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Dog Training to Avoid Destructive Behavior

Understanding why dogs chew provides tips for managing this instinct.

Chewing and gnawing instincts for dogs. Knowing that it’s one of the characteristics to be accepted along with the dog, owners have to take responsibility, through training and security, for making sure it doesn’t become a problem.

Why Dogs Chew

  • Teething – Puppies sometimes chew to massage sore gums when teething
  • Exploring – Dogs may chew an exciting object as a way of ‘examining’ it
  • Relieving Stress – Sometimes, very active dogs or puppies who are bored need a way to stay occupied
  • Shredding – Dogs will sometimes shred a pillow or piece of clothing. It is the canine version of ‘how to make a bed.’
  • Pacifying – Dogs who are separated from their owners may feel soothed when they find an object with the owner’s scent to chew on

Hazards of Chewing

  • Dogs may destroy valuable belongings
  • Dogs may be injured or poisoned if they chew electrical cords, garbage, or other inappropriate items

How to Manage Problem Chewing

Keep valuable or hazardous items out of reach. Put away shoes, remotes, books, cell phones, and games, ensure closed cabinet doors, and secure trash cans. Children’s toys should be put away when not in use as the dog may not be able to distinguish between their toys and his. Place electrical cords behind furniture. So your dog isn’t tempted.

Provide a secure area for your dogs, such as a crate or a gated room when you have to be away. Plastic baby gates should be avoided. Instead, leave him plenty of his chew toys to keep him occupied. Ensure his toys are safe and not something he can chew pieces off and choke on.

Teach your dog appropriate chewing. For example, if you catch him gnawing on a chair leg, tell him a stern ‘no’ and then playfully toss him one of his chew toys. Catch his attention. Gently toss the toy in the air, then roll it to him. Show him how to use his toy. Make it fun, so he forgets about the chair leg.

Dogs need exercise to burn energy and relieve stress. Take a stroll with him, play fetch or lead him over an obstacle course daily. Practice his obedience commands daily. The mental stimulation will help him mature.

Dogs need attention and love to relieve anxiety. So make sure he gets several hugs and ‘good doggy’ pats every day.

Accidents do happen. If your dog destroys something you value, correcting him after the fact won’t do any good. Getting upset with him is futile. He will not know why you are so angry. Just be a little more diligent with his training and keeping valuables out of his reach. The key here is patience. Remind yourself that he didn’t do it to spite you and that, as he matures, his drive to chew will fade.