De­struc­tive Chew­ing


What to do if your dog chews ev­ery­thing.

My six-month-old Weimaraner puppy is a holy ter­ror, de­stroy­ing EV­ERY­THING. She's even chewed the couch and the edge of the stairs. She de­stroys any­thing she can get her paws on whether we're home or not. What can I do about this? Please help!

Your girl sounds like a happy, healthy Weimaraner pup to me! On the pos­i­tive side, she’s got lots of that fab­u­lous puppy en­ergy. Now we just need to find ways to fo­cus it on things other than your fur­ni­ture and prized pos­ses­sions. Since you men­tioned that she’s de­struc­tive whether you’re home or away, let’s break the so­lu­tion down into two parts: there and gone.

First, let’s dis­cuss when you’re gone. There’s not much you can do about de­struc­tive be­hav­iour if you’re not there, so it’s time for some tried and true man­age­ment tech­niques. Is your girl crate trained? If so, great! If not, check out mod­ern­dog­­ing for how to ac­cli­mate her to a crate. Be sure she’s gone potty and is well tired out from ex­er­cise be­fore crat­ing her. You can leave her crated up to three to four hours while you’re away. If you are go­ing to be gone longer, have some­one come in ev­ery few hours to ex­er­cise and potty her. The same ap­plies if you choose to have her gated in the kitchen or an­other room in­stead of the crate. Just make sure there’s noth­ing in the area she can de­stroy.

Dogs chew and de­stroy things for many rea­sons, but two of the most com­mon fac­tors are bore­dom and ex­cess en­ergy. Re­gard­less of where you leave your pup when you’re gone, she should have a chew item that’s go­ing to keep her busy and be more ap­peal­ing than her sur­round­ings. Chew items can also be part of the so­lu­tion when you’re at home, as they pro­vide an ac­cept­able fo­cus for ex­cess en­ergy and can give you a short break from watch­ing your dog like a hawk! Dif­fer­ent chew items ap­peal to in­di­vid­ual dogs, but a stuffed Kong is one of my all time tried and true favourites. (Some Kong stuff­ing recipes in­clude a high-qual­ity wet dog food, canned pump­kin, left­over chicken (bone­less, of course!) and mashed pota­toes, or peanut but­ter. Tip: freez­ing a stuffed Kong will keep your dog busy even longer!) There are also many types of balls and other dis­pensers that can be filled with kib­ble or treats, which then have to be knocked around to get at the good­ies. Some­times these more “ac­tive” type dis­pensers are more en­tic­ing to ac­tive dogs who have a hard time ly­ing still to chew.

Two other parts of the puz­zle are men­tal stim­u­la­tion and phys­i­cal ex­er­cise. Chew toys and dis­pensers of­fer some men­tal stim­u­la­tion, but you can pro­vide your pup with even more op­por­tu­nity to use her brain. Train­ing, par­tic­u­larly clicker train­ing, which teaches dogs to fig­ure out what you want and to of­fer be­hav­iours, is one of the best ways to pro­vide men­tal stim­u­la­tion. And those won­der­ful learned be­hav­iours will also make your life eas­ier! In ad­di­tion to train­ing, there are puz­zle toys that re­quire dogs to paw and nose at var­i­ous slid­ers and levers in or­der to get to hid­den treats. And, if you want to earn Men­tal Stim­u­la­tion ex­tra credit, take your pup to a K9 Nose­work class. Nose­work pro­vides ex­cel­lent men­tal stim­u­la­tion for dogs of all ages. No time for class? Pick up a book like Fun Nose­work for Dogs by Roy Hunter that teaches you how to set up nose­work games at home.

Ex­er­cise is all-im­por­tant when you have an ac­tive, high-en­ergy pup. Most own­ers dras­ti­cally un­der­es­ti­mate the amount of ex­er­cise their dogs need. They be­lieve, for ex­am­ple, that a 15-minute potty walk is suf­fi­cient. Not even

Dogs chew and de­stroy things for many rea­sons, but two of the most com­mon fac­tors are bore­dom and ex­cess en­ergy.

close! Your pup needs long walks that al­low him to stretch his limbs and—how great is this?—also pro­vide men­tal stim­u­la­tion in the form of sniff­ing and ex­plor­ing! Hik­ing is a great way to ac­com­plish this. If you are not in an area where hik­ing is pos­si­ble, go for long walks around your neigh­bour­hood ex­plor­ing to­gether. Vary your path pe­ri­od­i­cally to keep things in­ter­est­ing.

Lastly, don’t undo all of your good work by feed­ing a low qual­ity food. Foods that have lots of corn and other fillers rather than qual­ity in­gre­di­ents can make a huge dif­fer­ence in dogs’ be­hav­iour. As a trainer, many times I have seen own­ers do noth­ing but switch a dog to a bet­ter qual­ity food, and the hy­per­ac­tive and de­struc­tive be­hav­iours were greatly less­ened.

If you do catch your pup in the midst of puppy re­dec­o­rat­ing, in­ter­rupt the be­hav­iour with a sharp ver­bal “Eh-eh!” Once you have her at­ten­tion, lead her away from the area, ask for a sim­ple be­hav­iour such as a sit or down, and then re­ward her with a proper chew item. The rea­son to in­cor­po­rate ask­ing for a be­hav­iour be­tween the in­ter­rup­tor and the re­ward is so that your pup does not come to equate chew­ing with be­ing re­warded.

In sum­mary, en­sure that your puppy is eat­ing a high qual­ity food and be­ing given proper chew toys, is get­ting lots of phys­i­cal ex­er­cise and men­tal stim­u­la­tion, and is be­ing prop­erly man­aged when­ever you’re away. And, of course, be vig­i­lant when you are at home. If you do these things con­sis­tently, you will not only have less de­struc­tion, but a healthy, happy, well-ad­justed pup who’s gone from “holy ter­ror” to “Holy smokes, what a great dog!”

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