Puppies chew because they're teething. Typically they will chew on tough materials such as rawhide. Since bedding is soft, dogs that chew on it aren’t trying to relieve sore teeth; rather, the behavior is probably linked to anxiety or boredom. Your dog can create a big mess by chewing on bedding, and it can be expensive as you have to replace the bedding frequently. To correct this behavior, it’s imperative to identify the cause.
Put the bedding within reach of the dog, for example in his crate or on the floor. This enables you to manufacture a situation in which to watch his behavior.
Observe the dog. Note any factors that cause your dog to chew. For example, if he chews when there is a thunderstorm, the chewing is likely linked to anxiety. If he chews when left alone for a prolonged time, boredom is a probable cause. Knowing the cause enables you to better control his chewing during the training period, although training him not to chew is the same process regardless.
Create a positive distraction. Call the dog’s name, shake your keys or bounce a ball. Use your existing knowledge of your dog’s interests to get his attention. Once you have his attention for a few seconds, issue verbal praise and a food treat. This teaches the dog that focusing on you has a positive result.
Remove the distraction. Turn your focus to something else, such as a book or the phone, but keep an eye on his behavior. If he reverts to chewing, issue a clear, confident “stop” command. Verbally praise the dog as soon as he stops chewing.
Put the bedding out of reach and play with your dog for 10 minutes. This breaks up his mental process and takes his mind off chewing the bedding.
Bring back the bedding, and observe the dog once again. Wait for him to start chewing. As soon as he does, call his name.
Reward chewing cessation as soon as the dog stops. Do so with a ball, a toy or a food treat. Timing is key. Issue the reward as soon as he stops chewing. This forms a positive association with the act of chewing cessation. The theory of operant conditioning is based on creating associations between actions and consequences in the mind of an animal. By rewarding the act of stopping the unwanted behavior, you make the dog more likely to repeat the positive behavior. The positive behavior in this case is the act of focusing his attention on something other than chewing. This is called positive reinforcement.
Never punish a dog if you find chewed bedding. Verbally distract the dog if you catch him in the act, and otherwise ignore the mess. Dogs can’t link the act of chewing with a later act of being punished, and will not learn from this.
Never physically punish your dog.
Repeat this process until you are confident that the dog is unlikely to chew. Gradually phase out the use of the food reward, and replace it with verbal praise only.
Items You Will Need
- Dog toys
- Food treats
- Making homework image by Ivonne Wierink from Fotolia.com