Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Help! My Dog is Chewing my Furniture, Eating my Shoes, and Teething all over my Hands!

So you've identified the problem.  Here's the thing, dogs need to chew.  It's good for their teeth and gums.  As a dog owner, it is important to provide chew toys and and clear, consistent indication of which things are okay to chew and which are not.

Let's talk about what it must be like to be a dog.  It is important to think about this if you plan to train your dog to do or not do anything.  Imagine for a moment that you have been introduced to a new life in someone's home indefinately.  The people in this home are of a completely different culture and speak a language that is completely unintelligeable.  Their customs are strange and you are unable to mimic their ways or really figure out what they want from you.  All you know is that sometimes they seem happy with you, sometimes they seem upset, sometimes they ignore you, sometimes they smother you, etc.  This is what it's like for your dog.  The more you help your dog understand the rules of his or her new world, the easier it will be for both of you.  Try to show more than tell, and keep your telling short and consistent.  One word commands are the best.

If you have a puppy, your puppy will need to chew to alleviate the discomfort of teething.  Those little pirana teeth are sharp and destructive.  It will take a puppy about ten seconds to damage anything it decides to chew on.  Watch your puppy as much as possible and listen for chewing sounds while you're not watching.  Puppy or no, the more you pay attention to what your new dog is doing, the better.  They will need little supervision once they learn the house rules.  Osa likes to sleep with shoes, which she is allowed to do now that she doesn't try to eat them.

To correct the misplaced chewing habit, follow these steps:

1. As soon as you catch your dog chewing on something he or she should not be chewing on, you must stop him or her imediately.  This is best done with a firm "no".  Please note that a whiny "no" does not work on dogs (or children).  Bark it out if you have to.  Think drill sergeant.  It doesn't have to be loud, just firm.  A little flick on the nose can help get your point across, too.  Anything more than that is not necessary and potentially considered abusive.

2. Take away whatever your dog is chewing on.  You can show it to him or her and repeat your "no" command if you wish.  If it is something like furniture, just remove your dog from the area.  It's good to have a strategically located dog bed or other safe area for your dog to go when it's time to relax.

3. Imediately, replace the incorrect chewing object with a correct one.  It is good to have an authorized chew toy on hand in every room.  I like the raw hide bones because they're good for their teeth and they don't have a strong smell or any dyes to stain my floor or my dog's teeth.  She loves them.  Some people say they're a choking hazard.  Read this article and decide for yourself.  Rope chew toys are nice.  Look for toys that are good for their teeth.  Offer it to your dog by holding it right in front of their mouth.

4. Repeat every time you catch your dog chewing on something they should not be chewing on.

Dogs are smart.  If you are consistent, your dog will figure out very quickly what kind of chewing is allowed and what kind is not.  Ideally, your dog will learn to retrieve his or her own toy when he or she wants to chew.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  What if your puppy is teething all over your hands and feet?  Often, puppies don't realize they're hurting you.  If the above doesn't work, try yelping or howling like your dog would if something were to bite him or her.  If that doesn't stop it, there is one more trick.  When my dog was a puppy, she was stubborn about teething on my hands.  I put her down on her side on the floor the way another dog would and held her there by the loose skin of the neck area.  I then proceded to hold up her paw where she could see it and slowly compress it between my teeth...much to her surprise.  Needless to say, that got the point across.  I didn't bite her hard and I only had to do it twice before she never bit me again.

There is plenty of leather and wooden furniture and several people's shoes within reach at any given time.  There was but one pair of slippers that did not survive unscathed, but to be fair they looked like her stuffed animals, which are fair game.

...forgot to mention that one table.  For some reason, the iron table was the only thing she would not give up on.  A little hot pepper juice rubbed on there cured that.  Two tries and she mysteriously lost interest.


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