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Destructive Chewing
by Tracy Atkins
Complete Canine Training
The Woodlands, Texas
281-825-6404 www.YESPUP.com

Why does my puppy chew on EVERYTHING?
Puppies chew for many reasons. The most common of which is that they are cutting new teeth. This is not only painful, but it can also feel weird to have loose teeth dangling in your mouth! Chewing on things helps sooth and loosen the gums around the teeth (many of which are chewed and swallowed along with whatever else the puppy is chewing on!)

My dog is almost two years old and he still chews on everything!
Many dogs chew to relieve stress and anxiety. This doesn't mean you have an anxious dog it just means your dog knows that when he chews, he feels better. Chewing causes a chemical release of endorphins which actually sooth and calm your dog. This is very good because it means that he will be less anxious when he is with you!

You mean chewing is good?
YES! It helps reduce plaque on teeth and gums, keeps teeth strong, releases stress, and it is the easiest dog behavior to channel! We congratulate people with chewers they got lucky with a dog that likes to chew! Now all they have to do is channel that Destructive Chewing into Constructive Chewing. Simply teach your dog that he can't chew on your stuff, but he can chew on his!

But this destructive chewing is costing me an arm and a leg (sofa and a chair)! Where do I start?
Start by getting six toys for the dog to chew on they should be of different varieties. We suggest the following choices: tennis ball, rope toy, Nylabone (original), Gummabone (transparent color), Kong (black variety for atomic chewers), Planet Pet Flying saucers (black variety), Sterilized Beef Bone (avoid the butcher bones.) If you must supply your dog with rawhide, purchase only the "compressed rawhide" variety. Regular "knotted" rawhide (the kind we see everywhere) do not break down in the intestinal tract and can cause serious stomach and intestinal problems.

My dog has tons of toys and he stills chews on everything!
Most dogs can't discriminate between what is "yours" and what is "theirs" until they are trained! Start by discarding all broken or dangerous toys. Clean, disinfect and dry the remaining toys. Pick three toys and use those exclusively at first. To train a dog to play with "his" toys you must first teach him that his toys are a reward. Let him make the association that you approve of the toys by playing with them and the dog.

Teach my dog toys are good? Shouldn't he know that already?
Well, yes and no. First off, dogs that are destructive chewers think that everything is a toy! What we must do is teach him that toys are special and very different from a sofa leg for example. One neat way to do this is to play with the dog using "his" toys. In this way, he associates fun with you, with fun with his toys. This increases the likelihood that he will play with his toys when you are not around. Allowing him to associate food with "his toys" is another good way to curb destructive chewing. Simply fill a hollow toy with low fat, low sodium peanut butter or low fat cream cheese. Allow the dog to lick out the filling and each time he licks - instant reward - Food!

What kind of toys could I fill and what else can I put in a toy?
We recommend using Kong, Planet Pet or Sterilized Beef Bones because they are dog-safe, hollow and can be easily filled. You can fill a toy with anything your dog likes. If your dog loves ice, put in a bit of peanut butter to seal any holes in the toy. Fill with water, freeze and presto - a true pupcicle! Or you might fill it with canned dog food and freeze it. Or you might just stuff it with puppy biscuits or small raw carrots. Be sure to clean and disinfect the toy after use! (Most toys are dishwasher safe for a thorough cleaning!)

What if he's chewing on my furniture? What then?
This is where owner responsibility comes in. You as the owner, must accept responsibility for teaching the dog what to chew on. But remember that it's easier (and more pleasant) to reward your dog frequently, rather than punish him frequently! This means removing valuable or important items from his reach. Either put those things away or keep the dog confined when you are not watching him. Deterrents like Grannic's Bitter Apple® for Furniture or Tabasco Sauce® can be helpful in reducing destructive chewing, but they aren't a cure for destructive chewing and shouldn't replace good supervision.

What if I actually catch him "actively" chewing on my things?
Keep it simple! Make a noise "Aght" to startle him, then give him something he can chew on. When he chews on his "approved" toys praise him with "YES, good dog!" We don't want him to learn to like negative attention so NEVER PUNISH HIM BY HITTING OR YELLING!

But I want him to understand never to touch my things. How will he learn if I don't discipline him?
Most dogs will outgrow misbehavior when it isn't allowed to develop. (In fact, if your dog doesn't develop any major behavior problems by the age of two, he probably never will!) Very simply put, dogs are reward based creatures. Dogs will stop behaviors that do not earn them reward, but will CONTINUE behaviors that do earn them reward. You don't have to punish your dog to teach him not to chew! Discipline is what we resort to when we haven't taken the time to train properly.

When to dispose of dead toys and replenish them:

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