Redirection of Your Dog’s Chewing

Interruption and Redirection of Your Dog’s Chewing

To teach your dog good chewing habits when she’s not crated, you need to be there to let her know it’s not okay to chew on some things, like shoes, chairs, and sofas, but that it is okay to chew on other things, like her toys, rawhides, and marrowbones. If you’re not around to direct her, she’s going to experiment and chew on whatever looks, smells, and feels good at the moment.

Timing Is Everything

The best time to interrupt your dog from chewing inappropriate items is before he starts, when he’s thinking about grabbing something he shouldn’t. The surprise of a shaker bottle landing right next to him every time he’s reaching for a shoe might be enough to convince him that shoes just aren’t safe to chew; you want him to think bad things happen just when you think about chewing them. The beauty is, you get to be his savior (“Poor puppy! What happened?”) as you occupy him with something else. Of course, every dog is different, so his object of desire and your intervention technique may vary. As often as possible, the intervention should occur before or as he picks up a forbidden item.

If you catch your dog chewing something illegal, try to restrain yourself from charging your dog and swooping in to snatch the forbidden treasure from him. You will certainly startle him, and maybe even frighten him, but probably not into dropping his booty. Instead, he’ll probably become protective of his stolen treasure and will run away with it, threaten you to keep it, or both, setting up a vicious cycle of stealing.

If you walk in on him when he’s already chewing something he’s not allowed to, startle him with one of your aversives (even a magazine tossed in his direction might work in a pinch), and immediately redirect him. If you find the remains of something he chewed, it’s too late. He’s already gotten his reward just by getting away with it, and there’s nothing you can do to take that memory away. What you can do is manage him and the environment so he can’t repeat it.

Don’t Do This! Don’t Do That! And Don’t Do That, Either!

You can’t just keep telling your dog what not to do. Dogs don’t understand what not to do at all. However, they can understand doing something else instead of what they’re doing now. If your dog is in a major chewing phase (it waxes and wanes a bit through adolescence), do stop her from chewing inappropriately, but always follow up with redirecting her energy and focus, if not her chewing. She really isn’t trying to drive you batty, but if she’s constantly grabbing household items to chew, then she has needs (chewing and exercise, especially) that aren’t being addressed properly.

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