Lately I’ve heard so many frustrated dog parents complain about destructive chewing and digging. I will admit that it is extremely frustrating. I’ve been through it with one of my dogs. When he was younger, he would dig up sprinkler lines and proudly sling it all over the yard. It’s not funny or cute when a sprinkler or piece of furniture is chewed and damaged and holes are dug in your yard. All of this damage really adds up and can get very expensive!
What are the common factors that these destructive behaving dogs have in common?
- They are adolescents – the human equivalent of teenagers. Depending on the size of your dog, adolescence can begin as early as 6 months and end as late as 2 years. That’s a long time!
- They are working dog breeds or a mix of working dogs. Many dogs are not sufficiently stimulated physically and mentally. This causes a tremendous amount of frustration for the dog. If the dog continues to lack in sufficient stimulation, many undesirable behaviors may manifest. Some of these behaviors include but are not limited to: chewing, continuous barking, tail chasing, digging, excessive licking, and reactivity/aggression due to fear and/or anxiety. A dog simply cannot be left to entertain and teach themselves. Just like a child, we cannot expect dogs to miraculously understand right from wrong nor can we expect them to come to us trained. That is our responsibility.
- The dog hasn’t had any training.
How can I make the destruction stop?
- Keep an eye on your dog. Never leave him unattended. When you catch him chewing, don’t yell at him. Give him a safe chew toy to chew on. Make it one he really likes. By giving him an alternative, you are showing him what is acceptable to chew. You must do this every time and be consistent. ALL household members must cooperate and be consistent as well.
- Do a little research and get creative. Although you may not know the breed of your dog, they all have one thing in common – their strong sense of smell. A dog has 220 million or more olfactory receptors (for smell) while a human has only about 5 million. For this reason, nose games are a very good way to satisfy one of their instinctual urges and satisfy their boredom. Easy DIY nose games can be found by doing a Google search.
- Train your dog in basic obedience. I always say, “If you don’t train ‘em, don’t blame ‘em.”’ Like I said before, you can’t expect your dog to automatically know what you want just because you say it. Dogs love to work for you and please you. That’s what they were bred for! By teaching them what you want them to do, you are building communication and a strong bond between the two of you and building your dog’s self-confidence.
Spend time with your dog(s) daily. They deserve your attention just like one of your family members. Respect their needs and try to understand what they are trying to tell you. No dog means to be naughty. They just need guidance and a little of your time.
*NOTE: If your dog is unresponsive to these techniques or you don’t feel comfortable implementing them, contact a trainer who is familiar with behavior modification in dogs. Do NOT attempt to do anything that will jeopardize your safety.