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Destructive Chewing.

Dogs, and as everyone knows, puppies; frequently have problems with destructive chewing. Dogs learn about their environment predominantly through their nose and mouth. Not surprisingly, chewing is a normal part of a dog's behavior. This may be problematic, however, when the chewing is persistent or includes items such as furniture, rugs, and clothing.

There are a number of steps that may be taken to modify a dog's behavior while protecting your property. Giving your dog a safe place free of chewable items (other than dog toys) where he can stay when unsupervised is a good first step. This is particularly helpful for puppies needing time to learn appropriate behavior. This place may be part of a clean basement or a dog crate. In addition to helping control chewing, crate training is good for teaching general obedience. Puppy proofing your home should be considered, if your dog has a chewing problem. This entails the removal of items (e.g. shoes and rugs) that may be easily chewed. Exposed wires should be identified and either be removed or taped down, if they present a potential hazard.

Since dogs need to chew, they should have appropriate toys. Destructive chewers only need a few of these toys. Too many toys will make it difficult for them to discern the difference between items that are okay to chew and those that are not. Don't give your dog old shoes, clothes or socks to chew because they will likely think it appropriate to chew new shoes, socks and clothes too. There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a toy for a chronic chewer. First the toy should be durable and safe. Plush or squeaky toys are fine for most dogs, but chewers will often destroy these toys posing a potential health problem if they ingest the squeaker or other part of the toy. Hard rubber toys are often a good choice. They are fun, durable, and easy to clean.

One reason for excessive chewing is a lack of exercise or attention. Dogs are extremely social animals and if lonely will often chew due to anxiety. They may also chew if they have pent up energy. Certain dogs such as sporting and herding dogs are prone to chewing problems because they need more exercise than other dogs. If loneliness or excessive energy is a problem for your dog, try playing with your dog more often. If this is not possible, consider doggy day care, or a dog walker to help keep your dog active during the day.

Additional ways to keep your dog from chewing other objects includes spraying them with bitter apple or a hot sauce. Bitter apple works well for wooden items. You may also cover these items or areas with foil or a thick plastic. Avoid disciplining your dog after the fact. If you return home and find destruction, disciplining your dog will only be effective if you catch him in the act. On the other hand, remember to praise your dog for chewing on the appropriate toys. Using a treat or flavor may help to encourage your dog to chew that toy. Proper training will also help control destructive chewing. Teaching your dog the "leave it" command is important. If these steps don't help to curb your dog's chewing problem you may want to consult a trainer or behaviorist.



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