Chewing is a natural dog behavior. Anyone who has owned a puppy knows they have a drive to chew on anything. But if your adult dog is chewing your stuff, you can have a very expensive dog behavior problem.

The key to getting your dog to stop chewing your stuff is to teach him to chew on his stuff.  So, to deal with a dog that chews, teach an alternative behavior. If you own a puppy, start teaching early to avoid chewing problems in your adult dog.

  1. Start by teaching your dog the difference between his stuff and your stuff. When he grabs something of yours and begins to chew, give a simple, non-emotional “No. Off.” Do not yell. Remove the object and replace your object with something that is OK for him to chew. “But I’ve done that,” you may be saying. “And it doesn’t work.” The secret is to not make a big fuss over the puppy or dog chewing the wrong thing, but make a big fuss over the puppy or dog chewing the RIGHT thing. Never, never hit a dog for chewing an inappropriate item. The more emotion and interest you put on the wrong item, the more interesting it is to the puppy or dog.
  2. Set your dog or puppy up to succeed, not fail. Puppy- and dog-proof your house until they learn not to chew your stuff. If you leave shoes, tv remotes, kid’s toys all over the place before the puppy or dog understands not to touch, then you are continually setting the dog up to fail and you are consistently promoting learned behavior you do not want.
  3. Chewing is a way for dogs to burn off energy. Take a good look at how you are managing your dog’s energy. If you don’t walk your dog and the only way the dog gets rid of it’s energy is by playing in the back yard or being rowdy in the house then you can expect out of control behavior. If your dog uses up his energy outside with no one to supervise behavior, the dog does not know that the outside behavior is not OK inside. Walking is important to dogs, because it is a great way to constructively manage the dog’s energy AND if you do your walk correctly, a great way to practice your leadership role with your dog.
  4. Leadership role is crucial in having a well balanced dog. Lack of leadership can cause anxiety in your dog and anxiety is handled by your dog in chewing, barking etc. Chewing takes their mind off their anxiety. Being a leader to your dog also means he will obey when you tell him to let go of an object he is not allowed to chew on.
  5. Finally, make sure what you allow your dog to chew on is interesting. Dry bones will only be fun for so long.  Try a rubber toy that you can stuff with treats or keep a variety of toys and bones for your dog to choose from.

Dogs are very much like children, they have to learn to behave appropriately. Good leadership, patience and setting your dog or puppy up to be successful takes work, but in the long run a lot less work and aggravation than not teaching your dog.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2011