Teaching Your Dog to Chew Toys
Excerpt from The Big Book of Simple Solutions
Too often we assume that a dog instinctively knows that her toys are there for her to chew, and she may play with them for a time. But she needs to be taught that she is permitted to chew only those toys and not any other household items. This is easy to do using positive reinforcement.
Any time you see your dog chewing on her dog toy, tell her what a good dog she is. To further reinforce her good behavior, try clicker training. Get a clicker at a pet supply store or toy store. When you notice her chewing on her toy, click once, then immediately give her a treat and praise her.
Play games such as fetch with your puppy’s toys so she associates them with good times. Keep toys in every room so your dog always has something good to chew on. Remember to handle toys frequently so they have your scent. You can make them more appealing by stuffing them with treats or peanut butter.
Give each toy a name, such as “red ball” or “rope bone.” Dogs can understand large vocabularies, and many are capable of distinguishing between, say, their green frog and their red ball, their bone and their Kong.
When your dog brings you a toy, praise her. Then start putting a name to the action: “Good get your toy!” Start telling her to get her toy and reward her when she complies. Click, treat, and praise if you’re using clicker training.
Another fun game is to scatter toys throughout the house. Walk to each room with your dog, and tell her to find her toy. When she picks up the toy, reward her with praise and a treat, or click and a treat.
Teach your dog to greet you with a toy in her mouth. When you come home tell her to find her toy. Withhold petting or other attention until she’s clutching a toy. When she knows it’s about time for you to get home, she’ll start looking for a toy to chew on in preparation for your arrival.
To test your dog’s knowledge of what she should and shouldn’t chew, set out several chew toys, plus a forbidden item, such as a paperback book or a plastic yogurt container. Have a noisemaker handy, such as an empty soda can with a few pennies inside. (Tape the lid so the coins don’t fall out.) Ask her to get her toy and reward her with praise and a treat if she chooses an appropriate item.
If she picks up something other than a toy, clap your hands, then say, “Aaaack, drop it!” or otherwise startle her into letting go of the item. It may be useful to have a helper who can toss the shake can in the pup’s direction (don’t hit her with it!) if she picks up the wrong thing. Then repeat the command to get a toy, and reward her when she chooses correctly. With practice, you should eventually be able to present her with many inappropriate items and only one toy and have her always choose the toy.
Some puppies run away with the item they’re chewing. Don’t chase after her. Instead, run in the opposite direction, encouraging your dog to chase after you. If she drops the item when she runs after you, that’s good. Give her a toy and praise her. If she doesn’t drop it, calmly take the item away when she gets to you and replace it with a toy.
Any kind of positive reinforcement works much better than punishment when it comes to teaching puppies right from wrong. But there will always be instances when your puppy or dog backslides or tries to chew on something dangerous. In the following section you can learn several ways you can change your dog’s behavior and set her jaws back on the right path.
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