Fido, my Pug/Beagle mix (a “Puggle”) is almost a year old. I bought him at a pet shop last June. He cannot stop chewing tissues. Sometimes when the bathroom door is open he goes in, takes tissue from the garbage bin and chews it all over the house!
He also chews other things like my dad’s glasses and checkbooks, my brother’s Xbox 360 control, microphone, guinea pig hay, undergarments and photos! And his chew toys are always with him – he does have chew toys!
I’ve tried disciplining him. When he chews I say no, smack him, then put him in the bathroom with the light off for about 15-20 minutes. When he comes out I do not give him any attention.
Please help me with this.
– Kareina, New Jersey
Thank you for your email. For the tissue chewing, I suggest you sacrifice a few rolls of toilet paper. Get a bottle of chewing-deterrent spray with a bitter taste and spray it on the toilet paper in each bathroom. Spray the paper very well; a slight misting won’t work.
If you come home to intact paper, the next step is to put untreated paper in the dispensers, but spray the walls surrounding them. Since Fido’s been tissue-trashing quite a while, a few little sprays on the paper won’t work – be sure to use it lavishly! If the spray deterrent doesn’t do the job, I’d just keep shutting the bathroom doors as you’ve been doing.
The disciplining method you’re using for Fido’s inappropriate chewing could be problematic in that if he isn’t caught in the act and the punishment is applied even a few seconds after he’s been chewing, your method could cause him stress, which he’ll release by more chewing.
Please understand that dogs purchased at a pet shop aren’t given appropriate items to chew, and no instruction is given to them as to what’s not OK to chew. Taking that into consideration, patience is the key to training Fido.
You’ll need to treat his chewing as though he’s a young puppy, and put up and away anything you don’t want chewed during the training process. If you follow the steps above for the toilet paper, you can then spray a bit of the chewing deterrent on the items he usually targets, if you’re unable to put them away.
Dogs very often target things to chew that smell like their people, and eyeglasses and remote controls top the list. It may seem a bit strange to you that Fido is chewing your stuff instead of his chew toys, but he truly hasn’t had the opportunity to develop an appropriate chewing habit, such as chewing stuffed Kongs (see my “How to Stuff a Kong” handout) and other toys you can introduce by having him sit for them. You should make a very big deal out of them so they seem “prized” by you, giving them extra value to Fido.
The methods you’re currently using may be setting your training back because they are too severe. You may be putting Fido in stress mode and he won’t be relaxed enough to learn the things you want to teach him. Also, Fido is getting into his “teenage years,” and if he doesn’t have a good foundation of positive reinforcement and motivation-based training, it can be a bit more difficult at his age. You seem like a loving parent and eager to learn about training your Fido; I suggest you find a trainer to go to for group classes or private sessions in your home, so you can learn effective, fun techniques.
If dogs are given the opportunity to learn in a motivational environment, they learn to love the “training game!” The best place to start looking for a trainer is the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). Just type your zip code on the Trainer Search page, and you’ll see a list of trainers near you and details of what they offer. The ADPT is a worldwide organization dedicated to teaching people how to train their dogs using the techniques I mentioned, so you should be hearing terms like “positive reinforcement” and “motivational techniques.”
I’d love to hear about your progress with training Fido!