The first thing to understand is that chewing is a natural canine behavior. Dogs naturally chew to relieve the irritation and inflammation of teething and also, puppies generally investigate the environment with jaws and paws. Much like a two-year old child is into everything, puppies investigate with their mouths. In addition, regular chewing is necessary for maintaining healthy teeth, gums, and jaws. Dogs also chew because they are bored, experiencing anxiety or just simply because it’s fun for them.
The best way to handle your dog’s chewing is to supply her with appropriate chew toys. Some of the best chew toys out there are Kongs and Nylabones. Stuff the Kongs with goodies to get your dog’s attention. You can stuff the Kong’s with all kinds of creative things (rice and eggs or cottage cheese, cream cheese, peanut butter and kibble) and freeze it. This will give your dog something to work on for quite some time. I also like “Buster Cubes” to keep a dog busy. They are not really a chew toy, but they will keep your dog occupied so that they are not busy chewing on your shoe. Hollow real bones are also available, and can be stuffed with cream cheese or other goodies to keep your dog occupied.
In addition to supplying your dog with chew toys, you can also manage the dog’s environment. Be sure to “puppy proof” your home. In other words, keep things like shoes, old socks, and children’s toys out of reach of your dog. If there are areas of concern, such as carpet or couch, keep your dog contained in the kitchen or a room where she can do no serious damage. Also, a crate can be used for a short duration to keep your dog quiet and out of trouble. (I do not suggest crating your dog for 8 hours while you go to work. That’s way too long.)
If your dog will not play with a chew toy you may have to teach it! (Yes, this seems unbelievable, but true.) You can “teach” your dog to play by tying a string around the toy and dragging it slowly across the floor. You can also shape this behavior, by clicking and treating for each step your dog takes towards playing with a toy. For instance, first click and treat for sniffing, then licking, then putting it in her mouth, etc.
Keep control of your dog’s toys. She should always have at least one chew toy out to play with. However, make sure your dog understands that “all good things” come from you. Let your dog know that these are your toys and you’re letting her play with them. Pick up Kongs and Buster Cubes at the end of the “chew” session. Clean them up and re-stuff them, freeze them, and have them ready for the next day. Or just clean them and put them away and then the next day make a big deal about getting them ready for your pup. Request that she do a few behaviors (puppy pushups for example) before handing over the goody.
You come home after a long day at work, walk in the front door and your dog (who hasn’t seen you all day and is sooooo excited) jumps up on you to say hello. You start shouting “off!”, “off!”, he finally gets down and you say nothing. It’s possible that your dog has even associated jumping with the word “off”. How? Because you make a big scene and scream, “off!” when he’s jumping up on you and ignore him and say nothing once his four feet hit the floor again.
The most effective way to stop your dog from jumping up on you and other people is to train an incompatible behavior. After all, the dog is just going through a natural doggy greeting ritual. When pups are young they jump up and lick the corners of adult dogs’ mouths. This triggers the adult to regurgitate food that the puppies can eat. This jumping behavior is carried over to some adult dogs as a greeting behavior.
The most common behavior that is taught in place of jumping is sit. Several other behaviors that can be taught are lie down, settle or four-on-the-floor (standing). I suggest you start with sit because your dog is probably pretty good at that by now. The idea is you (or a guest) come in the door and you ask your dog to “sit.” Do not pay any attention to him until he sits. Then and only then does he get his greeting from you or your guest. Sounds simple right? Well, pretty simple. The problem is that most dogs that jump are so excited in the moment they may not be listening to you. This takes perseverance on your part. First, make sure you’ve already taught your dog a reliable response to the “sit” cue. Second, make sure he’ll stay in that position for a little while at least.
You should work on this behavior each and every time you come in the door. Don’t allow your dog to jump up on you sometimes and not others. The inconsistency on your part will make it impossible to stop this behavior. It’s best to set this up as an actual training exercise. Drive up in your car, walk in the door and immediately ask your dog to “sit”. If he sits, immediately click and treat and praise. (I keep a small container of treats and a clicker by the door when I’m working on this behavior.) If he isn’t listening and he jumps up on you, cross your arms and just stand there like a tree. Totally ignore him. You can also take a step back to throw him off a little. Continue to ask him to “sit”, ignoring any jumping behavior. When he does quiet down and sit, click and treat. Praise him, but do so quietly so as not to get him too excited right now. I usually lean over and whisper some praise in my dog’s ear.
Ok, you’re not done yet! This is the key to training this behavior. Go out the front door and do this over again. (Or to make it more real for your dog, you can sneak out the back door, get back in your car, drive a little ways and return home.) Come in the door again. Notice he’s a little calmer this time and you can probably get him to sit so that you have an opportunity to click and reward the desired behavior. Now do this a few more times. Continue this for several days in a row until you’re getting a reliable sit when you come in the door. You are now teaching your dog that your idea of courteous greeting behavior is sitting.
Now invite some friends or neighbors over and go through this same exercise. When your friend enters, instruct them to pay no attention to your dog until he sits. You ask him to “sit” (hopefully before he jumps up). If he sits, immediately click and let them praise him and offer him a treat. Do this about five times. with this person. In addition, do this with a number of people. Veterinarian and Trainer Ian Dunbar suggests having a little “puppy party” and inviting over a bunch of friends and doing this over and over in one evening. Within a single session, you can make great strides towards overcoming this problem behavior and have fun at the same time!
Articles written by: Teah Anders.