The problem of dogs that chew everything they find is serious. On the one hand, there is the health of dogs (which is in danger if they swallow parts of the things they chew). In addition to the emotional consequences of that situation, there are the financial aspects, since surgery to remove foreign bodies from the stomach or intestines of the dog can have a high price.
When problems of canine behaviour occur, the first thing to do is accept that dogs are not ornaments or toys. They are animals moulded by biological evolution to, among other things, perform a lot of activity. The moment in which we can accept that reality, we begin to see the problems of canine behaviour from another perspective and find simple solutions, but that must be executed.
In this article by EquineDesign we explain how to prevent your dog from biting things :
Can you prevent the dog from biting things?
The answer to that question is short and blunt: no. Chewing things is natural and necessary for dogs. This behaviour is more common during the change of teeth, around four months, but it is normal at any age.
As it is a behaviour geared in the genes of the canine species, it is impossible to eliminate without causing collateral damage. Many traditional trainers use punishment to try to eliminate this behaviour, but generally, they do not succeed. And when they are successful, dogs develop other behaviours that can be even more problematic, such as phobias to different objects or environments, aggression, urination by submission and others.
Therefore, it is not recommended that you try to make your dog stop chewing things, because you will only find new problems. The best thing, both to solve the problem and to help the dog to express its natural behaviours, is to redirect the behaviour towards resistant toys that your dog can chew without causing problems.
Keep in mind that your dog may not have chewed anything in his life, and start doing it at any time. In all cases, it is advisable to teach dogs to chew allowed toys and not other things.
Prevent the puppy from becoming destructive
One of the first things that you should teach a new puppy or an adult dog that you have just acquired is not to chew furniture, plants, shoes and other things that do not dog toys.
To teach you not to chew on anything, the best thing you can do is teach the puppy to chew on only his toys and not offer him other things to play with. Many people offer their puppies stockings or old shoes to play and then complain when dogs chew shoes or new stockings. Dogs do not distinguish between old and new shoes, so avoid your puppy playing with anything or you will be training to chew everything he finds.
To teach a dog to chew only his toys, the best toys are interactive toys that can be filled or intelligence toys. Simply stuff the toys with appetizing food for your dog and voila, the training is done automatically. Your dog will start chewing his toy to get the food inside. After several sessions, you will have a greater chance of chewing your toys than chewing other things, because chewing your toys is reinforced with food.
Obviously, the toys for this training must be resistant and durable, because otherwise they can be fragmented and put at risk the life of your dog. The best toys for this are hard rubber and the most recommended brands are Kong ®, Goodie Ships® and Buster cube®. There are also some edible bones that last a lot, but you have to replace them when they are finished.
When you have decided what toys your dog will have, you can use them to keep your pet alone without destroying anything. Before leaving home you leave two or three toys filled with food to your puppy so that he can be entertained and ready, he will have something to do during your absence. Of course, as long as your puppy still does not chew his toys frequently, it’s better to leave it in a place where he can not chew other things.
However, if your dog still does not know how to use interactive toys, you should teach him how to do it, as follows:
- Fill a toy with bits of nice food and show it to your dog. Then, stimulate your puppy to play with that toy, moving it from one side to another or throwing it. Do this before the puppy’s meal time. When your dog takes food out of the toy, it will be positively reinforcing the behaviour of chewing his toy and nothing else.
- Once your dog knows how to take the food out of his interactive toy, he starts leaving two or three of these hidden in places where it is relatively easy for him to find them, and one in a very visible place, each time you leave him alone. Then, your dog will start looking for his toys in addition to chewing them. This is a strategy similar to that used in zoos to enrich the environment of captive animals, thus helping to preserve their emotional state and stimulating their mind.
Make sure to reduce the amount of daily food you give your dog daily depending on how much food you put in the toys, to avoid overweight. You can consult with the veterinarian to advise you how much food to reduce in the daily ration according to the size, age and breed of your dog.
The food that you put inside the interactive toys also varies. Sometimes put solid food in pieces, sometimes put spreads (wet food, chunks, dog pate, etc.). In this way, you will make more fun the time your dog spends alone.
Keep in mind that the food you put in toys should not come out all at once. Your dog should spend a lot of time taking out the food, to entertain himself and to reinforce the behaviour of chewing the toy. That is why it is necessary that the food you put in those toys is cut into pieces or spreadable, so your dog will take out the pieces little by little or spend a lot of time licking the toy. Check with the veterinarian what food is recommended for your dog to entertain with these toys (keep in mind that this strategy can alter in some way the nutrition and mealtimes of your dog, so it is good to talk to the veterinarian).
As your puppy shows a greater predisposition to chew only his toys, you can start giving him more freedom inside the house when he is left alone, gradually increasing the rooms where you allow him to be unsupervised.
What do you do if your dog chews something wrong?
If your dog chews something he does not owe when you are not, it is because you allowed him to be with valuable things when he is not yet trained to chew only his toys. Punishing the dog when you return will not help because he will not relate the punishment to what he did. So do not punish him.
In that case, make sure you do not leave valuable things (things your dog should not chew) within reach of your pet when you leave. Continue with the procedure explained in the previous subtitle, but make sure you do not leave anything “forbidden” within reach of your dog when he is alone. If you do, the blame for the damage is completely yours because you will be training your dog to chew anything.
On the other hand, if you find your dog chewing something that it should not, remove it immediately. You should replace it quickly with a toy.
Of course, if your dog knows the “Drop” command, you can also use it. Just keep in mind that any of these alternatives to remove your dog chewing should not be the rule but the exception. You should not leave things “forbidden” within reach of your dog while not perfectly conditioned to chew only their toys.
Another important aspect when you find your dog chewing something is that you do not chase it. If you chase him to take away what he has in his mouth you will only be starting a game in which you chase and your dog escapes with what he has in his mouth. In that case, you will be reinforcing the behaviour of chewing anything. It is best to attract the dog in some way.
Redirect the behaviour of the destroyer dog
If your dog has already acquired destructive habits, training can take a long time. A dog that got used to chewing garden plants for a few months already has thousands of repetitions of that behaviour that have been positively reinforced. The same goes for the one-year-old dog that chews the shoes or the three-year-old dog that destroys the furniture. Then the habit is very ingrained and it is difficult to eradicate.
Keep in mind, however, that the most important thing is to prevent your dog from being alone with “forbidden” things and having interactive toys at his disposal. Many dogs get used to bitter sprays and other aversives and continue to destroy things in spite of them. They are not recommended.
Also keep in mind that the use of severe punishments such as necklaces or electric fences can cause more harm than benefit, and may generate aggression. Therefore, do not look for alternatives based on punishment.
The ideal is to work with him using positive reinforcement, with patience and affection. Intelligence games, active exercise and obedience can also be very beneficial.