Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. They chew to explore. New textures and smells are intriguing and even educational to them. Without your guidance, though, your pet won’t realize the difference between your best handbag and soggy old rawhide. Fortunately, you can break chewing in a few simple steps.
Remove the temptation. Chewing is easier to prevent than to cure, so make sure anything you don’t want chewed is out of reach. This reduces your chances of becoming upset with the dog during the housebreaking stage. It also makes it easier for him to succeed.
Put the dog on a leash when he's out of his basket, crate or room, especially when housebreaking a pup. Puppies are always learning, so it’s useful to have the safety of physical restraint until they know the rules. If the pup heads toward a table leg, TV remote or cushion, gently restrain him and give the command "no."
Remove the leash and put the dog back in his basket, crate or room. Put some chew toys in with the dog. When in isolation, he will have only the option of appropriate chewing. By familiarizing your dog with these toys, you increase his chances of success when training him to make the right choice.
Encourage appropriate chewing. Dogs need to chew, especially when teething, so it’s pointless hoping to prevent all chewing. Give the dog a selection of chew toys and, as soon as he expresses an interest in one of them, issue verbal encouragement, such as “good boy!” This creates a positive association with chewing appropriate items. Use toys that are easily distinguished from inappropriate items. It’s tempting to give him an old shoe, but this may confuse the dog into thinking any shoe is OK to chew on.
Reintroduce the temptation. This is the tricky part, so be on hand to supervise. Put down an “illegal” object -- such as a bag, shoe or any item your dog has previously chewed -- near a chew toy. If the dog goes straight for the chew toy, issue praise to further reinforce the positive association with appropriate chewing. If he goes for the illegal item, distract him by calling his name.
Distract the dog to correct relapses. Some items, such as table legs and cupboard doors can’t be removed from the dog’s environment; as your dog continues to learn, he may make mistakes. Use this trick during training and to prevent future indiscretions. If the dog is chewing or even looks like he might chew inappropriately, call his name in a positive and friendly manner. There is no need to yell; just divert his attention to you.
Reward the dog as soon as he turns his focus to you. As his owner, you’ll know what motivates him. Some dogs love a food treat, while others can’t get enough of that mucky old tennis ball.
- Don't give your dog permanent access to chew toys. This may cause him to get used to chewing all the time, meaning he may turn to inappropriate objects after finishing a chew toy.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.