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How do I get my dog to stop chewing?

One of the things dogs do best is chew – why else would they have those lovely teeth? And chewing helps your dog keep his teeth strong and clean, which in turn helps the overall health of your loved one. Chewing also relieves stress in your dog. Since chewing is a natural pastime for our dogs, it’s extremely important for our dogs have some opportunities for chewing. To save your rugs, furniture and other valued possessions, however, you’ll need to teach your dog what things you want her to chew!

Teaching your dog what TO chew is amazingly easier than teaching your dog what NOT to chew. Since dogs learn in a very specific way, trying to teach your dog what NOT to chew means teaching your dog not to chew each and every square foot of rug, each individual piece of furniture, each different shoe in each different set

in your house and so on. The down side to this approach is that most dogs won’t let you teach them not to chew on all those things – instead of learning not to chew on things, they’ll simply learn not to chew on things in front of YOU! Dogs learn the difference between safe and dangerous very quickly, and if it’s dangerous to chew in front of you and safe to chew in your absence, you’d better believe your dog will learn that difference quickly!

Teaching your dog what TO chew involves only two factors – the first is supplying enticing legal outlets for chewing desires and the second is constant supervision during the learning period. Enticing legal outlets include flavored bones like those made by Nylabone, stuffed bleached bones, rope toys for the dogs who like to floss

their teeth, and durable toys like those made by Kong made even more enticing by stuffing them with food. The supervision part means keeping your dog away from objects you don’t want him to chew on when you can’t supervise him, offering him tons of legal chew things during those unsupervised times to get him addicted to those, and constant supervision when your dog has more house-freedom so that you can interrupt any chewing attempts at illegal objects and redirect your dog to legal chewing objects.

A dog crate or long-term confinement area like an exercise pen, filled with many chewing options, is a perfect place to keep your dog safe when you can’t supervise her. When you can supervise your dog, keep your dog in whatever room you are in so that you can interrupt and redirect any poor chewing choices. As your dog gets better and better at sticking to her own chew toys, you can start to allow your pup more freedom. Keep in mind, however, that any chewing transgressions committed while your dog is gaining more freedom should result in stricter rules for at least one month following the transgressions. Good habits are easier to create and maintain than bad habits are to break, and each transgression is a bad habit waiting to develop!

So, how do you make your dog’s chew items more enticing? Stuff them with food, of course! Hollow rubber chew toys like Kongs are just made for filling with exciting treats. Most dogs, if given the choice between chewing on something with food in it and chewing on something empty, would choose the food any day! You can pack an extra punch by providing all your dog’s food in stuffed hollow toys – a hungry dog will be more motivated to chew on those appropriate toys!

There are countless ways to stuff hollow rubber toys like those made by Kong. The important pieces of a stuffed Kong are the dry kibble or treats you’ll be adding and the matrix (any wet or soft substance) that makes the food more difficult to get out of the Kong. To get your dog addicted to emptying Kongs for food, you’ll need to make it easy in the beginning, so you’ll be using more dry stuff and less matrix. Start with a few pieces of a very exciting and aromatic treat like freeze-dried liver in the very bottom of the Kong. Your dog will be able to smell these treats through the small hole in the bottom of the Kong, but will also have to empty the rest of the food out to get to them. Next, fill the rest of the Kong with your dog’s dry kibble. If you want to make it more exciting, toss a few small pieces of something great (i.e. hot dog pieces, liver treats) in with the kibble. At the very top, smear a bit some soft matrix ingredient (i.e. wet dog food, cheese, cream cheese, peanut butter) to keep the kibble from falling out right away. This soft stuff will get your dog licking the Kong and interested in getting to everything else. Once the soft part is finished, your dog will have to roll the Kong around a bit to get the kibble to come out.

When your dog is a master at unpacking easy Kongs, you can start to make the Kong more difficult by adding more matrix. Fill the Kong just as described above, but add an extra layer of soft matrix in the last third of the Kong so that the Kong is filled with treats, then kibble, then matrix, then more kibble, then the matrix cap. As your pup gets better, you can start adding more layers of matrix into the Kong. When your dog figures that out, you can start mixing the matrix in with the kibble in a bowl and stuff the entire sticky conglomerate into the Kong. You can even start using softer and stickier matrixes like baby food or yogurt. When your dog figures that out, you can start chilling the Kong in the freezer prior to feeding it! Keep making it harder and harder to extend both the effort your dog has to make and the time it takes your dog to unpack his Kong. You can even start soaking the dry kibble in water or low-sodium broths to make the kibble really soft and soggy for stuffing. Then you can start lining the Kong with really sticky stuff like honey and peanut butter prior to stuffing in your Kong mixture. Or simply squeeze a too-large piece of Natural Balance (a type of dog food that comes in the form of a sausage roll) into the Kong. Have fun with it and keep it interesting for your dog, too!

In addition to teaching your dog what TO chew on, feeding in stuffed Kongs also helps provide your dog mental stimulation – things to think about more in-depth than “when’s my mom going to put down my food bowl?” Since mental stimulation goes pretty far in wearing out your dog, you’ll be closer to having that tired dog who acts so great! Another added bonus to feeding in stuffed Kongs that you get some free time during those 20 minutes it takes your dog to unstuff her Kong! This can be especially helpful after a long day’s work earning the kibble money. You can even keep extra-specially stuffed Kongs in the freezer to keep your pup occupied when guests visit. Your pup will be too busy munching on her favorite Kong to jump on your visitors! So give your dog something to do, then put up your feet and enjoy your free time!


Jacquelyn England graduated as class valedictorian from the San Francisco SPCA's Academy for Dog Trainers with a certificate in Training and Counseling. Jacquelyn also completed an internship at the San Francisco SPCA with a concentration on curriculum building for group dog training classes. Prior to retiring from dog training, Jacquelyn taught obedience classes in numerous locations around the Bay Area an also worked as the Shelter Manager for the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society. She has successfully trained dogs, cats, humans and even chickens. Jacquelyn lives in Petaluma with her husband Sean and their cattle dog mix, Billy the Mountain.

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