Dogs live a life revolving around their stomachs and mouths. They love to eat and they love chewing, biting or licking. It’s no surprise that many dogs develop problem behaviors associated with the mouth, namely chewing and biting. Allowing a dog to continue chewing and biting beyond her puppy years is inviting disaster. Someone could get hurt.
Like babies, many dogs explore the world by tasting or chewing all that they find. The best way to deal with this problem is to be diligent and remove from their reach anything harmful or things they may consider an exciting proposition. This should include wiring, cleaning supplies and small objects.
Secure your cupboard doors with childproof fasteners so you don’t come home to find Grandma’s antique china dish in little pieces across the dining room floor.
Another good deterrent is to buy a few soft and specially designed dog toys whose sole purpose is for your dog to chew to his heart’s content. If you’re at home and see your dog contemplating his next feast, be quick to offer one of the toys as an alternative.
Separation Anxiety in Dogs
No dog likes to be left alone, and unless your dog is left alone on a regular basis and is used to a set pattern of departure and arrival, he may develop separation anxiety.
Your dog may find an outlet for separation anxiety in many different forms:
- escape behavior (such as chewing through walls, scratching through doors, bursting out of cages or digging under fences).
To prevent this type of behavior, make sure that your dog has lots of his favorite toys scattered around the house so that no matter where he looks for you, he’ll always find a distraction. If you usually listen to music or have the television on while you’re at home, leave the TV or radio on to provide familiar background sounds.
For extreme cases, discuss some of the newer pharmacological interventions with your veterinarian. These drugs can truly be life-saving for some dogs.
Puppy Mouthing or Biting
If a puppy bites you, yelp pitifully to show that he hurt you. Then give him one of his toys. With an older dog, use a raised voice (be firm, but not scary) and say something along the lines of, “No biting!”
If this behavior persists, stop playing with him and walk away. With an older dog, call a time-out and put him in a separate room until he’s calmed down. Continue these exercises until your dog realizes that this behavior is not acceptable. Although a puppy’s bite may seem harmless, the results of a biting dog can be severe.
The Dirt on Doggie Digging and Stool Eating
Your house may be clean and tidy and your dog may be fully trained to relieve herself outdoors but wait until you see what dirty deeds she comes up with when she has nothing better to do.
Digging in the Yard
Unless your dog was part of the planning meeting for your proposed swimming pool, canine excavation in your yard can be quite annoying. You have two choices on how to deal with this very natural canine behavior: stop it altogether or redirect it.
To stop it, keep a close eye on your dog while he’s out in the yard. If you see him begin to dig, run out and stop him using a raised voice or a loud noise of some type. After a while, your dog will realize the pattern of events associated with this activity and stop the behavior.
Some behaviorists suggest soaking your dog with the hose when he digs, but unless you enjoy having a wet dog scratching at the back door, you’d be making things worse for yourself.
Probably the better course of action is to redirect this behavior. Fence off a corner of your yard, take your dog to it and have him watch you bury something there, like a bone or a toy. Repeat this exercise every day with a little treasure for your dog to find until he automatically goes there on his own to dig. If you find him digging elsewhere, stop him, take him to his designated area and let him continue.
Getting into the Garbage
No matter how well behaved he is in your presence and how much your dog likes to please you, the temptation to raid the garbage pail is too good to pass up, particularly when he’s alone and bored.
Keep your trash under the sink and put a childproof fastener on the cupboard door. Or keep it in a separate, closed off room such as your garage or laundry room. If you can’t do either of these, invest in trashcans that have closing lids and add an air freshener to the trash every now and then to make the smell less appealing.
The worst thing you can do is wait to see if your dog does enjoy a quick rummage through the trash and then decide to do something about it. In this scenario, no matter what you do, he will only get more and more inventive about breaking into it, probably being even more destructive in the process.
Some dogs eat their own or other dogs’ excrement. This behavior is called coprophagia and is a more scientific way of saying, “My dog likes to eat poop.”
A better solution would be to have your dog trained to defecate on command so that you can pick it up right away.
Some folks have had success in reducing the behavior by changing their dog’s diet. It’s worth a try . . . but don’t be surprised if it makes little difference.
Eating stool is a behavior most commonly developed in bored dogs, so you have to make sure that you give your dog plenty of regular exercises.
If you’re out walking your dog and he suddenly becomes obsessed with a nice fresh pile, gives a firm tug on the leash to steer his attention towards more appropriate activities.
Rolling in stool also appears to be a particularly desirable practice for some dogs. It probably has to do with territory marking and hiding his own smell so he can be an effective hunter. This behavior can be corrected by distracting your dog when he appears to be looking for a good spot to roll around. A busy dog who gets regular exercise isn’t constantly looking for messy activities to keep from getting bored.