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Destructive Chewing


Chewing Highlights:

*Chewing is a good behavior because it reduces  stress.
*Puppy's chew to loosen teeth and sooth gums.
*Provide a good selection of toys for your dog.
*Avoid toys that are  (wrong size or durability) for your pet.

*Use Apple Bitter or Tabasco Sauce to deter destructive chewing.

*Teach your dog to chew on "his" toys by signaling to him "YES" and rewarding him when he does!
*Discard any broken or easily swallowed toys. 

Why does my puppy chew on everything?

Puppies chew for many reasons.   The most common one is that they cutting new teeth.  This is not only painful, but it can also feel weird to have loose things dangling in your mouth!  Chewing on things helps smooth and loosen the gums around the teeth. My dog is almost two years old, and he still chews on everything!
Many dogs chew to relieve stress and anxiety.  This doesn't mean you have an anxious dog.  It just means your dog knows that when he chews, he feels better. Chewing causes a chemical release of endorphins which actually sooth and calm your dog.  This is very good because it means that he will be less anxious when he is with you!

You mean chewing is good?

YES!  It helps reduce plaque on teeth and gums, it keeps teeth strong, it releases stress and it is the easiest dog behavior to channel!  I actually tell people CONGRATULATIONS!  You got lucky with a dog that likes to chew! Now all you have to do is channel that Destructive Chewing to become Constructive Chewing."   Simply teach him he can't chew on your stuff, but he can chew on his!

Where do I start?

Start by getting six toys for the dog to chew on.  They should be of different varieties.  I suggest:  tennis ball, rope toy, Nylabone (original), Gummabone (transparent color), Kong (red variety). Do not use  Rawhides ! They do not break down in the intestinal tract and can cause serious stomach and intestinal problems.

My dog has tons of toys and he stills chews on everything!

Most dogs can't discriminate between what is "yours" and what is "theirs" until they are trained!  Start by discarding all broken or dangerous toys. Clean, disinfect and dry the remaining toys.  Pick three toys and use those exclusively at first.  To train a dog to play with "his" toys you must first teach him that his toys are a reward.

Teach my dog toys are good?  Shouldn't he know that already?

Well, yes and no.  First off, dogs that are destructive chewers think that everything is a toy!  What we must do is teach him that toys are special and very different from a sofa leg.  One neat way to do this is to play with the dog using "his" toys.  In this way, he associates not only fun with you, but fun with his toys.  This increases the likelihood that he will play with his toys when you are not around.  Allowing him to associate food with "his toys" is another good way to curb destructive chewing.  Simply fill a hollow toy with low fat, low sodium peanut butter or low fat cream cheese.  Allow the dog to lick out the filling and each time he licks - instant reward - Food!

What  if he's chewing on my furniture? 

This is where owner responsibility comes in.  You, as the owner, must accept responsibility to teach the dog what to chew on.  But remember that it's easier (and more pleasant) to reward your dog frequently, rather than punish him frequently!   This means removing valuable or important items from his reach.  Either put those things away or keep the dog confined when you are not watching him.   Deterrents like  Bitter Apple® for Furniture or Tabasco Sauce® can be helpful in reducing destructive chewing, but they aren't a cure for destructive chewing and shouldn't replace good supervision.

But what if I actually catch him actively chewing on my things?
Keep it simple!  Make a noise to startle him, then give him something he can chew on, and when he chews on his toy praise him with "YES, good dog!"

Do not punish him by hitting or yelling!

But I want him to know never to touch my things.  How will he learn if I don't discipline him?
Most dogs will outgrow misbehavior if it isn't allowed to develop.  (In fact, if your dog doesn't have any major behavior problems by the age of two, he probably never will!)  

Very simply put, dogs are reward based creatures.

Dogs will stop behaviors that do not earn them reward, but will CONTINUE behaviors that do earn them reward.  So no you don't have to punish your dog to teach him not to chew!  Discipline is what we use to "train" when we haven't taken the time to train properly in the first place.

When to dispose of dead toys and replenish them:

Disposing of "dead" toys is very important.  Dead toys are toys that have been partially, or totally, destroyed.  Most toys will be destroyed, especially if you have an active chewer  remember active chewing on toys is good.

For hard toys: 

Discard any that have broken or sharp edges.
Discard any that are small enough that they may be swallowed.
Discard any toys that cannot be cleaned and sterilized monthly, this will reduce bacteria.
Discard any solid raw hide toys that have been softened or pulled apart.

For soft toys:

Discard any rope toys that have been "pulled apart" (have no knotted ends).
Discard any stuffed toys that have been pulled into bite-size pieces.
Discard any squeaker toys with loose squeakers.
Discard any soft toy that your dog could swallow or ingest. 


Good Luck With Your New Puppy !