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Adolescent and puppy chewing can be a big problem for some owners, and it only gets worse if steps aren’t taken to help your dog understand what it is acceptable to chew on.
By adolescence, a dog is likely to have many of his adult teeth already in place, and he’s ready to test them out on everything in your house! Here is some advice from The Upward Dog on how to keep your home intact, despite the adolescent dog’s efforts!
Why is he chewing?
Before embarking on any plans to stop the dog chewing, we need to work out why he does it in the first place. It most commonly starts when the dog is teething, from around four months of age for most breeds, and is used as a way of helping the loose teeth fall out. From the root of ‘necessity’, it can turn into a habit, usually due to our reaction, when he chews something.
Other common causes of chewing include:
- Boredom – young dogs can often get bored, as they have high-energy and a desire for constant stimulation!
- Attention seeking – the more dramatic attention (e.g. shouting) you give to your dog’s chewing, the more likely he is to continue to do it.
- Diet issues – more common than you might think: we can offer professional help with your dog’s nutrition.
- Separation issues – if your dog is only destructive when left alone, even for short periods of time, it may be due to separation anxiety, and this should be tackled with professional assistance, as it’s a serious condition that can worsen quickly, if left unchecked.
It’s worthwhile tackling the chewing problem from multiple angles, in order to find a relatively fast resolution.
Exercise the body, stimulate the mind!
Make sure that your dog has enough mental and physical stimulation.
Dependent on his age and breed, ensure that he is having sufficient exercise that will give him enjoyment through sniffing, socialising with other dogs, and general running around.
Mental exercise can be given with things like Kongs, which are toys that are filled with treats. Your dog then gets enjoyment and is tired mentally by puzzling how to remove those treats. You could also try feeding his regular meals in the garden, where he has to sniff out his breakfast! Click for ideas for Kong fillings and food foraging games.
If your dog isn’t getting sufficient nutrition from his food, he may start chewing certain things, like wood, stones or plasterboard. Every dog needs a different diet, so seek professional help from someone who has a good knowledge not only of canine nutrition, but also the diets that are on the market.
Distract or ignore
If you find something your dog has chewed, don’t show it to him or shout at him about it. If it’s already chewed, chances are he’s forgotten he did it, and will wonder why you’re waving a damaged remote control in his face! Simply clear up, ensuring the dog is somewhere else whilst you do, so that it doesn’t become a game for the dog.
If your dog is chewing something in your presence, take his favourite toy and distract him away from the object he is chewing. Don’t drop his toy and grab the object as soon as he’s distracted: this makes him think that the object he had previously was higher value than the toy, and he is likely to try to get hold of it again. It’s also unfair to drop the toy immediately as it gives him no reward for leaving the object he was chewing.
Aside from the above ideas, the following are all steps you can take to stop your dog chewing on things in the first place:
- If you can’t watch your dog, and he has a habit of chewing things, it’s a good idea to get him used to being in a crate or indoor kennel. That way, you know that he’s safe from swallowing any unfriendly objects, and your home is safe from unfriendly nibbling!
- Keep smaller objects away from your dog by putting them on high shelves.
- Make sure your dog has plenty of toys of his own to play with, so that he doesn’t play with household objects.
- Let your dog have some things that are safe and permissible for him to enjoy tearing up (cardboard boxes, for example): rather than giving him permission to do likewise to everything else in your house, it will teach him that he has his own items, which he can chew and shred.
It’s getting worse!
The attempts at chewing may get worse before they get better, but rest assured that it is extremely unlikely the chewing will stay worse, if you remain consistent in ignoring the behaviour or distracting him from engaging in it.
When you went to a toyshop as a child, and you asked for that one particular Lego kit you desperately wanted, and your parents said, “No”, what did you do? Did you just say, “Okay, fine,” and walk away? Or did you get annoyed and grumpy with your parents? Maybe have a tantrum in the middle of the store? You would only have done this, if the request had worked in the past, since if your parents never bought you anything you asked for, you’d soon have got bored of asking.
Dogs are exactly the same as the child in the toyshop. They got attention previously for chewing, and will now test boundaries, perhaps ‘upping the ante’ by chewing in your presence. But, unlike your parents who would occasionally give in and buy you a toy, you’re going to remain consistent, and the dog will eventually realise that no matter what he does, chewing no longer gets him any attention, but playing with his own toys does.
Don’t suffer in silence: chewing is a big problem for many teenage dogs, and if you feel at your wit’s end, get in touch to see how we can help.
It’s his age, so don’t get angry, get effective: use consistent, positive methods to change his habits!