Your dog’s tendency to chew on anything he can sink his teeth into is a pretty normal canine behavior. However, like many normal, natural and necessary dog behaviors, unfocused chewing (i.e. chewing on things you don’t approve of) is not likely to win your dog many household fans.
When dealing with a chewing problem, it isn’t about stopping your dog from chewing (that would be like trying to stop them from wagging their tail!). It’s what your dog chews on that counts! So, the focus should be on helping your dog develop a strong chew toy habit so that he is not inclined to choose illegal items.
Many people try to teach their dogs not to chew on inappropriate items by punishing them every time they chew on unsuitable objects. This is not only unpleasant for both dog and person, but supremely inefficient when you consider how many unsuitable objects there are in your house. If you choose a punishment based approach you will surely be spending quite a bit of time reprimanding your dog.
Plus, all of this unpleasant punishment is likely to create a dog who becomes fearful of you and develops an owner absent chewing problem. After your dog has been caught in the act of chewing and punished for it a number of times, you will have blown his entire education because you will no longer be able to catch your dog in the act of inappropriate chewing again. Punishment will have only taught your dog not to chew when you are present. Your dog isn’t being spiteful when he indulges in normal (albeit unwanted) behaviors when you gone, he is simply going with what you have taught him. In this case, you don’t like to see him chew certain things.
A much more pleasant, efficient and effective approach is to show your dog what he CAN chew on and make those things so high value that your dog would be hard pressed to choose anything but. Supply your dog with lots of chew toys and make them even more fun by playing lots of chew toy games. You can do this by stuffing the chew toys with food and eventually hiding them about the house so your dog has a blast ‘hunting’ for these prized objects of chew toy pleasure.
There are loads of options for durable, hollow (i.e food stuffable) chew toys. Some are super easy for your dog to get the food out of and others are a bit more challenging. Start with the easy ones and then gradually give your dog toys which require more thought and effort. These enrichment or puzzle toys can be filled with your dog’s normal meal and/or special treats. You can also give your dog the occasional edible chew toy (such as a Flossie).
If you choose and stuff these types of toys properly, the choice between a piece of furniture and a tasty stuffed chew toy is an easy one for your dog to make!
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