It is natural for puppies to explore their environment, however, their natural curiosity often leads to frustration on your part when they chew your favorite slippers or dig up your flower bed. While you may be tempted to punish your naughty pup, reinforcing good behavior is much more effective and will keep you and your dog happier.
Chewing is a natural behavior that helps dogs relax and aids in dental health. It is important to provide proper chew toys for your dog. Additionally, giving your dog a specific time for chewing will help them ”wind” down for the night (similar to humans reading a book before bed).
However, not all chewing is good for your dog. Destructive chewing may be related to anxiety. It is important to teach your dog that he cannot always receive attention on demand. To reduce anxiety, train him to lie on his bed or in a crate, rather than constantly at your side. For dogs with separation anxiety, begin with short departures and then gradually increase the length of your time away to help them be comfortable and calm while you’re gone.
Anti-chew sprays, citronella oil or a small amount of cayenne pepper mixed with water can be used to deter your pup from chewing on household items. If you witness your puppy chewing on a household item, calmly walk over and spray the item with the anti-chew spray and firmly say ”leave it”. Instantly redirect your puppy’s attention by animating the dog toy in order to get him excited enough to chew it. Once the dog wants the toy give it to her and then softly praise the dog and back away (avoid turning this into an active game of tug-of-war; you simply want to get the dog interested in the toy). This will give the dog something to chew on and still remain in the calm state she was in previously.
Chew toys are a great way to keep your puppy busy as well as relieve pain associated with teething. Once the teeth erupt, the real chewing begins. The teeth seem to need “setting” into the jaw and this is accomplished through hard chewing. Present your puppy with a variety of toys to determine which types he likes best (avoid giving him chew toys that resemble household items that you do not want him to chew, i.e. a toy shaped like a shoe). Rotate different toys to keep your puppy’s interest and reward your puppy with praise when he chews on them. If the puppy seem to seek out a certain items that are not for chewing, try finding toys with similar textures because they may need that texture for dental health. Remember, buying a bunch of toys is a lot less expensive than replacing the furniture that he may chew up.
There are many reasons why dogs dig: to cool off, search for rodents, bury and recover bones or other toys, escape confinement or just for fun. Dogs may be more prone to dig when they are left alone without another diversion. Keep your dog stimulated and occupied by providing him with chew toys and increase play and exercise time. While you are gone, you may help prevent digging by having playful activities available for him. This could include food puzzles, simple agility courses or interactive toys like automatic ball throwing machines that can be operate by the pet. Keeping Fido busy and entertained will make him forget about digging.
You can discourage digging by changing the groundcover (replace dirt with rocks or concrete) or use remote punishment (turn on a sprinkler or toss a tin can filled with pebbles next to your pet to startle him). However, the punishment has to occur every time your dog digs or it will not work. If your dog continues to dig, you may want to provide a digging area to reinforce appropriate digging.