Dogs have been man’s best friend for many years and they are a great addition to any family. Sometimes, though, we all get frustrated with our furry friends when they chew on things that they shouldn’t be chewing on. Chewing is actually one of the most common behavioral issues that dog owners ask about! In this blog post, we will discuss 6 steps you can take to teach your dog to stop chewing so you can live in harmony with them again!
Give your dog a variety of chew toys
Giving your dog a variety of textured materials is the first step to stop a chewing issue. Provide different shapes and sizes of bones, blankets, tug toys like KONGS or red rubber chew toys with leather soft parts. To teach your dog to stop chewing, focus on the one texture that they gravitate to. This will make it a lot easier for you, since you’ll be purchasing the type of material that your pup likes to chew on, and spending less on toys that they don’t like.
Redirect your dog to appropriate chew toys
Redirect to something that is appropriate and similar to the texture that they are currently chewing on. For example, is the dog is chewing on a leather shoe? Find something that is of the same give and same texture, and make it come alive. In other words, make it more interesting than the shoe that they’re chewing on. If they’re chewing on a slipper, give them a toy that’s woolly, and make it come alive. Make that more exciting, and interact with your dog with it.
This will take consistent practice, as your dog will initially continue to go back to the other object. It’s up to you to continuously redirect them to the appropriate chew toy.
The key with redirecting is that you have to keep engaging with your dog, and be more exciting than the object that they’re currently chewing on. The other part of it is make sure that the chew toy has a similar give, texture, and feel. That way the dog wants to keep chewing on it. They’re already showing that they want to chew on it, so give them something of equal or similar value.
Praise and reward your dog when they choose to chew on appropriate items
When redirecting your dog, don’t only focus on correcting them. Throughout the day, our dogs give us many opportunities to reward them. How is your dog supposed to know what they should chew on if we’re not giving them positive feedback? If, for example, you see your dog make the decision to go and find a bone and chew on the bone, reward them! Giving them treats and rewarding them (because that’s the behavior you want to see) will encourage that behavior to more likely to occur in the future.
Also, when you see your dog chewing on something they’re not supposed to: don’t yell at them. When dogs are in the act of doing a behavior that is wrong (like chewing on the furniture), it can be hard for us as humans because we have these strong emotional responses and want to show our disapproval; but yelling will make things worse. If it’s something that we can put out of the dog’s reach (like toilet paper), do so. If it’s a furniture leg, tether or crate the dog in the house so that they can’t reach that item, and give them something appropriate to chew on.
Our favorite doggy chew toys
Here at Dogology, we are all about KONGS. KONGS come in different colors, and the colors are actually the give or the chew strength. Red KONGS are normal, black KONGS are extra strength and extra hard for power chewers, and light blue or light pink are for puppies, so they have the most give. We like to take the dog’s kibble, stuffing it in the KONG, wetting it down with water, beef broth, or chicken broth, freezing it, and then feeding our dogs using KONGS instead of a bowl.
This has been a godsend for us, and it has been the most productive way for us to redirect chewing behaviors. It mentally stimulates the dog, and rewards them for chewing on the KONG.
Mentally exhaust your dog
Another very effective way to prevent your dog from chewing on things that they’re not supposed to is mentally exhaust them. Training sessions, brain puzzles, scent work, obedience — all of this will work their brain! A dog that is mentally exhausted will be less likely to chew. Mental exhaustion can take a few weeks of work, but it’s worth the effort in order to make sure that your dog is more fulfilled (and less bored and likely to chew)!
Mental exhaustion is different from walking four miles, rucksacking for 10 miles, running up hills and tiring them out physically. The more you do physical activities, the more your dog’s strength and endurance will build up, and the more you’ll have to work them to tire them out. Let’s say you walk a mile with your dog. Over time, you’re going to need two miles to get the same feeling for them as a mile does currently. This means that you’ll need to work your dog more, and it’s not as effective as mentally exhausting them.
Teach your dog to “drop it”
Teaching your dog to o drop the undesirable item (and then rewarding them with the appropriate item to chew) is going to be the most effective and beneficial behavior you can actually teach your dog.
Start by offering your dog a low-value toy. This should be something that they’re interested in, but not something that they go nuts for. Let them play with the toy for a bit, then offer them a treat that they REALLY like, such as rotisserie chicken. If you chose a toy that’s low enough in value, and a treat that’s high enough in value, your dog should willingly drop the toy in exchange for the treat.
As soon as your dog drops the toy, mark the behavior with a clicker or your marker word, then give them the yummy treat. While your dog is eating their reward, pick up the toy and hide it behind your back. Once your dog is finished eating, give them the toy again and repeat the process.
When you know your dog will drop the item as soon as you show them the treat, say something like “drop it” for example; or tell them to trade with you. After doing this several times, give your dog the out command without showing them the treats. If they drop the toy, mark and reward, and jackpot them with a handful of treats!! This will show your pup how awesome it is to play this game. If your dog doesn’t drop the item without seeing the treats, go back to showing them the treats right after giving them the command to drop the toy.
Those are our six items for teaching your dogs on how to chew on appropriate behaviors: Provide items of different textures, redirect to something that is appropriate or of similar texture and value, mentally exhaust them, and teach them “drop it” or “out.”
Are you having problems teaching your dog to out? Do you have any other favorite chew toys you’d like to suggest? Drop us a message, or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
Has your dog ever chewed up the furniture, or soiled in the house when you leave them alone? This could be due to boredom, or it could be due to separation anxiety. Canine separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset due to the fact that they are separated from the people they’re attached to.
Signs Of Canine Separation Anxiety
If your dog is experiencing true separation anxiety, they will display signs of stress such as panting, pacing, whining, shaking, or drooling excessively as you prepare to leave. Most dogs with separation anxiety will try to remain close to you, follow you from room to room in the house, and will rarely spend time alone outdoors. They may also seek out a lot of physical contact and / or attention from you.
If a dog with separation anxiety tries to escape confinement, it is usually extreme, and can result in self-injury and household destruction. Dogs with separation anxiety will chew through plastic or wire crates, and through drywall and wooden doors to get to their owners. They may also attempt to go through doors or windows. When they get out, they may continue to chew and dig, or may soil the house. However, if your dog chews, digs, or soils in the house when you’re home, the cause may not be separation anxiety, but possibly boredom or a medical issue.
If you come home to any sort of a mess, do NOT punish the dog. Dogs are very much in-the-moment animals, which means that unless you catch them in the act of messing in the house, chewing, or digging, they will not associate their behavior with your stern voice and demeanor. They will only understand that you’re upset with them, but won’t know why. Dogs display something known as “appeasement behaviors” in the cute “guilty animal” videos on the internet. These include puppy eyes, putting their ears back, lowering their body, and tucking their tail between their legs.
For any incontinence issues, make sure that you take your dog to the vet to rule out any underlying medical problems before addressing behavioral concerns.
How To Prevent Separation Anxiety
One way to prevent separation anxiety is to make sure that dogs have scheduled times where they learn to spend time alone in their own crates or their own bed. Creating positive association with your departure also helps. Don’t make a big deal about leaving or coming home, and when you’re about to leave the house, give them a stuffed Kong, puzzle ball filled with treats, etc. so that they associate your departure with treats!
If your dog is bored, there are a number of ways to combat this! Our post on preventing doggy boredom goes into a bit more detail, but at a high level, make sure that you exercise your dog mentally and physically on a regular basis. This means playing tug or fetch, and doing obedience training with them. In fact, you can easily incorporate a “settle” command into your training, and reward calm behavior. You can also train your dog to go to their place / into their crate, and reward them for calm, settled behavior. When practicing this, make sure that you don’t inadvertently reinforce crying or barking! Eventually, you should be able to establish a daily routine with your dog where they learn to lie on their mat to either nap or play with their own toys.
If you have any questions about separation anxiety, or if you’d like to schedule a time to discuss specific training questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help you and your dog improve your relationship together!