Pet Info

Oh my garden! Oh my slippers

Chewing and digging are normal behaviours

Dogs chew and dig for fun, to hide treasured possessions, as part of the elimination ritual, to relieve aching teeth or improve jaw strength and occasionally because they are feeling anxious.

When a dog chooses to dig up your favourite rose or chew your favourite slippers it seems quite normal for him, it is humans who think this is inappropriate.

We must teach him what is appropriate and what is not. He needs to learn "the rules". It would be almost impossible to stop this behaviour completely; however, here are some hints on how to improve chewing and digging behaviour or direct it towards something we feel is appropriate.

Destructive problems

It is easiest to start with puppies by directing them towards appropriate chew toys. Provide many and varied toys and rawhide chews or pig’s ears for puppies and adult dogs. To encourage dogs to chew the appropriate toys fill or cover with food or play a game with the toy at first. Praise the dog for sniffing, licking or chewing these selected items.

If you catch the dog chewing something inappropriate then correct the dog with a firm, deep voiced "no" and remove the object. Replace with a chew toy and praise the dog for chewing this. It might be worth spending some time watching the dog or puppy for an opportunity go through this process a number of times.

Be consistent! Don’t let the dog chew a shoe one day then punish him for chewing a shoe the next.

Deny access or fence off areas where the dog is doing damage or ensure that valuable objects are placed beyond temptation.

If you punish your dog then the dog may learn not to do the behaviour when you are present but that it is OK when you are absent. "Booby Trapping" has the advantage that the aversive experience isn’t linked with you. You can "booby-trap" things you don’t want the dog to touch like clothes on the line with water-filled balloons or fabric with a non-toxic bitter tasting or hot substance. Upside down mouse-traps or Snappy Trainers are good deterrents.

Avoid punishing the behaviour, it is less effective than other methods and may make an anxious dog worse.

Digging problems

See also…
Dogs with Energy to Burn