Brandon McMillan's Canine Minded | How to Prevent Your Dog From Chewing Your House…
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How to Prevent Your Dog From Chewing Your House…

How to Prevent Your Dog From Chewing Your House…

Uh oh…you came home after leaving your puppy or newly adopted dog in the house for a couple hours and you find out that expensive rug that was passed down to you from your grandmother is now the dogs new favorite chew toy. Let’s face it, there’s no way around a puppy teething. It’s a stage in life they go through whether you like it or not. So the reality is you’re never gonna be able to stop them from chewing, however you can redirect their need to chew towards something they’re allowed to chew. We simply steer their need to chew toward a chewable object. Think of it as backseat driving. Telling the driver to be careful and slow down enough eventually leads to the driver slowing down and driving carefully. Of the many ways to break a dog’s chewing habit this is one of my personal favorites. Let’s break this down and save your antiques from getting destroyed.

Tools: We’re gonna need a baby gate (or two), plenty of chew toys and few household items (to be decided). I prefer natural chews (bully stick, hoof, antler, etc) but many people like stuffed toys or a tug/rope etc. Now we’re geared up let’s get started…

First thing’s first; prevention is always the best way to save your furniture from disaster. Dog proof your house as much as possible especially when bringing a new puppy in your home. Puppies are naturally destructive so preventing them from capitalizing on their natural destructive abilities is always recommended. Also I’d highly recommend keeping a close eye on your dog when they’re roaming free. Leaving every door in the house open, not keeping an eye on them and thinking they won’t go in each room to explore and chew things up is just plain irresponsible. So keeping doors shut and a baby gate up is highly recommended. Now we’ve prevented them from finding trouble, let’s teach them what to chew and what’s taboo. This exercise is a basic trial and error lesson for the dog. It’s very simple process of elimination for them to grasp. What we’re gonna do is lay down 6 objects. 3 things they CAN chew and 3 things they CAN’T chew. Maybe a stuffy, a bully stick and a rope for the “can chew” pile. And how about a remote control, a book and a shoe for the “can’t chew pile.”  We’re gonna lay out all the objects in no particular order, scattering them a foot or so apart around the area. Now…we wait. Your dog will most likely will go up to one of the objects and start chewing it. If it’s a “can chew” object we’re gonna praise, pet and allow them to chew it for a minute of two. If it’s a “can’t chew” object we need to do the following: First we reprimand by a sharp but not loud or angry “No” or “Ah, Ah” command. From there do the redirecting process where we divert them towards an object they CAN chew. Once their mouth touches the CAN chew object we once again praise, pet and allow them to chew it for a minute or two. From there we simply take it away while praising and repeat the process. Once again we we have all the objects spread out on the floor and wait. Praising and petting for the times they go for the things they can chew, and verbally reprimanding for the things they CAN’T chew followed by redirecting towards an item they CAN chew and praising. The next day we’re gonna do the same thing with different objects. Drop 3 more things on the floor they can’t chew followed by the same 3 things they can chew and so on and so forth. Everyday we’re gonna do this exercise every few hours for a good 20-30 minutes per session. It’s a simple trial and error process of elimination for the dog. Most dogs learn very quickly that going for the objects they can chew leads to reward whereas the ones they can’t chew leads to correction. A week or two or so of this process and your dog surely will begin to make the distinction between what’s acceptable to chew and what’s not.

Now, let’s discuss why this works and point out a few details here. First of all like I said in the first paragraph, prevention is the best technique by a landslide. Leaving your shoes in the middle of the living room floor when you have a 3 month old puppy running around the house is just asking for it. Keep everything that you don’t want shredded out of reach. Keep in mind it’s a great idea to section off your house when your dog is teething. This is where the baby gate(s) come in handy. Gate the house off one room at a time. Once they’ve earned the privilege of the next room, that’s when we open it up and make the section larger. Only when they fully understand what to chew and what not to chew can the entire house be free range. Also remember that dogs are trial and error creatures just like us. Anyone who disagrees is selling you something. They learn from their mistakes just like we do and want to avoid doing it wrong. They understand the simple concept of process of elimination so be sure to let them know when they were wrong and when they were right as that’s what solidify’s it in their system. When you reprimand them I need you to make sure it’s just the right tone and volume. Yelling at them is never recommended. A simple slightly elevated, stern voice is all that’s needed. Also never spend too much time on a reprimand. A second or two is all that’s needed then you wanna quickly redirect them to something they can chew. Spending too much time on a reprimand only leads to confusion and eventually them shutting down on you. Keep in mind like I said in the first paragraph there are many ways to solve a chewing problem, this is just one. If after a week of this you’re seeing no progress then moving on to another technique to break it might be an order. There is no handbook for dog training, just figuring out the equation for what works on your dog and their particular issue. With that in mind we’re simply looking for progress here. Progress is what dog training is. When we train and see no progress we move onto to another method. When we DO see progress we continue on until the issue is solved. Remember like I always say: Be consistent. Giving up on the animal is plain and simple neglect. That’s why the shelters are so full of dogs; people gave up on them. You’re the teacher so teach. Also keep in mind dog training happens at the speed of life not the speed of light. Conditioning an animal takes time. Much like we didn’t learn our times tables in a day, your dog won’t master a technique in a day. In animal training, time is often the enemy but it’s also our friend. Time is what allows the dog to retain the information for life and eventually become a well trained dog so take the time and train them. Try this out yourself and let me know how it goes. Ruff.

– Brandon

30 Comments
  • Ron
    Posted at 20:05h, 01 February Reply

    It was encouraging reading this article on chewing. Although I have been training my hound pretty close to how you suggest, I have found it’s much easier with a good amount of times to praise mixed in with a few stern NO s; during training,
    I think, for me your articles re-enforces, individuals like myself, understand that dogs or puppies have an individual personalities as we do. And, if one method doesn’t appear to work,; don’t give up on them; try something else.

    New Follower

  • kathy
    Posted at 20:46h, 01 February Reply

    Well said. And I loved the episode where you walked out of the room to get something and came back to find the puppy peed on the floor. You didn’t yell or reprimand. You just said “oh oh. did you do that. My bad. My fault” (not those exact words?) But what I liked is that you admitted it was your fault for leaving the puppy alone.

    Could you give post/blog on what to do and sometimes more importantly what NOT to do when that happens.

    • Alejandro
      Posted at 03:13h, 19 February Reply

      , I did exactly as you did Michele. I steatrd with treats so he learned the game. With articles, I let the dog have a sniff and then at first I let him watch me hide it. After one or two times of watching, he gets the idea and then I focus on that one article until he understands the name attached to it. It is a lot of fun for the dog, and such pride when they find it. Give lots of praise for a job well done. Part III: More Games To Play With Your Dog!Play The Shell Game With Your Dog Want to know how to stimulate your dog’s mind?Play games with your dog.I’ve written before about different games to play that will help keep your dog from getting bored and help to stimulate his mind. Here’s another great game to play: The Shell Game.Here’s what you’ll need:- Three small, identical buckets approximately one gallon size. Or, you can use empty coffee cans if you like.- Kibble or doggie cookies.- A leash and training collar.- One hungry puppy.Here’s what you do:Place your dog in a down-stay, in the kitchen. If you don’t know how to teach your dog to lay down and STAY DOWN until you tell him to get up, take a look at our dvd titled: How To Teach Your Dog To Hold A Down-Stay .Next, walk into your living room and place the three buckets side-by-side, with the mouth on the ground (upside down). Leave about one foot of space between each bucket. Put a doggie-cookie under one of the buckets. Now, return to your dog, give him your release command, and walk him over to the buckets. Say, Where’s the cookie? Encourage your dog to smell the buckets. When he gets excited about the bucket with the cookie under it, praise him lavishly. Then, kick the bucket over and let him get the cookie. Repeat this process by switching the bucket the cookie is hidden under. Once your dog starts to get the hang of the game, you can add more complexity by spacing the buckets further apart. You may also add more buckets. I like to teach a dog to give an active indication when he finds the bucket with the cookie such as scratching the side of the bucket, or barking. You can also teach your dog to Sit next to the bucket with the cookie. Initially you’ll find that your dog will likely go back to the previous bucket that hid the cookie. Don’t lift the bucket up until he finds the one that actually contains the cookie. HOW TO TEACH YOUR DOG TO FIND YOUR KEYS Once you’ve done the Shell Game for awhile, do this: Attach a small piece of leather to your key chain. Spend two minutes pinching the leather between your thumb and index finger. This will transfer some of the oil in your skin to the leather and link your scent to it. Next, repeat the Shell Game with your key chain, instead of the doggie cookie. When your dog finds the bucket that hides your keys, lift the bucket to reveal your keys. At this point, you really need to lay it on thick (the praise, that is) and make a big deal about your dog finding the keys. You may also want to throw your dog a cookie as a reward. Finally, you can start hiding your key in other places around the room (away from the buckets). Start out easy. Place them on the floor, next to the couch, where your dog can almost stumble upon them quite easily. After a few days, you should be able to hide your keys in some really difficult places and your dog will be able to find them for you. Imagine how handy this trick will become when you really lose your keys!

  • sharon
    Posted at 21:49h, 01 February Reply

    Why r u not suggesting crate training? Safer then lett8ng a puppy run around the house unsupervised. Just wondering…

    • Brandon McMillan
      Posted at 23:57h, 01 February Reply

      Where exactly did I say to leave them running around the house unsupervised? I actually said quote: “I’d highly recommend keeping a close eye on your dog when they’re roaming free. Leaving every door in the house open, not keeping an eye on them and thinking they won’t go in each room to explore and chew things up is just plain irresponsible. So keeping doors shut and a baby gate up is highly recommended.”

      • Lisa
        Posted at 16:41h, 14 July Reply

        I also believe you said this is just ONE of the ways to train… love your show. Thank you for your work. Started watching because we are friends with Lori and had to see when she met Rosie.

      • Austin
        Posted at 05:41h, 04 February Reply

        Right on, Brandon. We’re in the middle of the house training triangle right now. Not only is it working great, we’re finding that the supervised time we do spend with our pup during the process is more deliberate and helps with the bonding. Would you recommend bell training? Right now, River—when in the pen—is giving us a hefty bark to let us know she needs to go. Not sure I want to encourage that habit. Any recommendations?

    • Ariane
      Posted at 05:21h, 10 May Reply

      If you don’t chew your food properly you ctaree more excotoxin the gut which causes down regulate of metabolism. Means you won’t burn as much fat.

    • Tanya
      Posted at 03:10h, 19 February Reply

      love the new comment icon the first and last are to die for! how did you get all 3 lkooing so great in that last shot??? that has to be the new opening page for wags !

  • Kelly
    Posted at 18:27h, 16 May Reply

    We have gotten(as a surprise!) a female mix (small) dog that is now about a year old. She is pretty good in the house and now doesn’t chew up rugs! but we both work and we leave her outside when we are gone. The problem is she has a thing for the garden hose! We have cut off and patched and patched the thing until we will probably have to replace it now. We have about an acre (fenced of course) where she can run and play…we have chickens and a duck that are penned when we are not here but free range when we are home. She doesn’t bother them. We also have cats outside that love her and she will play with them so it’s not like she doesn’t have anything around to keep her busy…She has chew sticks and balls…but we can’t get her to stop with the hose!!! Please train me to train her not to chew the hose!

  • Patrick Haggerty
    Posted at 17:07h, 07 July Reply

    Brandon McMillan, you are the best and your advice is unparalleled to anyone else who does what you do!

  • Donna Owens
    Posted at 19:50h, 14 July Reply

    Hi i have a 9 month old bloodhound with a pretty bad attitude when it comes to the word no and a habit of biting and pulling on our furniture and then biting our hands and barking in our faces when trying to make him stop need some help with this he is already over 70lbs and getting bigger ever day

  • Ronni and Steve Dinkel
    Posted at 15:37h, 15 July Reply

    We adopted a cockapoo rescue that is about 18 months old. Previous owner gave her up because she couldn’t be potty trained and peed on their bedding. We thought we made progress training her but now we are having the same problem. We take her out on a regular basis and she will often go potty. However, other times when we take her out, she doesn’t pee, then comes inside and pees in another room or in the corner and even on the sofa when we aren’t looking…almost like she is hiding. It seems like we can’t take our eyes off her. Another issue that complicates the matter is that she will suddenly come running & barking (aggressively) to go outside. We take her out and then she just sits on the step, doesn’t need to pee. So we don’t know when she really needs to pee or just wants to go outside. Not sure how to handle the aggressive behavior in addition to the potty training issue. We would appreciate your comments and suggestions.

    Thanks so much!

  • Becky
    Posted at 01:27h, 16 July Reply

    My daughter has a puppy that is Maltese and Shih tau and I have been trying to train it when at my house. It chews on my rug and she lets it, it also has issues eating everything (even feces) and can be outside for a half hour and come in to pee on my floor. I’m trying hard to be patient and use your remedies, but nothing seems to be working 🙁 any other advice?

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 03:06h, 16 July Reply

    Thanks Brandon for this article. I’m coming across it at a perfect time as I’m taking my pup to the vet for the 3rd, maybe 4th? time for upset stomach due to excessive chewing. She’s an opportunistic chewer, very sneaky. She never tears up furniture or clothes or anything, but if you drop something on the floor (or if it falls between couch cushions, or if my 1 1/2 year old nephew drops a toy), she swoops in and can grab and run away with it before you even notice what has happened. Typically, I know she has something if it’s quiet for a minute or two and she’s not following me around anymore. Means she’s found trouble instead (a crayon, a napkin, baby toy, receipt, etc etc).

    I tried a method similar to what you described without any luck, but I’m going to try again. The advice to not give up is really helpful right now. I keep everything off the floor and out of reach but it’s just impossible to pick up after everyone in the household before they put something down and she runs away like a thief in the night. She buries some of her treasures too.

    She’s such a character and I love her to pieces. I worry about her health so I am going to keep trying to find a solution for her behaviors where she can hurt herself.

  • Deanna
    Posted at 00:19h, 10 October Reply

    We have adopted a puppy from the local shelter. He is about 9 weeks old and chews (to be expected). He is half Weimaraner and who knows what else. Have been giving him something else to chew when he chooses something wrong. Question what do I do when he decides to take my arm in his mouth? I tell him no, gently extract my arm from his jaws and softly smack his snout. I need to break him from this as quickly as I can.

  • Katie
    Posted at 04:47h, 30 December Reply

    Our pitbull chewed on things (noticeably laundry) when she first came (she was an 8-month-old rehomed dog at the time). After correction, she stopped.

    But now she’s started again. Will this method work with a now 3-year-old dog?

  • ss
    Posted at 23:19h, 12 January Reply

    the article had very good advice… My opinion is all Dogs learn at a different pace..and some just have a higher tendency to chew. This usually goes away by the age of four. Supervision & gentle correction is KEY to success! Dogs do not do wrong to make you mad….They actually try to do everything to make you love them more.. It takes time, love and patience to get through the “puppy years”..

  • Terri
    Posted at 06:38h, 14 January Reply

    Hi Brandon, thank you so much for the advice I surely will try it. What can I do for a 10 mo old 100 lb German Shepard puppy who like to bite every time he passes by you. He is very playful but doesn’t realize how big he is. I tried giving a loud no whenever he would bite but he seems to think I am still playing. Any suggestions?

  • flashdog
    Posted at 13:57h, 21 February Reply

    wonderful issues altogether, you simply received a logo
    new reader. What could you suggest in regards to your post that
    you made a few days in the past? Any sure?

  • Lacy
    Posted at 04:46h, 10 March Reply

    Great article. I have 2 boxers. The younger boxer started chewing on our walls in our house. Do you have any suggestions for training our dogs to not chew on our walls.? We’ve repaired the walls several times and end up new holes.

  • LInda Steenrod
    Posted at 16:15h, 20 September Reply

    Love your show and plan to buy your book as soon as available. We have just adopted a 2 1/2 year old chewer, but he was abused by a former owner and is very sensitive to correction. We are afraid to crate him because of having been caged in the shelter. We will definitely try the training above and it sounds like it will work and we do use a baby gate.. Question, though, are we being overly sensitive by not using a crate? Should we start using a crate with rewards and while we are home to see?

  • Lori
    Posted at 19:45h, 19 November Reply

    My daughter’s dog has separation anxiety. When we leave our house her rescue puppy has been chewing holes in our drywall. Brandon, do you have any suggestions?

  • denise stevens
    Posted at 16:21h, 11 February Reply

    suggestions for a newly adopted adult dog that only chews things he should not chew (ex: wall, stair railing, night light, couch) when I am not home? When I am home he makes the right choice on what is acceptable to chew every time!

  • Linda Schwab
    Posted at 11:29h, 13 April Reply

    I remember seeing an episode where the dog was chewing everything, including his bed and you were attaching the chewed items to the dogs collar forcing him to drag the item around with him and he couldn’t escape it. Could you explain this technique further and how and when to use it?

  • Sandy colvin
    Posted at 16:19h, 23 April Reply

    I have a six year old German Shepard When I leave her alone she chew something up She has plenty of chew toys. This started when I went on vacation and a friend of mine watched her ever since this is what she does it’s been two year please tell what I can do to change this behavior .. I try to give her the roam of the house and when I do she chews anything up . Then I’ve tryed putting her in my bathroom bigger than the crate she chews anything she can’t get

  • Lisa Dolce
    Posted at 06:08h, 28 June Reply

    Oops, I didn’t mean to send that. I’m on a new lap top and I swear it has a mind of it’s own. I was trying to delete it, I think it might have come across as rude. Oh well, here is the updated comment, if you want to publish it….

    Sharon,

    In my opinion, putting a dog in a crate is not training. It keeps a dog out of the way, and perhaps safe (although in my business I have seen them chew THROUGH crates!) but what does it really SAY to them? What he’s advising is one on one time and energy given to your pets. Right now, I have a little Maltese/Chihuahua in a crate because he’s trying to impregnate my little girls. I was not told he’s unneutered before he came for a extended visit while his owner is out of town. I found this website looking for training tips. I’m trying to train him to leave my babies alone. Is it possible to train a dog to ignore his natural, um….. urges? He’s young, less than a year old, and who can blame him for being… well….. interested? Even neutering doesn’t help sometimes. My Maltese was neutered at 5 months and still has fun when he can. All of my male dogs are neutered. He doesn’t know he’s shooting from an empty barrel. I want our guest to be able to interact and play with all my babies but he’s constantly annoying them by sniffing, licking and humping. Is there anything I can do? I just found out about you, and I love your methods! I will be reading your book soon! Thanks from Bakersfield!

  • Carmen broussard
    Posted at 01:55h, 25 September Reply

    When you say “bully stick”, what exactly do you mean?

  • Donna Weis
    Posted at 18:28h, 20 January Reply

    Brandon, what is your opinion on crate training?

  • Hillary Nadelman
    Posted at 01:54h, 06 February Reply

    Can this method be effective in an older dog say 1 year old?

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