Copyright © 2013, Phoenix Behavior Consulting
Most dogs, especially puppies, love to chew. It’s relaxing. It’s therapeutic. It’s a great way to pass the time while waiting for you to return home. It’s like a cigarette, or a glass of wine, or a whole almond-coconut-meringue chocolate-cream cake for humans! (Okay, that last one was MY favorite!) Many dogs HAVE to chew on something. Don’t let your dog chew on inappropriate objects. Instead, teach your dog to chew on the right things.
Throw away your dog’s food bowl. Don’t look at me like I’m from Mars when I say that. Put the food bowl away and feed your dog only in refillable toys. Examples of refillable chew toys include the world-famous Kong® toys, refillable hardened bones, the Treat Ball®, and many others. Feeding your dog in refillable toys will develop a very strong desire for chewing on the appropriate items.
There are always two steps in addressing undesirable behaviors: (1) Remove the reward of the behavior you don’t like. (2) Teach your dog the behavior you want it to do instead.
Remove the Reward of the Behavior You Don’t Like
What’s a reward for a dog? Anything the dog likes, anything the dog wants, anything the dog needs can be a reward for the behavior that preceded it. There are two ways to remove the reward: (1a) Remove the reward from the dog, OR (1b) remove the dog from the reward.
Examples of removing the reward could include, but not be limited to, the following:
1. Remove the object from your dog. In my house, the computer and electric cables are safe, the couch is safe, the pillows on the couch are safe. Rubber sandals are not. (Maybe they smell, feel, and taste too much like rubber Kong toys.) So, we keep our rubber sandals picked up and put away. Problem solved.
2. Make the forbidden object taste bad. Douse it liberally with a bitter-tasting product such as Bitter Apple or Bitter Yuck! Some people have success with hot sauce. Unfortunately, some dogs develop a liking or tolerance for these bitter products. In this case make your chair leg, for example, taste bad. Place a deliciously stuffed toy beside it. I’m of the opinion that your dog will usually prefer to chomp on the delicious toy!
3. Booby-trap the forbidden item. As an example, tie a string around the object of desire and the other end of the string to an empty beverage can or tin can. Put the can on a bookshelf or table above the forbidden item. Make sure the string is taut, not loose. Place a similar can close to the first one and balance a book or sheet of cardboard on top of the two cans. Put more empty cans or more books on top of the cardboard. Now, when your dog starts to pull and chew on the forbidden object, the whole assembly of empty metal cans comes crashing down loudly around your unsuspecting pup!
Examples of removing your dog from the reward could include the following:
1. Put your dog into its crate or playpen with a delicious chew toy to keep it occupied.
2. Put your dog into a doggy-safe room such as the laundry room or kitchen with a delicious chew toy to keep it occupied.
3. If it’s safe to do so, put your dog into the back yard. Do this only while you’re gone away from your house. Don’t banish your dog forever to the back yard because you’re too tired, busy, or lazy to train your dog. Instead, teach it to become a well behaved member of the household! If your dog is a chewer, pick up the back yard. Don’t leave garden hoses, wooden furniture, or other chewables lying around. Sprinkle the yard liberally with delicious chew toys for your dog to find. Notice I didn’t say chew toys; I said DELICIOUS chew toys!
How does removing the reward of the misbehavior teach your dog anything? If you don’t remove the reward, the behavior will not go away. Rewards reinforce or encourage the behavior to increase, to become stronger or more frequent. You have to REMOVE the reward to make the behavior go away. Remember, however, that there’s always step #2 in addressing undesirable behaviors:
Teach Your Dog the Appropriate Behavior
If you don’t want your dog to chew on your shoes, what do you want it to do instead?
How about chewing on your husband’s shoes instead of yours? (I’m joking!) How about a Kong® toy or a rawhide chew stick? If you don’t want your dog to chew on your computer cables, what do you want it to do instead? How about chewing on a Kong® toy or a rawhide chew stick? If you feed your dog only in delicious refillable toys, you will find that your dog will chew on these toys even when they’re empty!
If you need any help with chewing or any other misbehavior, call us today! WE CAN HELP!