Does your family room look like
the sight of a natural disaster in spite of your regular
cleaning schedule? Have you ever come home to a roomful of
cotton fiber snow? Are your table legs being
used as toothpicks?
If so, you dont have to live like this any longer,
help is on the way! Order your new furniture with confidence,
and while you are waiting for the delivery Open Paw will
help you teach your dog basic household manners.
It is important to remember that your beloved pet is not being
bad, but simply expressing normal doggie behavior. It is your
job to provide appropriate outlets for your furry friend and
to teach them how to use these outlets instead of your furniture
Inappropriate chewing can be very irritating to us humans,
because it can be very expensive and besides, no one
likes to come home to find his favorite pair of shoes mangled
almost beyond recognition.
Chewing inappropriate objects is the result of either boredom,
(when the dog is hankering for something to do in her most
active periods, she cant curl up with a good mystery novel or
go down to the club for a quick game of racquetball)
or lack of proactive chew toy training and the lack of appropriate
objects to chew. (Sometimes a dog will have been given appropriate
objects to chew, but wont have been taught that those
are the objects her owner would like her to chew, or wont
have been taught to love to chew those objects.)
The solution, then, is to provide the dog with some appropriate
things to chew on when she gets bored, and to teach her to love
to chew on those objects, rather than the couch or the dining
room chair legs.
The first step is environmental enrichment providing
lots of fun and "legal" things for the dog to do when hes
alone and feeling active. The best kinds of chewing objects
are indestructible, hollow, and sterile, like large sterilized
bones and tough rubber chew toys. These chew toys can be stuffed
with treats and kibble (your dogs daily ration) making
them the best available chewing objects in the house! To
increase the value of the chew toys, you must at first feed
the dog all of his daily food ration in stuffed toys. Yes,
we mean every meal! Several stuffed chew toys in the morning
and evening will help the dog to settle quietly while he
works for his meals (something dogs were, after all, designed
to do), and, at the same time, learn to love his proper chew
The easiest way to stuff chew toys is to do it in assembly
line fashion: stuff enough for an entire day or two and freeze
them. Stuff a bit of cheese or freeze dried liver into the
small hole in the Kong or the very middle of a long hollow
bone. Then pack the rest with moistened kibble and perhaps
a few treats. See Open Paws Chew Toy Stuffing article for more info. Make
it so that some treats will fall out easily as soon as the dog
starts chewing (so that she gets it right away),
while others are harder to remove and require more active
chewing. You should show your dog what to do with the chew
toy by rolling or shaking it at first so that some kibble
comes out. Then praise her when she chews on the toy.
When you get home in the evening, have your dog fetch his
chew toy and bring it to you, whereupon you pop the cheese
or liver out of the treat. Wow! Your dog has been trying
to do that all day long. Your dog will learn the thing to
do is clearly to bring the treat to you when you get home;
so, when your dog begins to anticipate your return, hell
think of his chew toy and get it ready for presentation to
you. This is perfect, because when he gets excited waiting
for Mom or Dad to get home, he already has the appropriate
excitement-relieving activity right there in his mouth.
Step two is to manage the situation until the dog has developed
a full-blown chew toy addiction. (Retraining your dog to
have a good chew toy habit may take several months.) Set
up short term and long term confinement areas in which the
only available things to chew on are the chew toys youve provided, stuffed
with breakfast or dinner. This is a self-teaching arrangement.
Once youve set up the environment properly, the dog will
learn to love the chew toys, and to seek them out when shes
feeling active and needs something to do. A long term confinement
area (mainly for pups) will have a warm and comfy bed, fresh
water, a potty area (if the dog is not yet housetrained) in
the furthest spot from the bed, a variety of stuffed chew toys,
and a complete lack of illegal chew toys. A short-term
confinement area will be a den (crate) or a tie down on a
dog bed, provided with a stuffed chew toy to chew on. Dogs
rarely chew inappropriate objects in front of their owners,
but you can use the short-term confinement area occasionally
so that you may witness your dog chewing her chew toy, and
praise and reward her for it.
For more on long-term and short-term confinement, see our "Errorless Housetraining" page.
Its Still Not Working?
The most likely problem is that your dog is still
getting food out of a bowl. Naughty owner! Your dog should
be eating only out of chew toys and as a reward in training
sessions, especially while you’re trying to housetrain. Take away
your dog’s food bowl and, if necessary, wait him out
for a few days—eventually he’ll likely get hungry
and begin to be intrigued by the chew toys. This process
works faster if no other food is offered.
If you’re not feeding out of a bowl, but your dog
still won’t chew her stuffed toys, try switching to
a different toy. Some dogs love Kongs, the Squirrell Dude
and other stuffed rubber toys, but don’t like Molecule
Balls or Buster Cubes as much; other dogs are the complete
opposite: loving “puzzle” toys but less interested
in Kongs or Big Kahunas.
may also be making the stuffed toy too difficult to “unpack.” If
your dog is starting out, she may need an easier-to-decipher
chew toy, packed with loose kibble and sweetened with something
especially yummy at the end. If you’re coming home
to empty chew toys but ruined shoes and furniture, on the
other hand, you need to make the chew toys more challenging!
Try stuffing bones into the end of the Kongs to “block” the
entrance and make them more difficult to unpack, or hiding
the chew toys for your dog to search out.
Click here for a printable PDF version
of this article.