I always try to encourage people who are interested in getting a dog to do some research on breeds before doing so. Before adding a four-legged friend to your family, be sure to consider the dog’s energy level. If dealing with purebreds, make sure you do your research about breed-specific traits and personality expectations with regards to your lifestyle. When dealing with rescues or adult mixed breeds, try and spend time with the dog in their environment to gauge the intensity of their energy level.
When a client calls me complaining their one-and-a-half-year-old German shepherd is chewing their house apart, I first ask about the dog’s exercise regiment. Sadly more often than not the answer is “Well, they have a nice backyard to run around in – isn’t that enough?” The reality is letting your dog out in a backyard and expecting them to entertain themselves will only lead to dug up rose bushes or chewed-up decking. If you are adding a working breed dog to your family, then you better set aside time and have a plan in place to provide an outlet for their energy. Agility, walks, supervised treadmill work, hiring a dog walker, doggy day care and obedience training are all wonderful ways to provide your dog with an outlet for their energy.
Make friends with dog loving neighbors and alternate doggy playdates during the work week. When considering a dog, make sure you choose an energy level that is equal or lower than your household energy. If you already own a dog whose energy level is more intense than yours and you are experiencing destructiveness, your first step towards correcting the problem is to figure out a plan to stimulate your dog mentally as well as physically.
Another issue contributing to destructiveness is toy and bone boredom.When I walk into a client’s home and see baskets of toys and chewing bones strewn across the floor, I usually ask if the dog has any interest in these items. Nine times out of ten the answer is “No, they would much rather chew my kitchen counters or my suede boots.” When a dog has free access to any and every chewing toy or bone, that toy or bone loses its appeal. Start by putting away every bone and most of the toys. You can leave a few toys out that they enjoy playing with or carrying around. The bones, whether they are nylabones, bully sticks, sterilized bones, rawhides, antlers, Kong or any other chewing item you have, will only come out when you are leaving the house or when you need to keep your pup occupied. This way the item has some value to your dog and they appreciate the bone when you give it to them. This will preoccupy your dog on those days or times that you know your dog has not gotten much stimulation.
One more great trick to regenerate interest in old nylabones or antlers is to give them to a friend’s dog to chew on for awhile. Anyone who owns multiple dogs knows that they always want what the other dog has. Whenever we have dogs here for pet sitting, my dogs always regain interest in their bones they haven’t touched in months, after another pup has chewed on it, of course. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence! I also highly recommend interactive toys that dispense food or treats when the dog interacts with it. These toys mentally stimulate your dog as well develop some problem-solving skills.
So, to recap: if you are having issues with a destructive doggy, please look realistically at what composes your dog’s day. Imagine how incredibly monotonous your day would be sitting alone in a house and your only reprieve was your backyard. I don’t know about you, but I sure would start chewing on the kitchen cabinets too!
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