The Dog That Chews When Left Alone
Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. They
use their mouths to explore the environment
in the same way that humans use their hands
as investigative tools. Irksome and sometimes
expensive destructive chewing usually takes
place when the owner is not with the dog.
Therefore, correction when the dog starts
or is in the act is impossible. The chewing
can then become a compulsive behavior when
the dog is lonely, bored, stressed or anxious.
THE LONELY DOG is one that is left alone
for long periods of time in an unstimulating
environment. These dogs chew out of boredom.
To remedy the situation several things are
in order. First off, provide your dog with
a place that he can have all to himself.
Dogs possess a denning instinct; let it work
for you. The best way to confine a dog is
with a steel wire kennel crate. [see ASPCA
publication "A Pet Owner's Guide to
the Crate"] A small bathroom or a kitchen
area will not do, as the dog will have to
share this space with you when you are home.
In addition there are many chewable objects
in these rooms including flooring and cabinetry.
Confine the dog whenever you are unable to
supervise his activity. Leave him with a
couple of "acceptable chewies".
ACCEPTABLE CHEWIES are toys that are not
easily consumed, ones that may change their
form as the dog gnaws at them. Nylabones,
raw beef marrow or soup bones, large rawhide
knots all become more interesting to the
dog as he works on them; the chewing action
creates all sorts of lumps and depressions
that keep most canines enraptured for hours.
Old shoes, towels, scrap wood, phonebooks
are not acceptable chew toys. Dogs cannot
differentiate between old shoes and new shoes,
or scrap wood from kitchen cabinetry. Don't
confuse your dog by giving him anything that
may be mistaken for a forbidden object.
When you are ready to leave the house put
the dog in his confinement area with a couple
of chewies and go. No long, sloppy good-byes,
no pleading or threatening gestures, just
a cheery "see you later", that's
all. No, the dog does not remain in the crate
for hours on end for the rest of his life.
The crate is a training tool. For the first
two weeks the dog cannot be allowed any unsupervised
time. Put him in his crate each and every
time that he is left alone. Do not give him
an opportunity to chew a forbidden object
without receiving a correction. Starting
with the third week, put the dog in his area
with the door open and leave for about twenty
minutes. If you return home to any destruction
your dog is probably not bored and lonely,
but anxious about being separated from you.
THE ANXIOUS DOG is one who suffers from feelings
of social isolation. Dogs are pack animals
and many do not take it very well when they
are left on their own to "defend their
territory". There is safety in numbers
for pack oriented animals, and what the anxious
dog needs is a secure and comfortable place
to stay when he is left behind. Introduce
the dog to the area in a positive manner.
Never use a crate for punishment. This is
your dog's den - he should be happy and secure
when he's inside. As with the lonely dog,
there should be no long, emotional good-byes.
However, before you leave his chew toy with
him in his crate, rub the toy between your
palms. This action imparts your scent to
the toy and tends to focus the dog on this
object rather than something else.
Excellent results have been obtained by using
the following exercise to reorient the dog's
chewing habits. Take away all of the dog's
former chewies, and replace them with a meat
scented nylon bone (Nylabone is one such
toy). Make this bone the focus of a fetch
and play session at least twice a day. The
combination of the owner's scent with the
meat scent makes it an appealing object on
which to chew. Since the toy bone has no
become the focus of intense interaction between
the dog and the owner, the vast majority
of dogs will aim their chewing at it.
As with the lonely dog, the anxious dog should
be confined to his crate for the first two
weeks. Beginning with the third week, leave
the dog in his crate with the door open for
a period of time not to exceed twenty minutes.
If you return home to any signs of destruction,
shorten the length of time that you are gone
until you arrive at a time span that is successful.
From that point on, SLOWLY increase the length
of time that you are gone until you have
reached your goal. If at any time, you come
home to destruction, go backward in time
at least two steps and maintain that time
frame for at least a week; then proceed with
the schedule as planned.
Every new puppy or dog owner should expect
a certain amount of destruction from curiosity-based
or tension-relieving oral tendencies of the
pet. The solution to the problem lies in
removing the environmental cause and guiding
the dog towards the appropriate objects to
chew. The above-mentioned preventive and
corrective approaches will help to minimize
and ultimately solve the problem while allowing
the dog to develop a healthy relationship
with you, the owner.