A recent commercial for the Volkswagen Jetta shows a man dressed for work looking all over for his keys. His eyes finally come to rest on his bulldog. Sure enough, when he carries the dog out to the car and holds him against the door, the keyless entry system works from within the dog, and he’s able to get into the car, start it with the remote start button and drive to the vet’s office.
It’s a humorous commercial that illustrates one principle very well: dogs will eat the darndest things!
The dog’s natural instinct is to chew on things. Chewing is a way to explore the world. Puppies chew to help relieve pain that is caused by teething, while older dogs chew to keep their jaws strong and their teeth clean. Dogs of all ages chew to help combat boredom and relieve anxiety or frustration.
Unfortunately, this natural behavior can result in problems for both the dogs and the people they live with. Not only does chewing damage and destroy our property but can lead to the dog ingesting items that can be harmful or even fatal. To protect both our dogs and our property, it’s important to control chewing.
The first step is to “dog-proof” your house. Children’s toys should be kept in rooms behind closed doors. Remote controls should be put into drawers or out of reach, not left on the arms of the sofa. Put shoes in closets, dirty clothes in a closed hamper and other items away where they belong. Not only will this help your dog be successful, your home will be neater.
Provide your dog with appropriate things to chew on and give him a variety of toys if you can. Nylabones, Kongs and filled marrow bones are great, durable chews. Never give your dog cooked bones, as these can splinter and seriously injure your dog.
Rope toys and stuffed toys are great for some dogs, but others will chew them apart immediately, so it’s best to only provide such toys when you can supervise your dog. Never give your dog things like old shoes, your children’s worn out stuffed toys, or other “people” objects to play with. He really can’t discern between your old shoes and the new running shoes you just paid $200 for, so don’t confuse him.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of physical exercise. If you have a fenced in yard that you turn your dog out into, realize that he probably does not get the exercise he needs in a yard by himself. A dog in a yard will explore a bit, sleep under a tree, run to the fence, relax on the porch, etc. Take your dog for one or more walks every day to ensure he’s actually getting sustained exercise.
It’s also important that your dog receive mental stimulation. All dogs need to use their brains, and some breeds need a high level of mental stimulation. If they don’t get it, they become bored and often turn to chewing just for something to do. You can help your dog with daily walks and outings, off-leash play with other dogs, tug and fetch games, training classes or training sessions, feeding meals or treats in puzzle toys or doing dog sports such as agility, herding and flyball.
If your dog is chewing on something you can’t put away, like your kitchen cabinets or coffee table, discourage him by spraying them with chew deterrents.
Initially, spray a small amount onto a cotton ball or piece of tissue and place the item directly into your dog’s mouth. Allow him to spit it out after he tastes it. He might even shake his head, drool or retch, and he won’t pick it up again. This should teach him the connection between the taste and odor of the deterrent spray, and he’ll be unlikely to chew items with that smell. Deterrents normally should be applied daily for two to four weeks as you work on training your dog what not to chew.
Try to supervise your dog during waking hours until you feel confident his behavior is under control. If he starts to chew or lick on a forbidden object, tell him “no” and give him something he’s allowed to chew on. When he begins to chew on his toy, praise him.
When you can’t supervise your dog, crate him or leave him in a small, doggy safe room with plenty of safe chews. If your dog is going to be confined, it’s best to exercise him first.
Start off with these tips to help your dog control his chewing, and next week we’ll look more at this problem behavior.
Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.