Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Problems of destructive chewing
Chewing is a common problem and again a frequent question is how do you stop a dog destroying your house. Dogs chew for many reasons and the obvious one is when they are teething. For this it is wise to purchase only good quality rubber toys that your dog’s teeth will not destroy. Those with squeakers inside are fun but could end up inside your dog. If it is possible for dogs to chew chunks off them then get something else. It may be that you see the bits on the floor but some maybe digested and could form a serious blockage. Why not ask your vet for advice on any products he recommends depending on your type of dog. Do be careful not to give old slippers, toys and similar items as the dogs do not understand between those you give to play and destroy against those around the house that you do not wish destroyed. It is not easy for the dog to know the difference between the old children’s toys it can have to the new children’s toys it cannot. It is also dangerous should a child try to get it back. Uncooked knucklebones are good for teething though my dogs loved the shoulder blade ones. They would chew on those for hours but it did jar my nerves when they chewed leg bones. (The times I have shouted ‘get that bone out of here’). Beware of cooked bones and others that splinter so try the rawhide types. These are very popular as they are clean but I was amazed how little time it took my dogs to make them disappear completely when they want to. You do seem to find them all over the place and down the backs of chairs.
Some chewing is for reducing tension, plain boredom, and separation anxiety, just wanting attention for you to play or even a medical or dietary problem. Chewing also releases endorphins that desensitises the dog to pain so it does become a very enjoyable pastime. Dogs even enjoy defecation, urination, regurgitating food for second helpings and even to chewing their own legs, as it is pleasurable, rewarding or fulfils a need. Try to imagine just lying around your house with a furniture leg that is just so handy to get those teeth round. (Heavenly bliss) No matter what ever we think there is no spitefulness intended when your dog urinates, defecates or destroys your property yet we assume this is the case and we show our anger. I am sorry but dogs have no idea that your anger has anything to do with past offences and any show of anger will only be non productive. (Purchase a Roger Mugford brick and kick this instead).
If you can catch your dog just about to close its teeth round the table leg then a firm ‘no’ or alternatively a handy cushion or tin with pebbles in it thrown as if from no where and for you to pretend it did not come from you may suffice but it is not the whole answer. (Beware if it sees you throw it as your dog may think this is a new game)
How do we stop this is. Again, can we have a quick fix and I have to say no. Remember the bitter apple that you can place on the table leg and will stop your dog chewing it. How about a water pistol, which is a small version of the bucket of water but some dogs, thinks this is a game. How about the use of radio-controlled collars, which eject a harmless spray to stop the dog from carrying on its bad habit for a moment (not electric collars please) How about the dog stop sound alarm to stop it in its tracks. The problem is with these you must be present and they are simply moving the problem onto something else. What we need is to treat the reason for the problem.
By now, are you saying ‘I only bought a dog as a pet and companion and now I have to learn all this stuff’. You have to admit a dog is a responsibility with so many potential pitfalls. Mind you, the rewards are countless.
Many dogs must need to remain at home for short or long periods. Some are outside and some have the run of the house. Do not expect when you leave a dog home alone that it stops thinking. Particularly as a puppy, it needs to explore and learn in order to survive. Remember dogs are social animals so finding it becoming a loaner is very hard and upsetting. It sees forced loneliness as a punishment. What has it done wrong? Also remember as kids we were told we don’t look with our hands (or teeth in the case of dogs) Look at any dog in play where chasing, chewing, tugging ripping and wrestling are the normal play and we know why as this is instinct teaching them how to catch food and survive in the wild. In a house, the other week the dog had its own cushion that it could bite into it and obviously enjoyed violently shaking it about. From the cushion it then graduated to the settee, chairs, curtains, table clothes were all torn apart. For the dog, this was great fun but not for the owners return. The fault was to let the dog have the cushion in the first place and to watching the dog enjoy itself the owners considered this play funny. Permission granted.
How many people purchased a puppy and arranged their holidays to coincide with its entry into the house. What is wrong with that? It is fine providing you teach the dog that after this active two weeks to also expect periods of being on its own and that this is not any chastisement. What normally happens when the holidays are at an end and all of a sudden, one Monday morning with the close of the door leads to silence for hours with the owner gone where? Imagine what must go through the dogs mind in those days until it learns that this is normal. Many can adjust but some have bitten the owner’s legs trying to stop them leave or some bark forever. (There is little effort expended here so they can keep it up for days) Others become frightened and timid while many just take the place apart and in particularly areas around the door trying to get out. Some even defecate or urinate from the stress of loneliness or just for attention. The answer to why they do this is if you think about it you have trained it with ‘good boy’ during house training so it wants to please you in the hope you will return. Some become frightened of noises it cannot see like when the refuse truck turns up or the post etc but these are not so applicable to Spain. Never the less we seem always surrounded by the sound of building work noises that start on the Monday morning. (Do you remember your first Monday morning on holiday when woken up by building work)
In this early-unsupervised period for puppies, they can learn from instinct what we consider bad habits or at least habits that are annoying. How often have you heard one dog bark in an area then they all start? Dogs learn to guard and become aggressive or take to renovating your house, garden or car if left in that. Some become more timid becoming frightened bitters. Fences not only keep dogs in but passers by out and seeing them go by is like having chased them away so building the dogs confidence in its self as a guarder of the pack. Do be careful of leaving dogs in compounds for a long time. If you have ever been to a zoo and seen an animal just wander back and forth all day long. This common compulsive disorder can also affect penned dogs as well.
The answer to all this is the same for having to retrain dogs that have already formed such bad habits. When you are on this holiday, teach your dog that there are going to be periods when you will go away and leave your dog on its own. After a long walk and after its morning meal let it rest and for you to go outside and come back in via the French windows or any other opening. On your return, do not make a fuss but after a short while if it is awake call it with come and lots of praise. Build the time delays up like let the dog sleep while you work in the garden. Teach the commands of stay, come, speak, and quiet during this time, as you will find this of great help. Leave music playing (Boney M may prove popular) or the television on. If you can, record a long play tape of the normal sounds of an occupied house then when you go out leave this playing for your dog. Do not make any fuss or make a routine about going out through the door and closing it. Go out then come straight back in again. Make closing the door and subsequent return a non-event. Now ask yourself what do you do when you go out and leave your dog and your treatment on your return. We are not going out leaving granny and saying ‘by, don’t worry we will be back soon’. If you go out the front door leave the French windows open, if you have any, so your dog can get to you from another exit until such time both are shut because you have gone further away. If you only have one door you cannot do this but in all cases when you leave, stay away a short distance to see if it starts to bark or whine. If it does go back in but ignore the dog and go back to short exits and entrances. Take the dog for a short work for no reason or any benefit to you or your dog so going out is not always a reward. Returning to the house and fussing the dog will only reinforce that barking or whining will make your return imminent. Make the sound of the car going away and returning a similar non-event. If you can try to keep the car away from the house as far as possible as driving off will indicate a long period of being alone. Other occasions put the dog in the back of the car travel a short journey and return without any stop or any apparent benefit of the trip for anybody. Just a tip to help, give your dog a lovely bone then after a short while take it for a car trip without the bone. It will look forward to coming home. If the dog thinks that car trips are leading to some fun, it will not like left at home. We are very lazy at times and often take the dog in the car to an exercise area with its reward being cleansing itself and the opportunity to play. Do you not even encourage the dog by your voice that you going for a walk. This reinforces the dog into the belief that car trips are exciting because of what will follow and this can lead onto problems of dogs barking in the back of the car.
Catching a dog chewing is not easy but if you leave it alone it is impossible. The answer is to make your dog accustomed to periods of being on its own and you must train your dog that you will always come back. Chewing is a normal aid towards healthy teeth and gums so provide the appropriate chews and dog toys and give a reward with play and praise when they use them. If your dog learns to accept this, you will be unlikely to end up with a destructive chewer.
This week chewing has taken up the entire article but next week following a barking item some weeks ago I have a question on barking in cars and effective travel management.
If you have any questions or queries then as before, please contact me.