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

  • 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.

  • 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.”

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