Dogs are not fussy eaters, so sometimes we have to step in and show them that their chosen snack isn’t a good choice. Twigs are one such morsel; they're a choke hazard, and they can splinter, causing cuts to the mouth. Break your dog from eating twigs using gentle training.
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Use chew toys during play and for reward. For example, when praising your dog for good behavior, give him a squeaky bone. He’ll associate the toy with the unbridled joy of receiving your approval. Encourage him to chew it by placing it in his mouth.
Encourage appropriate chewing at all times. Leave lots of chew toys around the house and if you spot him playing with one, fuss and praise him. The trick to discouraging unwanted behavior is to provide a much more appealing alternative.
Give your dog chew toys when he goes for walks. Praise him and give him physical fuss for as long as he holds the toy in his mouth.
Leash your dog and walk him to an area where he is likely to find lots of tasty twigs. Give him lots of fuss and praise along the way. This is a positive stimulus for the dog. By giving praise and fuss now, you can "take away" praise and fuss when he's naughty.
Guide him to wooded area and wait for him to discover twigs. Allow him to explore, but as soon as he attempts to pick up a twig, cease praising him and gently tug the leash and say, "No.” The tug is for distraction only, not as a means of punishment.
Drop a chew toy in front of him. If he picks it up, give lots of verbal praise and fuss. If he ignores it, gently tug the leash to get his attention, then put the toy in his mouth. Due to the play exercises you’ve already done, he’ll have a positive association with the toy and is likely to want to chew it.
Give lots of praise while he has the chew toy in his mouth. With sufficient repetition, your dog will learn that picking up twigs results in the praise and fuss he was enjoying being taken away and that picking up chew toys has the opposite result. Over time, he’ll build negative associations with the twigs and further positive associations with the toy. Eventually, he’ll learn to seek the positive outcome of praise by ignoring the twigs.
Test him regularly. Leave twigs in the garden where he’ll find them and then let him out to stretch his legs. Give him lots of praise while he is ignoring the twigs. If he begins to show an interest in them, call his name to distract him, walk toward him and drop a chew toy at his paws.
- Keep your yard clear of twigs. The "out of sight, out of mind" policy works great with dogs.
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.