by Fiona Rodgers
(Auckland, New Zealand)
You just got home from work after a long hard day and in the middle of your living room is that beautiful little puppy that made you so happy last week when he finally was housebroken and you didn’t have to clean up those messes every day.
He drops something from his mouth as jumps up and runs over to greet you, his little tail wagging as he barks excitedly to see you finally come home. You look over at what he dropped and realize it is one of your favorite shoes, now all chewed up and covered in dog drool!.
How should you handle this situation and get him to stop chewing on your shoes and other things in the house? You need to understand first that you should not punish him for it, then you need to find him an acceptable substitute, and then you have to encourage the proper behavior.
No matter how much that shoe cost you, no matter how much you loved it, and no matter how many others he has chewed up do not yell at him, do not punish him for it, and do not make a big show out of taking it away from him. It isn’t his fault. Your puppy chews for a few different reasons. It could be an instinctual activity.
Some breeds love to chew things and others love to carry things in their mouths and the chewing is just a byproduct. Your puppy could have teeth coming in and the chewing helps with the discomfort. The reason he specifically chose your shoe and only does it while you are not home is probably the result of separation anxiety. He misses you and the shoe smells like you.
You need to find a substitute for your puppy to chew on that is acceptable to both of you. To be acceptable to you, it should be something manufactured specifically for dogs and it needs to be an appropriate size to prevent any choking hazards to your dog.
To be acceptable to your puppy, well, good luck with that as you may have to try many different things until you find one that he will accept. Some dogs love rawhide in its many different shapes, with some preferring it natural and others with a flavor basted on, some dogs prefer things like balls that they can knock around and chase, and some dogs like those toys that have the little squeaker inside that makes a noise when they bite down on it.
How quickly you can find a toy he likes and will accept however depends more on your attitude than on the toy itself. You need to provide the proper encouragement in order to reinforce to him that chewing on the toy is the appropriate behavior. Praise him every time he does the right thing and chews on the toy.
Make a big deal out of it. Make sure he knows that it makes you happy. He will soon associate chewing on the toy instead of your shoe with making you happy and getting affection from you. And it is your affection that he wanted all along.
It isn’t difficult to break your dog from the habit of chewing your shoes. But the longer you wait to do it, the longer it will take to accomplish, and the more shoes you are going to lose. Remember that it isn’t your puppy’s fault and do not punish him for it, provide an acceptable alternative for him to chew on, and always provide positive encouragement when he does the right thing.
You will have an affectionate, well behaved puppy and a closet full of shoes that don’t have any teeth marks on them!