Ok, what was it? What was it that your dog destroyed that prompted you to read this post? Was it a new pair of shoes, your nice leather couch, or maybe kid’s homework (I know it’s a cliché but hey, it happens). All dogs chew – you’re never going to stop that. What we need to do is make sure we teach your dog to chew on the appropriate things and not on all that other stuff.
The big reasons for chewing are boredom, insufficient exercise and lack of supervision. Lack of exercise and boredom go hand in hand, are the easiest to cure. Unfortunately, most of us greatly underestimate the amount of exercise our dogs need and assume that our dogs should be content to just do nothing while we’re at work all day.
Here’s my simple advice that I want you to really pay attention to: How every long you’re currently exercising your dog, do more. And if you don’t provide your dog something constructive to do, he will be more than happy to find something destructive to do.
Everyone always asks me, “When is it the right time to leave my dog unattended loose in the house?” The simple truth is that there really is no exact moment when your dog is ready- you just take a leap of faith and give it a try.
When many people decide that today is the day to leave their dogs out of their crates and unsupervised for the first time, they wake up as if it were any other work day, take their pooch out for a quick five to ten minute walk, pat them on the head, walk out the door, and hope for the best. Hope alone can only take you so far, though, and doing it this way makes it very difficult for the dog to do the right thing.
Leaving your dog in your home with nothing to do after he just wakes up and is chock-full of energy is pretty much guaranteeing that he will eat the couch. In hoping that Fido will figure it all out by himself (especially if he was never really taught how to behave in the house), the owner is really setting him up to fail.
Instead, what you should do is run your dog around like hell, getting him nice and tired. Then, give him something to do right as you leave, like a Kong filled with goodies (I even recommend feeding the dog his breakfast in four or five frozen Kongs – mix dry food with peanut butter and throw it in the freezer overnight). This way, he’s occupied during the time when he’s most likely to get into trouble (the first thirty minutes after you leave). Initially only leave him alone for only about an hour.
Now, he’s tired and doesn’t have as much energy to get into mischief, and he’s got something productive to do for a while (the Kong mixture should be supervised at first to make sure it takes him long enough to get through, but not too long that he loses interest). Plus, he’s only being left alone for a short period of time. Doing it this way is setting him up to succeed, and if he’s good, we’re establishing good habits. When he succeeds, we gradually expand the amount of time he is left alone in the house.
Before you leave the house, you must do a sweep of the rooms the dog will have access to, making sure there are not obvious temptations. Dogs are quite resourceful when properly motivated, and they have been known to climb cabinets, open cupboards and scale walls. So it’s important not to forget something like the frozen hunk of meat defrosting for dinner on the countertop.
In addition, make sure the dog has plenty of appropriate chew toys to occupy his time. I recommend keeping a few of the dog’s favorite toys tucked away, and bring them out only when you’re leaving. This way, the toys are fresh and exciting, instead of the same old toys that have been laying on the floor for the last month. All this set’s your dog up to succeed and you’re creating great habits through repetition.
What are some of the worst things your dog has chewed up?