“My couch has been destroyed by my dog!” is not something these dog owners were proud to confess. It is a pretty embarrassing thing to admit. My dog ate the couch! Ouch!
Plus, if they don’t fix the problem, what piece of furniture is next on the hit list! It also presents a huge problem, because now, not only do they have to determine the cause of the destructive chewing, but they have to fix the problem before purchasing a new couch.
This couple is definitely not alone in that boat. I’ve seen a lot of damaged furniture this past year, that’s for sure.
Another complication is the destruction usually takes place when the owners are not home. This makes it impossible to catch their dog in the act and in time to do anything about it.
When they get home and see the damage, suffice to say it’s not a pretty picture – then look out dog!
This brings up yet another problem. When their dog is corrected after the fact, the dog doesn’t associate the punishment with the crime.
There are huge side effects to late punishment including a heightened sense of anxiety and stress in anticipation of the owner’s return which intensifies the dog’s chewing activities to relieve tension.
It seems like an endless loop and it can definitely become an endless loop.
The Clue? Your Dog’s Environment.
While there are many causes of destructive chewing, most lie not with the dog but with the dog’s environment. Dogs relieve tension in many ways. They bark, pace dig and chew.
As I’ve said before, most all behavior problems in dogs is stress related. It is the owner’s responsibility to find and remove the source of the stress in the environment and redirect the dog’s chewing to something more appropriate.
A previous client had a Golden Retriever that sat on a couch gazing out the window when the owners were away. A neighborhood cat taunted the dog outside the window for hours, sending the dog into a frenzied state. The Golden took out all of this tension on the couch.
Their quick and easy fix was applying some inexpensive frosted window application (the peel-and-stick variety available at Home Depot) to the inside of the window preventing their dog from seeing the cat. The Result? A new couch was ordered.
Do you have a destructive chewer? Can you identify the stressor in your dog’s environment?
If you need a check list of things that “could be” contributing factors, the following have been known to contribute to destructive chewing in some dogs:
Owner Related Factors
• Giving your dog personal belongings like socks or shirts as toys
• Providing fabric toys for your dog if he’s a known big chewer.
• Punishing your dog excessively for being too mouthy.
• Your emotional departures and arrivals
• No structure/rules in the dog’s life
• Excessive doting on your dog at home
• Isolation of your dog used as punishment
• Barrier frustration (as in example of the Golden and the cat above)
• Physical punishment upon the dog after the destructive chewing
• A noticeably upset owner upon arriving home
• No significant exercise program for the dog
Of critical importance is no display of emotions from you when leaving the house or arriving home as this could contrast too sharply with your dog’s alone time.
For example, when arriving home ignore your dog for at least 5 minutes and avoid eye contact as well – as if he weren’t there. After 5 minutes, call your dog calmly over and ask him to sit, then praise him and briefly pet him and send him on his way.
Make sure that before you leave there are plenty of approved chew toys for your dog.
In summary, identify the cause of your dog’s stress in the environment and remove it. Leave acceptable chew toys for your dog just before you depart for work, start a consistent exercise program with your dog and work on creating 3, 2 minute dog obedience training sessions daily for your dog.
Remember, it may take 4 weeks of consistent work to begin to see a difference so don’t go out and buy that new sofa just yet.
I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinion on this. Do you have this problem? – I’m here to help.
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.