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The Dog Who Chewed Shoes

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Excerpted from Click for Joy: Questions and Answers from Clicker Trainers and their Dogs by Melissa Alexander, an unparalleled guide to the concepts of clicker training. Melissa is also the moderator of ClickerSolutions, an online discussion forum.

Q: How do I stop destructive chewing? I've tried everything I can think of!

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A: Dogs chew. It's a natural, normal, necessary canine behavior, especially for puppies and young dogs. As a dog owner, your responsibility is to provide lots of acceptable chew toys and teach your dog to use them. The following tips will help you get control of destructive chewing:

  • If you catch your dog chewing something inappropriate, interrupt her and redirect her to something acceptable. Be consistent—and persistent. There's no need to scold her for chewing the wrong thing.

  • Give your dog lots of acceptable chew toys. What constitutes "lots"? If you walk into a room where your dog spends lots of time and don't see at least three chew toys, you probably need more. Find out what she likes to chew, and make sure those toys are abundant. When you see your dog chewing on something acceptable, praise her! Let her know you approve of what she's doing. Don't take good behavior for granted.

  • If your dog chews up something while you're gone, don't get angry when you get home; the dog won't associate your anger with her chewing. Put her in another room and clean up the mess without drawing undue attention to it.

  • Puppy-proof your house. Pick up anything that might be chewed. Coat electrical cords and furniture legs with Bitter Apple or another bad-tasting substance. Do your best to make sure there's nothing inappropriate for puppies and adolescent dogs to chew.

  • Watch your dog. Use doors and baby gates to keep her in the room you are in. The dog can't sneak away and chew something if she's always under your watchful eye.

When you're not available to watch her, either crate your dog or put her in a completely puppy-safe room. Set her up to succeed!

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