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Destructive Digging

Pet Professional Tip

Use non-destructible chews such as Kongs stuffed with canned food, then frozen.


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Destructive play occurs when the dog is enjoying him or herself while destroying something that is not approved for destruction. This typically starts either as a result of boredom with a squeaky toy or plush toy that the dog disassembles and tears apart. Some dogs seem to enjoy the process of destroying things more than others. With a newly adopted puppy or dog, the strategy is to supervise the dog initially, and intervene at the first sign of this destructive behavior.
If the dog begins to destroy an object not meant for destruction, substitute something acceptable like a chew toy that the dog can work on but not immediately destroy.

Distracting the dog from destruction

Experiment to discover what your dog likes to chew. (e.g., a Kong® toy, Planet Pet Product, Nylabone®, rawhide chew). When taking away an dog toy that the dog is starting to destroy, it is best to "trade up."  In other words, find something the dog wants more than the toy this is being destroyed. For example, if the dog starts to fray a soft fabric toy, tell the dog, "off". If the dog releases the toy, immediately give the dog the "trade up" such as a Kong® with peanut butter inside it. Dogs are often more willing to release a toy if you ask them to "sit" first. The new chew toy is a reward for sitting and releasing the object of destruction.

Supervise sessions with toys that the dog likes to destroy (but are not approved for destruction). For example, follow a 5-minute obedience session with brief play time with the coveted toy as the reward. Be interactive with the dog and the toy. If the dog still starts destroying the toy, follow the guidelines outlined in the above paragraph.
If the dog begins to destroy an object not meant for destruction, substitute something acceptable like a chew toy that the dog can work on but not immediately destroy.

Because each pet has an individual personality, you might find that your dog REALLY likes to take things apart. If this is part of his or her basic personality, shop for some toys that cannot be destroyed and others that if destroyed slowly will not pose a hazard. (Great care must be given to the choice of edible toys to avoid the danger of intestinal blockages). Rawhides and other hard chews that are edible, need to be introduced slowly and carefully. It is important to allow the dog to initially chew on a rawhide for a supervised period of time and then to remove it. Consider putting rawhides in a baggy in the freezer between chew times. Dogs can work on and gradually break off a piece of the chew toy and then swallow it without any harm. By working at it, he or she can take the edges off and can eventually devour the entire thing.

When first presenting chew toys, only allow a limited time of chewing to prevent the dog from eating so much he or she gets sick or develops an intestinal obstruction.

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