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by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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 Destructive Chewing

Teach your dog to
"get the bone" to earn your attention and greetings


If you do NOT want the adult dog on the furniture, do not allow the puppy on the furniture. Teach the dog that they should look to you for all resources, including the furniture. If you want the dog on the furniture, teach an "on" and "off" Instruction.

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Destructive behavior occurs for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, it is a normal behavior directed toward an unacceptable object or area. Dogs need to chew - this is normal behavior. Destructive behavior can usually be attributed to lack of supervision, inadequate training (i.e., not redirecting chewing behavior towards appropriate objects), and inappropriate chew toys (e.g., old shoes, socks, blankets). Addressing these issues, in most cases, prevents and resolves the problem of destructive behavior.

The key to preventing household destruction is to supervise at ALL time until the rules are learned so that you can interrupt any habit before it starts and teach alternatives.

Teach your dog to chew the right things

Encourage the dog to chew on his or her own chew toys, instead of household items (e.g., old shoes, socks, etc.). Encourage play with "appropriate" toys by acting extremely interested in them yourself. For example, bounce them in front of the dog and hold them away so the dog sees that you want it more than the dog.  An unwritten rule in "dogdom" is that whatever you have is always better than what they have. This is similar to the grass is greener on the other side that people experience.  Another way you can make a toy more desirable is to spread a little cheese or peanut butter on or inside it. (e.g., inside a Kong®).

The key to preventing household destruction is to supervise at ALL time so that you can interrupt any habit before it starts and provide positive alternatives. It is important to catch the dog during the first sign of pawing, nibbling, or chewing an inappropriate object (observe what was attractive to the dog, and make a mental note to come back later and apply a bitter "taste deterrent" to the target object).

any unwanted behavior immediately with a stern "No," and then, redirect the dog to an appropriate behavior. With a happy voice, encourage the dog to do get a chew toy, or ask the dog to "come" and "sit," to gain your good graces and attention. Praise the dog for the appropriate behavior and for showing any interest in the dog toys.

Before the house rules are learned...

Prevent destruction by removing objects that might be accidentally destroyed through tail wags, brushing of the tail, or bumping while being excited or running around the house. Remove items of value and put them in a place where the dog cannot reach them. Pickup items (including shoes and clothes) from the floor and put them in a place that the dog cannot access them (e.g., closet, drawer, etc.).

Stop destruction by teaching positive activities

1.  Teach the dog "contented confinement."  Read here

2.  Make a portable kennel your dog's most favorite place. The goal is for the dog to perceive the kennel as his or her special bedroom (and softest available bed), dining room (pull the bed and feed his or her meals inside), and recreation room  where the dog gets to work on getting the tasty treats out of the food puzzle toy!

3.  Teach the dog to chew on his or her chew toys by demonstrating interest in them yourself.

4.  Anytime you are home and see the dog showing interest in his or her chew toys, praise the dog and lavish the dog with your attention.

5.   Rotate 3 - 4 different toys to prevent all the toys from being boring. Keeping a toy chest for the dog is useful for this purpose.

6.  If caught in the act of destruction, verbally reprimand the dog sufficiently to stop the behavior (interrupt), after a 3 minute time out, encourage the dog to do a suitable behavior (redirect), like chewing on a chew toy. Smile at the dog and praise with enthusiasm when the dog chooses an acceptable chewing outlet. The verbal reprimand should not continue the instant the teeth stop committing the crime. Physical punishment is never used - it only confuses the dog and creates anxiety -  which, in many cases, causes the destructive chewing.

7.  If you find an inappropriately chewed object, either prevent access to it or make the target taste bad to the dog.  A home remedy for a taste deterrent is underarm antiperspirant. Pet stores sell many excellent taste repellants, as well.

8.  Make sure you provide your pet with daily aerobic exercise outside of the home and yard. Dogs need mental stimulation from sniffing and seeing a change of scenery.  Spend quality time training and playing with your dog daily. A tired, happy dog learns the rules more quickly and is more eager to please by obeying them. Tired dogs rarely destroy.

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