Dogs and puppies explore their world primarily through their nose and mouth. To test out a new object, they usually give it a gnaw; if this seems fun and feels good, they will keep on chewing it, including your best fitting Birkenstocks. While it may seem like your puppy is out to punish you, in all likelihood your canine companion is stressed, bored, teething, or experiencing a nutritional deficiency.
To prevent such behavior, we’ve gathered a compilation of training tactics that will hopefully curb unwanted behaviors. With each of these methods, the key denominator should be consistency; each time puppy chews, the behavior becomes slightly more ingrained.
1. Puppy Can’t Chew What Puppy Can’t Get To
While some owners may believe their dog should “just know better,” puppies in fact don’t know any better. Chewing is simply a natural stage of development and growth, much like an infant or toddler. Parents will often place preventative measures into their electrical sockets and kitchen drawers, understanding that this is simply a phase. So too, should dog owners treat their shoes.
If you put your Birkenstocks where curious noses cannot find them, they will never discover how much fun shoe chewing can be. Check out one of our Pinterest boards for creative storage inspiration.
2. Options and Trades
While hiding your Birkenstocks is a great option, this tactic should be combined with either a substitution or a trade, as your dog will undoubtedly find something else to gnaw. Toys like the Kong and other “puzzle” food games offer a unique variant on the typical bone and can be gentler on a puppy’s tender gums. These kinds of toys distribute a treat after a certain challenge is completed, most often squeezing the toy the right way. Once your pup gets especially good at this maneuver, try adding peanut butter to make it an all day play practice.
If you do happen to “catch” your dog or puppy in the act, offer a trade rather than simply scolding. Brands like Nylabone or a sterilized femur bone are healthy, safe options for a canine’s esophagus and GI tract. Rawhide is produced using harsh chemicals, while the brown “fleshy” bones carry a risk of salmonella and other unwanted bacteria. You should also never give your pup cooked bones, as they can splinter and puncture the intestine.
A unique and simple marking method can be the difference between the image above and a happy household, free of holes. Use a pleasing scent, like vanilla extract, to mark which objects belong to your dog only. Over time, he will begin to learn which smells “belong” and which smells are prohibited.
On the flip side, most canines and felines detest citrus based smells, rosemary, and peppermint essential oils. You’ll only need a small amount; dab a test drop on a concealed portion of your shoe (unless it’s Nubuck!), allow it to dry, and give it a test. I find this works best with orange or lemon essential oils.
Plenty of exercise produces well-tempered pooches. If Fluffy is locked up all day while you’re at work, be sure to make time for a morning and evening walk. Make these walks brisk and vary them in different directions, giving your dog a constant influx of new information to process and adapt to. After spending 30 minutes running out of liquid to mark his territory, the last thing he will want to do is chew up your shoes.
5. A Well-Rounded Diet
Teething, chewing, and negative gnawing can all be a response to a lack of specific nutrients. This could be a simple as Vitamin D, or your dog may not be getting enough protein due to fillers in his kibble. Talk to your vet about a nutrition analysis and be sure to read ingredients carefully, paying close attention to words like “by-product,” “corn derivatives,” and any grain fillers like wheat or barley.
6. Clicker Training & Squirt Guns
I tend to feel hit or miss about squirt guns; on one hand, it’s a negative reinforcement, which any animal eventually outgrows. On the other hand, it immediately tells the animal this is not an okay behavior. I find more consistent results with clicker training, especially incoporated with short commands like “drop it.” For a full guide on clicker training, check out Clickertraining.com’s glossary on all of its variants.
For this article, however, here’s a quick step-by-step process:
- Get your puppy engaged in playing with a tug toy.
- When your puppy has a good hold on the toy, stop moving the toy. Completely freeze.
- The moment your puppy gives up tugging and looks up to say, “What gives?” click, and then reward with a treat and/or resuming the game of tug.
- Once your puppy learns that spitting out the toy starts the game again, he will let go pretty quickly. That is the perfect time to add the verbal cue. Say “drop it,” then freeze.
- Click and reward for letting go.