Destructive Chewing

I consider the phrase "destructive chewing" an oxymoron. Chewing, by its very nature, is destructive. Think about it for just a minute. Your dog has tremendously strong jaws full of many sharp, pointy teeth.

Anything your dog chews will show the effects of chewing in just a minute or so. So just to be clear, whenever I use the phrase “destructive chewing”, I’m really referring to inappropriate chewing.

This is the kind of chewing the dog focuses on your own possessions and your household items - not on your dog’s own designated toys and chews.

It seems that the simple act of chewing seems to be a matter of individual preference among dogs: some have an innate desire to chew as an overall pleasurable activity while others seem to have no need to chew whatsoever (unless they’re driven to it out of sheer boredom). Kind of like people and chewing gum - some like it a lot more than others who could live without it all together.

3 main reasons why dogs chew in the first place:

• Dogs that don't receive enough exercise often use destructive chewing as a way of burning up all that nervous energy and also as a way of giving themselves something to do.

• It's true that most dogs have a very natural desire to chew. To the dog it's a fun activity, it helps to pass the time, and it's a self-rewarding, self-reinforcing activity (for example, if she's chewing on something that tastes good.)

• The act of chewing often gives a nervous, bored, or lonely dog an outlet for her emotions. To an overly anxious dog, the simple repetitive act of chewing is very soothing – think of it as the dog equivalent of "comfort food".

So, how do we prevent destructive chewing

First of all, it is important to know that dogs are perfectly capable of learning not to chew your stuff – you just have to put in a little training effort first.

So, here are 6 steps to help you and your dog get over the whole destructive chewing issue.

1. It is very important that you take control of the situation. You must be the one to manage your own possessions. First of all, dog-proof your home! Remember, dogs explore the world with their mouths. Even if you have the best-behaved dog in the world, there’s still no reason to test her self-control.

Dog-proofing is fairly simple. Basically, you take anything you don't want to end up in your dogs mouth, and make it unavailable. Common targets to think about in the home include shoes, food, books, electrical cords, loose rugs, eyewear, clothing, garbage, remote controls and anything below knee level.

2. Provide your dog with plenty of tasty alternatives to your chewable stuff. Remember, it's very true that most dogs need to chew; if your dog is an adolescent (under 3 years of age) or a puppy (under 1 year old), her needs will be even more pronounced. I would suggest that you go on a toy and chew shopping spree, then give her two or three to play with at a time. After that, rotate the available toys every few days to keep things interesting for your dog.

3. You must spend lots of time actively supervising your dog. True, it would be a lot easier for you to just keep your dog penned up in her crate, run, or out in the yard – but that's boring and a terrible idea. Your dog can't learn what you expect of it if its spending all its time boxed up in the dog-proof zone.

4. Prevent your dog from learning the joys of illegal chewing in the first place! The more times your dog manages to snatch a mouthful of a forbidden substance – the more readily she'll target those items in the future. If you can prevent her from chewing your stuff in the first place, then it'll be a lot easier for your dog to understand what you expect of it in the first place.

5. Don't set your dog up for failure by blurring the boundaries between her stuff (which is all right to chew) and your stuff (which is not all right to chew on). Best rule of all, don't give your dog ANY old clothes, shoes, or towels to chew and play with! How do you expect your dog to be able to tell the difference between your new shoes and the old one she's got in her mouth that you gave her two days ago?

6. Lastly, whenever you do catch your dog in the act of destructive chewing, interrupt her by making a loud noise: clap your hands or make an "Ah-ah-aaaah!" noise. Next, immediately hand her a tasty, dog-appropriate alternative (such as a rawhide bone or other chew toy). Just as soon as your dog accepts the new toy praise her lavishly. There is simply no better way to get your dog to understand that chewing "her own toys" equals praise from you, while chewing everything else equals trouble.

It is very important to maintain a positive attitude with any training - and especially when it deals with negative issues such as destructive chewing. Remember to keep your expectations realistic. You're not perfect, and neither is your dog. There's likely to be at least one incident where one of your cherished items is damaged.

In the early stages of your relationship with your new dog or puppy,it's important to remember that it'll take awhile before your dog is completely reliable. Be sure to give your dog time to learn the "rules of your house" and plenty of "one-on-one time" too.

Want to learn more information on other dog training techniques other than destructive chewing, such as how to deal with other problem dog behaviors? I'd like to recommend that you check out SitStayFetch.

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"Dog owners are out in all kinds of weather. They tell you it's small payment for the love their dogs bear them. Some love. If that dog weren't on a leash, he'd be off after another dog, a cat, or any stranger walking along the street with a wet bag of meat." - Selma Diamond