September 25, 2006
Here's a post based on an email a caring pet parent sent me on her dog's destructive chewing. With Lea's permission, I'm sharing it with you because it has some really helpful info on how to control this behavior.
While my dog may appear well balanced and a model citizen now, this was not always the case. Those folks who knew me when he was an adolescent heard all of the stories about my mixed breed: part lab, part spawn of satan. It became a routine occurrence for people to offer me their sofas and mattresses before hauling them to the lawn, saying “I know your dog chews up furniture, so we thought you’d want a backup for next time.”
My dog did destroy 2 mattresses and 3 couches before he was 2 ½ years old, among other things. No book, furniture, or undergarment was safe. To make it worse, crating him only drove him to become more destructive. (He would scoot his crate to the window, pull in the curtains, and chew them off as far up as he could pull them in. I’d leave him with full drapes, and come home to café style curtains.)
It took a lot of research, a lot of investigation, and a lot of trial and error with our mixed up mutt, but we have finally curbed his manic destruction, and he’s been a Recovering Chewer for 3 years now. Different methods work for different modes, but let me give you these three tips that I’ve called the cure for my dog’s chewing:
- Bitter Apple Spray
Safe for use on furniture, walls, clothing, carpets - whatever your dog wants to rip to bits. The spray tastes like it sounds, and no sane dog would continue to chew after a sample of that. It’s available at your petstore, and also works to help deter dogs from licking at hot spots, or surgery sites.
- Keep your comings and goings very low key.
When you leave your dog, don’t fuss, don’t whine, don’t baby them. As a matter of fact, make it a point to ignore them for about 20 minutes before you leave the house. When you come home, instead of a dramatic return, just let them outside, and when they’ve calmed down, you can acknowledge them with a polite, “hello, fido.” Don’t make a big deal out of it, and it’s likely they won’t either.
- If your dog is chewing, your dog needs more exercise.
A tired dog is a happy dog. It sounds so simple, but it’s probably the most important factor in improving a dog’s behavior. 30-60 minutes each day of walking, running, swimming, or agility training will keep a dog from releasing his energy and frustration at the expense of your belongings. I hate to say it, but just playing a game of fetch isn’t going to cut it for most dogs, and just letting your dog outside to roam the yard isn’t going to do it either. Keep your dog’s mind and body active during exercise time, and his mind and body will be too tired to raise a ruckus when he’s left unsupervised. Even my ‘middle aged’ dog needs his fast-paced mile walk every night.
Now that we’ve gotten his ‘issues’ under control, I talk to other dog owners all the time, who say, “oh yeah, my dog did that too.” Where were they with the advice, when I needed them?
Here's a follow up to this article in More on Curing a Dog's Chewing.