Dear TCC,

I’ve recently adopted a shelter dog. She is just over one year old. The first evening I had her she defecated in my house 3 times! Luckily, we seem to have the house training under control. At first I kept her in a crate whenever I wasn’t home. I have two mini dachshunds and they are confined to one room while I’m at work. I felt bad leaving Lucy in a crate all day, so I decided to allow her to spend the day in the room with my doxies. Nothing bad happened, I THOUGHT! Well, Lucy had chewed a hole in a quilt that I had on the love seat. I moved that quilt thinking maybe it had a dog smell on it or something. But, then she chewed a hole in the quilt that covers the love seat. Then I discovered that she chewed holes in my dogs snuggle beds that are on top of another sofa. Okay, back in the crate for Lucy. She gets up on my bed occasionally but I pull back my comforter and cover it with my sheet so she doesn’t get the comforter (which is white) dirty. I always fold my pj’s and lay them on top of the comforter and guess what? She chewed a hole in them! What should I do? Should I somehow discipline her not to be on the sofa at all? She also chews on the bedding in the crate. She’s a very sweet dog and very smart, but I’m not sure what to do about the chewing. She also likes to sit on the back of the sofa in the living room where she can look out the window. What do you suggest?

Dixie S.

Phoenix, MD

Hi Dixie!

It’s common for a dog to need some adjusting time when first entering a new home with a new family. In this period of adjustment, you can expect some nervous behaviors to occur, such as the defecation inside, which you fortunately have under control now. Focus on creating a safe place, such as a crate, for Lucy to know is hers and understand that nothing bad will happen to her there. This will help ease the transition into her new home, and you do not need to feel guilty at all for keeping her in her crate when you are not home.  In fact, I strongly recommend you keep her crated during times you cannot supervise her. Cover the crate with a blanket (not one that has stuffing in it that she can pull through the crate openings and chew apart) to make it feel cozier, and put a long-lasting, safe treat in there, such as a fun-filled Kong. Keep the crate in a place where there isn’t much foot-traffic and where the other dogs can’t come find her and taunt her.

So now moving on to the chewing problem… Lucy has given you some very important information: She likes to chew and will chew anything she can get a hold of. She may be chewing out of boredom or nervousness, but despite the reason, there are several solutions. First, it’s important to realize that she’s not being a “bad dog” on purpose and so disciplining her would not do any good nor would it teach her anything. She’s simply communicating with you that she needs something to chew on.

The first part of the solution is going to be managing the environment and the situation. Do not put any bedding in her crate that she will chew on, especially if she’s ingesting what she chews. You may want to use an indestructible crate liner, such as Kong’s Durable Crate Pad (http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12089267) so that she has some cushioning. When she is in her crate, give her a safe and durable chew toy. Kong makes great fillable toys; the trick is knowing how to fill them in a way that your dog will love. I recommend putting some of her favorite hard treats in them, filling the remainder with sweet potato or chicken flavored baby food, and then sticking it in the freezer before giving it to Lucy. Make sure a couple biscuits are sticking out of the end so that she doesn’t get discouraged from the get-go. Another one of my favorite chew toys, which last seemingly forever, is the StarMark Everlasting Treat Ball (http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2750985). You can put kibble or hard treats in the middle of the toy, and then it comes with two flavored edible discs that cap the ends. I’ve found these can keep dogs occupied for hours and is made from very durable materials. Do not leave her alone with any of these toys until you’ve seen that she cannot tear them apart or choke on any small pieces.

Keep her crated when you can’t supervise her, and when she is let out of the crate, give her more appropriate chew toys. Go for the toys that have a tough exterior instead of plush toys that she can easily tear apart. Put away every household item she could potentially chew on, such as blankets and pillows, and give her something else to chew instead.  If you can’t remove the blankets and pillows, close off access to those areas of the house with a gate or by shutting the door. The key is to always have something available to her that is appropriate to chew on.

Sometimes when we think our dog isn’t interested in a certain toy, it’s really just because we haven’t made it interesting for them.  Some dogs are much more interested in playing with their toys if their human is using it to play with them instead of just leaving it out for them to play on their own. So find some good tug toys and make the playing interactive. (Playing tug is also a great opportunity to teach “Drop It,” since teaching opposing cues can reinforce each other).

Aside from closing off access to household items and giving her appropriate chew toys instead, you can help alleviate her boredom by training her. Spending 10 minutes at a time positively training behaviors like “Sit” or “Target” can not only be fun for your dog, but mentally exhausting. One of the great things about positive reinforcement training is that it encourages dogs to think on their own to achieve the desired results. Play some shaping games, such as shaping her to knock over a small traffic cone, to get the gears in her head turning. This type of training can provide mental exercise for dogs which physically tires them out so that they are less likely to do other things, like chewing your blankets.

With the right chew toys and some management of the environment (i.e. closing off access to beds, putting away blankets, etc.), you can satisfy Lucy’s need to chew while keeping her safe and happy.

Happy Training!

The Canine Clique

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