How To Stop Unwanted Chewing
How do I stop my dog from chewing my Shoes, Chair, Blinds, Table or ______? (You fill in the blank) In my case, it was the wall. I'm not kidding - when she wasn't stealing the cats' toys, the little girl pictured above loved to chew holes in the wall.
Chewing is natural behavior for a dog - it helps them keep calm. When a dog gets anxious, such as when the owners are gone, it may resort to tearing up the sofa just to calm its nerves.
Most people I see try to solve this problem by giving the dog a huge selection of toys, hoping that the dog will chew on these and leave the inappropriate things alone. In my opinion this only reinforces to the dog that everything is a chew toy, so it learns nothing from this.
So how do we stop unwanted chewing? Here's the process I use:
While at home, place the dog in a space where it has no access to the inappropriate items, like a small room or a crate, with one freshly stuffed KONG* and nothing else. After about 30 minutes or so, let the dog out and spend 5 - 10 minutes playing tug or other games with a chew toy of your choice. Place the dog back in the crate with a freshly stuffed KONG (Don't forget potty breaks). What we are doing here is developing a chew toy habit. Every dog is different in how long it takes to get the picture, but most catch on pretty quickly. When the dog is not confined to its crate or room and you notice it playing with the toy, you should lavish praise and give a treat to let the dog know that this is great behavior. If you do catch it chewing on something you don't want it to, replace that item with the appropriate toy.
Once your dog has developed a great chew toy habit, the house should be safe from further destruction, and you will know your dog is at home happy and content.
*When using a KONG, I mix wet and dry dog food together, fill the cavity most of the way, then seal it closed with peanut butter and place it in the freezer. (If you don't use wet food, you can just moisten the dry kibble with water instead.) The frozen food takes longer to get at, thus making the chewing and licking last longer. Just don't forget that this food counts towards your dog's daily requirement - I'm not advocating over-feeding! Some people only feed their dog via the KONG - they believe that a dog working for its food is much more beneficial than just getting it for free.