Animal Care

How do I stop destructive chewing?

Well In general there are three main reasons for your dog or puppy to chew:

Teething:

This occurs between the ages 14-28 weeks. Chewing on objects helps sooth and loosen the gums around teeth, thus allowing 'baby' teeth to fall out and proper teeth to grow through.

Exploratory Chewing:

Occurs roughly from the age of 28-52 weeks. Just as human babies use their hands to explore objects, puppies use their mouths.

Calming / Stress Management:

Chewing causes a chemical release of endorphins which have a calming effect on your dog. Many dogs chew to relieve stress and anxiety. This does not mean your dog is necessarily anxious, just that they know chewing calms them and makes them feel better.

How do I stop destructive chewing?


Since dogs have no sense of the value of the items they explore and chew, they can often be seen as destructive in our eyes. Rather than looking to inhibit chewing, you should be looking to focus your dog’s chewing on those items you are happy for it to chew on.

The first step is to teach your dog to understand the difference between what is yours and what is theirs. To do this they must see toys as a reward, something that is special and very different to the chair leg for example.

Here are some hints and tips to help achieve this:

  • To start with, make only 3 toys available to your dog. Make them all different in taste, texture and shape.

  • Use these toys and play regularly with your dog. This lets them associate these toys with good things and it is therefore more likely your dog will play with them when you are not there.

  • Make one of the toys a hollow fill toy that can be filled with food and treats, further encouraging them to use them. Kong toys are great for this.

  • Remove valuable items or put them out of reach. Discourage your dog from chewing other objects (furnishings etc) with deterrents such as Johnstons Anti Chew. This has a bitter taste and if sprayed on furniture, its taste deters chewing.

  • When you see your dog chewing the correct items, praise them. This gives further positive reinforcement around chewing the correct objects. Avoid over doing this such that it interrupts their chewing.

  • If you catch your dog about to chew on something they are not meant to, catch their attention with a firm "NO". Immediately give them something they can chew on and praise them when they do.

  • The best form of correction is from the objects themselves! Ok, this sounds odd and needs to be explained. If you discipline your dog for chewing an incorrect object, it can lead them to mistakenly believe they cannot chew at all, or cannot chew in your presence. If however, by chewing a certain object, a certain negative consequence occurs, it will deter them later. The best way to do this is to startle your dog with a squirt from a water pistol (on the back of their head) just as they are about to chew the object. It is important that the dog does not see you do this. It must think it is the object itself. This can be considered slightly aversive and is recommended as a last resort where all other methods have failed.

  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, keep it all positive and reward correct behaviour. Treat any mistakes as your fault for not correctly teaching your dog those items it can or cannot chew.

Dogs crave direction in their lives. They used to get this direction from other dogs. Today, they look to their owners to tell them what to do and how to act.

Being a leader involves more than giving orders and handing out discipline. Most of all, it requires giving clear directions about what is and isn’t acceptable.

THE DOG IS NOT AN EQUAL MEMBER OF THE FAMILY!

Dogs never see people or other dogs as equals. There are always differences in the pack hierarchy. This means that if you are not at the top of the family pack, your dog will see you as being below him, and his behaviour will reflect this.

Dogs are not only comfortable with being subservient to the leader, that’s a fundamental part of their nature.

Also remember the dogs respond very well to kindness and patience so always use gentle discipline

Every primary school classroom has a kid who jumps up in the middle of a lesson and does an impromptu dance. ‘Ignore him’, teachers say. ‘He’s just looking for attention’….well you should relate to this.  

It’s easy enough to turn your back on your dog when he’s misbehaving. But there is a fine line between teaching and punishing. Ignoring dogs for too long or doing it too often won’t make them better behaved. It will make them anxious. The idea is to withdraw your attention only until they have stopped doing whatever it is that you want them to stop. Then you can turn on the charm again. But don’t actually praise them at that point.

Look away. Dogs are intensely aware of eye contact. You can send a message by pointedly not looking at them, which tells them you don’t approve.

Ignore them immediately. Immediately turn around, put your hands in your pocket, and stare at the ceilings. It’s an effective way to show your disapproval and take the fun out of whatever it is they’re doing.

Be strong. Dogs are like children in that they’re very persistent and quick to take advantage of moment of weakness.

Stay in the present. Yelling or punishing dogs for things happened hours before doesn’t work. Your dog simply won’t understand what you’re mad about.

 

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