West Highland White Terrier Club of America

Chewing

by Deb Duncan

Chewing is a natural activity for dogs. Puppies WILL chew. And, older dogs that have never been taught what is acceptable/ not acceptable to chew...will CHEW!! Puppies absolutely will chew on things due to their natural tendencies and their "teething". When "teething", chewing actually provides physical relief. Think about a child that is teething, we provide them with teething rings, etc. Infants will even "gnaw" on your hand or fingers. For pups, they need teething rings, TOO!. They are just like the infants in that they will chew/gnaw on anything available that will offer them "teething relief".

Several approaches can help. Have plenty of chew toys available. PICK UP all items that are inviting to the dogs UNTIL they learn what is acceptable & what is NOT acceptable to chew. DO NOT GET UPSET WHEN YOUR PUP CHEWS ON SOMETHING YOU DIDN'T WANT THEM TO CHEW! Instead, realize that you should have kept a closer eye on them and/or removed the inviting NON chew items from their environment.

A supply of Bitter Apple (spray & cream) can help. The spray can be used on most items without harming them. The cream can be used on furniture, cabinets, wood, metal items, etc. The Bitter Apple has to be reapplied regularly as it will gradually lose its effectiveness.

Pups & older dogs that have not been taught previously, can learn WHAT is acceptable/not acceptable to chew. To correct the pup/dog for chewing, you have to catch them in the act. Punishing or scolding "after the fact" makes NO sense to them. If your pup/dog appears remorseful, it is because they are reading your displeasure & reacting to that...NOT the fact that they chewed something. Remember that chewing is "natural" for dogs!

When you catch your pup/dog chewing something inappropriately, the SHAKE CAN is VERY effective & highly recommended. If using the the shake can, follow the described directions & say NO CHEW, GOOD NO CHEW. Immediately, divert their attention to an acceptable chew item (toy). Play with them for a couple of minutes. If you are consistent with this routine, they will quickly learn that "certain" items cause that unpleasant "shake can noise" to occur, AND these "other" items are great fun & even get me extra attention.

Please know that for the first "several" times you correct for chewing, the pup/dog will NOT associate the correction with the chewing behavior!!! It will take numerous repetitions & consistency & PATIENCE on your part. If you are being "fair" to your baby, you will recognize & understand that altering the CHEWING mechanism is actually modifying an innate part of their existence. You cannot expect them to change an aspect this major in only a few exposures. You have to "train" them. Give them a chance to LEARN what you want.

There is a step you can add to this process, ONLY IF NECESSARY. When you catch the pup/dog with the unacceptable chew item, remove it from their mouth, squeeze their muzzle with your thumb & forefinger "just enough" to cause a minor whimper. The whimper is caused from the basic restraint & reducing their air supply for a VERY short period of time. As soon as they whimper in the slightest, you will release them.While lightly squeezing the muzzle, say NO CHEW. When you release their muzzle, say GOOD NO CHEW. Now, here is the real aspect to this exercise, place the item back in their mouth, close their mouth over it, & lightly squeeze the muzzle as described above with NO CHEW. Release at the slightest whimper, GOOD NO CHEW. The concept here is that they will quickly decide "THAT ITEM is the last thing I ever want back in my mouth"!!!!

I do NOT recommend this approach UNLESS you are not making headway with the Bitter Apple applications coupled with the "shake can". I strongly emphasize that this "muzzle squeeze" process is NOT intended to cause PAIN to the dog. It should be done with all due diligence to ONLY cause "minimal discomfort". This is really all a pup/dog needs.

Some additional HELPFUL HINTS:

  1. Chew proof your house. Pick up all items that will be INVITING to a pup/dog's mouth.
  2. Keep ALL sock & shoes out of harm's way. If they chew your socks or shoes, it is YOUR fault for leaving them out...UNTIL your pup/dog has "learned" what is acceptable for them to chew. By all means, DO NOT give them their "own" shoe or sock. How can they tell the difference from "their" shoe or sock and "your" shoes & socks!!!!!
  3. Know that rug/carpet edges, couch skirts, and pillows are exceedingly enticing to pups & untrained dogs mouths.Block their access to these areas OR use the Bitter Apple.
  4. NEVER let a pup or untrained dog out of your sight. Just like children, if they are somewhere else & quiet...they are into something...probably chewing something!!!
  5. For teething pups, keep nylabones or gumabones in your freezer. Always have a frozen one available. These are very comforting during teething. You can even freeze a wet rag, if nothing else is available.
  6. Plaque Attackers are also helpful. They can be frozen or unfrozen. The nobbiness seems to message their gums.

Above all, be patient...be consistent....be vigilant....be fair!!! Help your pup/dog to learn. Do not "set them up" to fail or displease you. They really want to please you, they want to learn the rules. Your pup/dog will EVEN change their basic "innate tendencies" to please you...IF you will take the time to TEACH them and give them the chance to LEARN!!

 

***Disclaimer***

Any information contained on this site relating to training and behavior of Westies is for informational purposes only. The WHWTCA recommends that Westies undergo obedience training. For assistance in locating an obedience training club in your area, please consult the American Kennel Club's website at www.akc.org/events/obedience/getting-started/