Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chewing and Destruction




You come home from a hard day at work and find your house in shambles. The stuffing is out of your sofa, your coffee table's legs are chewed up, some of your clothes are in the living room instead of the closet.. What do you do? Take a deep breath, count to 10 and remember that spot did not destroy your house out of spite or defiance.

 

Contents

What NOT to do
Do Not Punish
Do Not relegate to the backyard
A note about bitter apple

Manage the Behavior

Reward Your Dog For Not Chewing

Keep Log or Journal
Teething, Enjoyment
Boredom
Separation Anxiety
Stress
Medical 

What NOT to do

Do Not Punish

Never ever punish destructive behavior. In most cases, this will make the behavior worse: Spot chews up your coffee table while you are work. You come home hours later to find the coffee table destroyed. You yell at spot.  Spot has no idea what you are yelling about. All he knows is that you come home angry.  The next time, he might be anxious about your impending arrival and he might cause more damage.

I also highly discourage the use of spray bottles, cans of pennies, pet correctors and the like. Read about the problems with startle methods here: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/tag/startle-methods/

Do Not relegate to the backyard

If the destructive behavior is caused by separation anxiety, an anxious dog will try to escape. There are other hazards awaiting a dog who is left outside, alone for several hours at a time. Additionally, dogs are social animals. If they are left outside all the time, they will develop a myriad of other behavior problems.


Do Not over crate

Dogs who spend too much time in crates can also develop behavior problems. Although crates can keep our dogs and our property safe, we don't want our dogs living their lives in crates.

A note about bitter apple

Sometimes taste deterrents work, sometimes they don't. What they definitely don't do is address the root cause. If a pup is chewing out of boredom and the only thing we do it slather bitter apple on everything, we haven't addressed the boredom. Maybe we've stopped the the dog from chewing on the coffee table leg, but we haven't fixed the boredom issue. When we don't fix the root issue, our dogs will just find another outlet. And your dog might choose something worse than chewing a coffee table leg.


And what is really concerning about bitter apple is that a dog might be chewing because of a serious medical issue. If all we do is try to suppress without investigating, we might be ignoring something important that needs to be addressed.

Additionally, in the time it takes to slather bitter apple on an item, we could have simply put the item away - out of reach. 


 

Manage the Behavior

Until you figure how to properly and non aversively address the issue, you can mitigate damage by managing the behavior. Fifi can be crated or placed in a safe room when you are gone. (see videos below) Or look into hiring a trusted and reputable baby sitter to look in on your pets.  

Is Lucy fixated on only one thing - like the coffee table? Then sell the coffee table. Or put it in storage or move it to a room behind a closed door. 

Please note that dogs with separation anxiety might panic if confined in a crate and risk harming themselves. And we should acclimate any dog who is going to be crated. See crate acclimation here: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/tag/crate-acclimation-posts/

For ideas on how to keep our things safe while not over crating, see Safe Room for Dogs Part I and see Safe Residence below.

Pet parents might also consider the "umbilical cord" technique. Tether your dog to you. That way you know exactly what your dog is up to at all times.  Don't do this if it causes stress to your dog.





Think that doggie day care or a pet sitter is too expensive? Compare the cost of day care against paying for the things that Rover destroys.  Consider that day care is just a temporary measure until the behavior is resolved. 

Reward Your Dog For Not Chewing

Capture Calm: http://www.stubbypuddin.com/2013/07/reward-what-we-like-instead-of.html

Watcha Got There Games: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/2013/09/watcha-got-there-puddin/

 

Keep a Journal or Log

Write down the day's activities, foods eaten, etc..  See if any patterns emerge when you review the log and match it up with times of destructive behavior.

 

Address the Cause

Managing the behavior is only a temporary measure until you figure out the root cause of Darnells' destructive behavior.
The best way to address an undesirable behavior in your pet is to first investigate the root cause of the behavior.
So what are some reasons that a dog might become destructive?

 

Teething, Enjoyment

For pups and young dogs, chewing can relieve teething discomfort. Any dog - young or old loves to chew. Pets parents will need to find suitable chew items. Then reward junior for chewing appropriate items and redirect Bella from chewing inappropriate items. Never punish or yell or scold. You can redirect in a happy and cheerful manner. See the "positive interrupter" here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBvPaqMZyo8




Be sure to use toys/chews that are size appropriate and dog safe.
Better than the positive interrupter is to keep your dog from developing an undesirable habit. We can accomplish that by keeping our dogs busy and engaged or we can look for a "tell" and redirect our dogs before they start chewing.
Recognizing "tells": http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/2013/05/does-your-dog-have-a-tell/


Boredom

Does Spanky have enough to do?  How often do you take Chelsie for walks? How long? A large backyard does not count.  Depending on your dog's age, physical stamina, breed etc.. he or she should probably get at least two 30 minute walks per day. Longer is much better.  Are you also keeping Bumpy intellectually stimulated?  See Inside Looking Out. A good brisk jog or a fun game of fetch is a great way to expend some energy before you have to leave your dog alone. But don't jog five miles, come home, drop Rusty off at the house and immediately leave.  Boo Boo will still be all keyed up after his jog.  Wait until the dog is calm before leaving.  This might require you to adjust your schedule a bit so that you don't have to rush off. Food puzzles can be helpful. See below and see Working for food







Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common issue but it can be hard to address depending on the severity of the problem.  Treating SA is another topic in and of itself. Here are some basic things you can do to help - especially if the SA is mild.
  • Don't make a big deal out of coming and going. No long goodbyes, no giddy hellos.  
  • Don't leave the house in a rush - this will get your dog overly excited
  • Vary your routine. You dog knows that before you leave for work, you shower, eat breakfast, get dressed, pick up your briefcase etc. in a certain order;  and Betsy's anxiety will start growing as she anticipates your departure

Turid Rugass has an excellent article on the issue: http://www.canis.no/rugaas/oneqanda.php?id=469


Medical

Sometimes an issue might appear to be behavior-related, but could have a medical component.
Some dog chew or lick things because of gastric issues.
Email general questions or comments to education@stubbypuddin.com Replies might be shared on this blog but names will be changed or left out.

To get notified of future posts, click here


No comments:

Post a Comment