We have all had dogs that chewed up something very important, like a library book, a shoe, our tax forms or the remote control for the TV.
Definitely, some dogs are more prone to destructive chewing than others and some keep it up way beyond when they should know better. All puppies go through a chewing stage, as do babies during teething. It is what we do during this chewing stage that determines the likelihood of further destruction being carried into adulthood. It is not the chewing that is bad behavior, but the item chewed.
Dogs need their own personal possessions. They should have a bed, or at least a blanket or rug, and their own food dish. And they should have their very own toys. When they are puppies or new in the household, keep these toys nearby. Whenever they get hold of something that belongs to someone else, replace it with a toy of their own. When you are taking away that which is not theirs, firmly but kindly say to them. "No, that is not yours. This is your bone. This is your bear." They will learn the names of these things very soon and will be choosing their own possessions rather than yours.
All dogs need to have a nice cuddly soft stuffed animal. Have this for them when they first come to live at your house. Make sure it is with them when they go to bed at night and when they are left alone. Some dogs will keep this soft cuddly stuffed animal forever and carry it around with them. Others will chew it up. For chewers, it is best to have stuffed animals that do not have hard noses or eyes as these tend to invite chewing. If your dog gets really attached to one particular stuffed animal, you may have to do some repair work through the years. Some dogs do not mind having a replacement from time to time, just so it is soft and comfortable. Thrift stores have a wonderful selection of stuffed animals and they are very inexpensive.
A basket or plastic crate makes a great toy box. Fill this box with balls, chew toys, tug-ropes, soft cuddly stuffed animals and bones.
For multiple-dog families, the dogs should be encouraged to share and usually are quite willing to do so provided there is a good selection of toys. The trick is to teach them to put the toys back into the box. It can be done, but takes loads of patience. Dogs love having their own toy box. It is amusing to see them digging through the box looking for just the right toy. Or your pup will go into the other room and return carrying a special stuffed animal and then lie down with his head resting on it. You will realize how important that toy is to him.
If you head off on a car trip or your dog has to stay in a kennel or with a friend, be sure to include one or two of these special toys in his bag, along with his own food and water dishes. He will feel much more at home and his time away will be much less stressful.
Dogs that are left alone need to have toys and a stuffed animal. Being pack animals, they do not like being alone and this special buddy will help to keep them from feeling too lonely.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.