Chewing & Destructive Behavior
Dogs Chew & Destroy Things For Several Reasons
Where to start
Reasons for chewing & destruction
What to do?
Bones & Chews? Caution!
Should you use a crate? Options.
There are many reasons this behavior develops but first we must focus on meeting our dog’s need for attention, social interaction, exercise, and mental stimulation. Unless there is a medical reason that prohibits it, exercise is important for dogs. One of the most important things to do is to play with your dog! The key is that it is a game they enjoy, and that they enjoy the game with you.
Take your dog out daily for exercise and give them a chance to enjoy the outside world. Give your dog permission to use his nose to sniff those areas that are of interest to him as long as it is appropriate and safe. Vary the route you take on your walk and go someplace new for a walk or find a dog friendly place to hike with your dog. A large yard is no substitute for walking or exercising your dog. Even if your dog has 40-acres to run, most will spend the vast majority of the time waiting near the back door for someone to come out or to be let in. Some dogs enjoy running with their owners, but before you take them on a run understand distance running is not appropriate for young dogs. Before starting any new exercise activities have your dog checked by your veterinarian first. Exercise, Biking & Urban Mushing
Since most people can’t spend all their time with their dogs’, it is important to leave behind a tired dog that is ready to rest while we are away. It’s important we start with lots of exercise so when we leave a dog alone/separated they are ready to rest and are thankful for the quite time. A dog that is well-exercised and has had all their needs met can learn to appreciate the solitude of being left alone which is vastly different from forced isolation. Dogs that have a fulfilling life are less likely to develop the inappropriate behaviors that are the result of boredom, stress, frustration, and. loneliness.
Like any behavior we don’t want to see develop, we need to prevent our dogs from learning to chew the wrong things in the first place. Be very careful with extension cords, batteries, and other small items lying around. You must manage the environment by not leaving things out you don’t want your dog to chew. This means you need to be sure your dog has numerous safe appropriate items to chew at all times.
Why Dogs Chew
Exercise developing jaws.
Learn about their environment.
Stress / anxiety
Dogs do not chew on inappropriate things to get back at you. Or because they are upset about something you did, or did not do. Yelling, or smacking your dog or puppy for chewing is not viewed as a correction, but as an act by an unstable person they learn not to trust. The submissive posture and “guilty look” that many owners believe they see is not likely the dog “ knowing he’s done wrong”, its very likely the dog is reacting to the owner, not the act of doing something wrong.
Exercise developing jaws
To learn about their environment (small children also put things in their mouths)
Dogs will chew when they are teething between the ages of 3-6 months, and at about 7-10 months of age dogs will generally start a more pronounced intense stage of chewing that will usually last about 6 months.
After a puppy is finished teething it is normal behavior for a dog to explore its world with its mouth and it is not uncommon for the dog to pick up shoes, toys, tissues, television remotes, etc… This behavior may be exploratory, or it may be a way the dog has learned to get attention and to get someone to play with them. Often times they have learned once they grab a sock or another item, the game is on! If the dog grabs something that is not dangerous to them, or of no importance to the humans, there is nothing wrong with letting them have it. By you ignoring the behavior, they may lose interest in the object because it did not create the effect they were looking for. Don’t give the item importance, nor start a conflict over something that is not important. Most times these situations can be handled without creating a game or battle.
Better to express interest in what the dog has in a pleasant tone of voice that is inviting and encourage the dog to bring the item to you. If he willingly brings it, that should be greeted with lots of praise and petting the dog enjoys.
One of the two foundational things I want to teach every puppy and dog is the concept of sharing. Teaching the dog to share something it values is an important thing to teach every dog. How do you teach a puppy to share? You teach them to retrieve, which is the concept of sharing something with you. This is especially important for owners of guarding breeds and even the terrier breeds sense we never wanted them to share their kill with us. There are numerous ways to teach a dog to retrieve. The number one rule is to be a fun playmate and make the game fun. The “toy” or item you use has no magic on its own. Rule number two is when the dog brings something back to you don't reach to take it from the dog. Wait for them to drop the item on their own without making a request. Once they do you can create excitement with the item and continue the game. Start with something the dog likely considers low value. I’ve used everything from a plain sheet of paper, a dollar bill, and all sorts of dog toys. You must make it fun! Understand some dogs will only be entertained with the game for a few minutes and others will enjoy this game for hours.
When a dog has possession of something and is not interested in bringing it to you, it is often it is best to ignore the dog and create a diversion that peaks the dog’s interest in what you might be doing. Once they leave the item to see what you are doing or what the diversion was, casually go over to where they left the item and get it. Would you enjoy hanging around people when all they seem to do is take from you? Neither does your dog! When a dog grabs something other than a dog toy, children will often run after dogs screaming with excitement and many dogs view this as a fun game, some will view it as bizarre behavior that is threatening. An unsure dog or dog with a softer temperament can feel threatened by this behavior.
What to do
Provide them with a variety of safe chew toys so they are less likely to chew on inappropriate things. Rotate these toys every day or even twice a day. If there is a favorite one or two toys, you can leave them out every day and just rotate the others to keep them all interesting.
It’s something entertaining to do.
Does your dog have a lot of energy? Dogs that are restricted to a small territory (from the dog's perspective) that are bored and not able to openly explore will often channel those energies into chewing objects.
What to do
Provide them with a variety of better options.
To get your attention.
They want to play.
The dog may go settle somewhere and begin innocently chewing on something we consider inappropriate. All of a sudden the dog has your full attention! Dogs do take notes! After the second or third time they innocently chew on something we find inappropriate they will have learned those items get your attention! Even if your attention is negative, it is still attention.
What to do
Make sure you are giving your dog enough attention each day to fulfill their social interaction needs. This should include play and walks with your dog.
Don’t reward unacceptable attention seeking behavior by giving them attention. Don’t give attention unless at least 2-minutes has pasted since the dog was seeking inappropriate attention. You need to include this 2-minute disassociation time to distance your attentive behavior from their inappropriate behavior so you are not rewarding the wrong thing.
Insecurity (stress / anxiety)
There can be many things that contribute to a dog’s insecurity. The dog may be concerned with noises it hears or has previously heard. The dog may feel insecure when left alone so they may chew on a personal item that smells of the owner since this item can act as a pacifier.
Something as simple as a dog door may contribute to the dog's insecurity. We look at dog doors as a way for a dog's to get outside. But for an insecure dog this can be seen as a way for the outside world to gain access inside. People can experience the same insecurity if they are unable to secure the front door to their home.
Variety is the key to an enriching life for your dog. Engage all five of your dogs' senses, to make their days more interesting. Anything that is unchanging is no longer unique and loses it value quickly. Go to the "Enriching Your Dog's Life" page.
Use a bitter tasting spray deterrent like “Bitter Yuck” to make items less attractive to chew on.
Should You Use A Crate?
Crates are NOT recommended for dogs as a general rule and definitely not for dog’s with separation issues because we can make the problem worse. Contrary to popular belief, neither dogs nor wolves are “den” animals in the way it has been popularized. “Denning” is a seasonal maternal behavior and the den is only used for newborn puppies for about 8-weeks before being abandoned. From 8-20 weeks the puppies are moved to an area with a “nest”. After 20-weeks I think it would be more accurate to say dogs seek out a resting place. While there may be a small percentage of dogs that would choose a protected area such as a crate for resting this is not the norm. Choosing a resting place that is isolated is different from choosing a crate. Sadly way too many people believe a crate is a necessary "tool" for confinement. When confinement is required, I prefer to limit a dog’s access to other areas with a barrier like a baby gate or at times a large x-pen. I think it’s important for every dog to except a crate, but I’m not a fan of using crates except in limited circumstances.
Bones & Chews?
Before giving your dog a bone or chew there are several things you need to take into consideration. Start here: Bones & Chews
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