Chewing is a normal, natural and necessary behavior for dogs.
Chewing helps to maintain healthy teeth, and it is also your dog’s primary form of entertainment! By chewing on something, your dog is learning what an object feels like and how it tastes, so he can determine if it’s good enough to eat.
Your dog must learn from you what to chew and what not to chew. Have you ever come home to find feathers flying around the family room from torn pillows? Do your baseboards have teeth marks? Have your shoes seen better days? If you answered yes, then you need these tips and tricks to understanding and correcting unwanted chewing!
Chew Toy Training is a method commonly used to help teach your pet to chew appropriate chew toys rather than household objects. It is important that you spend the time teaching this to your dog, especially during those oh-so-cute puppy years, to maintain a happy and healthy relationship in the long-term. Chew toy training can be done with a variety of toys that food can be hidden or frozen into. This alternative eliminates feeding your pet from a bowl and encourages exclusive chewing on the toys provided. Until completely chew toy trained, don’t feed your dog from a bowl and instead, use hand feeding as a reward when you see your dog happily chewing away on the toy provided. A variety of toys is important to maintain interest and to keep your dog entertained.
This method can also be incorporated into crate training your dog. Chew toys in the crate help encourage the development of a chew toy habit. Remember to only leave behind what your dog is allowed to chew!
Why does your dog chew specific items like shoes or socks? One reason is scent. Dogs will seek out objects that smell like their family members. Basically, shoes, socks and clothing are a wildly popular chew because they smell like us! As a member of the family, it is natural for your dog to think that your belongings are his belongings too. To train your dog to use appropriate chew toys, place your scent on them. Leave a new or existing chew toy at the bottom of your laundry hamper for a day so it picks up your scent, making it just as attractive to your dog as shoes.
Many types of deterrents are available as well that can be used on objects such as plants and furniture. If your dog chews your house plants, it may be due to a lack of plant containing nutrients in his diet. A wide variety of treats and supplements available at your local Pet Valu can help prevent the need to consume your household greenery. Sprays such as Bitter Apple also deter your pet. Once sprayed directly onto an object, spray deterrents leave behind an awful taste that is non-toxic and won’t hurt your pet, but will make her stop chewing.
Along with making chew toys more attractive, and non-chew toys taste awful, it’s important to always encourage your dog when she chews appropriate objects. Positive reinforcement is the best reward as your dog wants nothing more than to please you. If you do catch your dog chewing on something you don’t want him to, immediately take it away and replace it with the correct chewing alternative. If you come home to chewed shoes or worse, don’t punish your dog after the fact. Your dog doesn’t think like a human being and he won’t connect his punishment to the shoes. Instead, puppy-proof your home by putting chewable objects out of reach and using deterrents on larger objects. Then remember to praise your dog when he chews appropriately.
Sometimes the problem is larger than just remembering to put your shoes in the closet. Destructive chewing is most commonly seen in dogs that spend a lot of time alone. It is important for any dog owner to understand that dogs require a healthy dose of mental and physical stimulation every day. Naturally, dogs will chew to relieve stress and boredom. The longer your dog is by himself, the more objects he seeks to keep him entertained!
A healthy dose of mental stimulation includes providing your dog with a wide variety of toys to keep him busy. Puzzle toys that challenge your dog can stimulate the brain and provide great entertainment for the whole family. Tricks like ‘Search’ or ‘Find’ also make your dog think. Physical stimulation includes exercise. Taking your dog for a morning run before you leave for the day has been noted to help discourage anxiety, another behavior associated with destructive chewing. An evening walk is just as rewarding as your dog is exposed to different sights, smells and sounds. If your daily routine includes a walk, try a different route every couple of days. This introduces new elements into the walk which provides fantastic mental and physical stimulation for your dog.
Keep in mind that chewing is fun and rewarding for your pet. The key is teaching her what to chew to make you happy. Always remember that positive reinforcements and encouragement are the best way to teach your dog the joys of chewing.