Most dogs have a strong natural desire to chew and dig. These activities are part of the way that puppies explore and investigate their world. Unfortunately, this desire can be a major problem if your puppy chews your new shoes or digs up your flower garden. Many dog owners attempt to correct this “normal” behavior with punishment, but we feel that positive reinforcement of good behavior is more effective and will keep your puppy happier and healthier. Your puppy should have a place where it can explore and should have fun, safe chew toys. Remember, the old saying is true: A tired dog is a good dog. Plenty of play and exercise will very often eliminate destructive chewing and digging problems.
Chew toys are very important, especially for puppies. The emergence of new adult teeth is a powerful stimulus to chew. When selecting chew toys, begin with a variety and switch often. When you see your puppy playing with its chew toys, reward it with a few kibbles of puppy food or affection (POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT). A few notes on chew toys: Chew toys should be tough. Your puppy should not be able to remove chunks of the toy and swallow them. What works for one pup may not work for another. Do not let your pup chew on old shoes or socks. It is hard for a puppy to differentiate between his shoe and your shoes.
Supervision of your puppy is important. From time to time, household items may be more appealing than chew toys. Supervise or confine your puppy to a safe area such as a crate or kennel until you can trust it to leave your things alone. Even still, mistakes will occur. Keep valuable or important things beyond the reach of your puppy. You may be able to teach avoidance of certain items by making it taste bad. Cayenne pepper mixed with water, commercial anti-chew sprays and booby traps may work. When mistakes occur, punishment is not worthwhile unless you catch the puppy in the act of chewing. Punishment should consist of a loud “NO” or a squirt with a squirt gun. Never strike your dog. Remember, positive reinforcement is better than negative.
Dogs dig for many reasons, the most common being that it is just plain fun. Digging commonly occurs when your dog is left alone with insufficient stimulation. Provide your pet with fun and safe chew toys and exercise before you leave it alone. Sometimes, a second dog will provide the necessary stimulation to prevent inappropriate behavior.
Much thought should be given to this option since you could end up with two diggers instead of just one.
Punishment is only effective if your puppy is digging in your presence. Digging may continue in your absence unless you can identify and correct the cause. In some cases, providing a digging area works well. In conjunction with the digging area, you may find it necessary to booby trap other areas that your dog likes to dig. Chicken wire and large rocks work well. Remember to reward your dog for digging in the digging area with a little food or affection.
If you have any questions feel free to speak to your veterinarian.