s a respectable chewer.
- Avoid the infamous “grab-n-go.” This is when your dog grabs an object just to get you to chase him. It has dog-fun written all over it. Decide on an alternative game plan and teach everyone to follow the same routine.
- Don’t yell at your dog after the fact. She’ll consider your aggressive interest a sign that whatever she’s found must be valuable because you’re willing to challenge her for it.
- Treat cups and discipline don’t mix. Treat cups encourage your dog to show you her treasure. Don’t correct her (or the object) after she’s given it up or she won’t bring it to you again.
Remember, you’re correcting the object, not your dog! Don’t even look at your dog as you mouth-off to the naughty thing. Your neighbors may commit you, but your dog will love you for it. Do not practice this exercise off the lead. Your dog will think the object’s a mouse and join in the kill.