Creating a Complusive Chewer

By Beth White with thanks to Dr. Ian Dunbar

Why do we want to create a compulsive chewer? Easy! A dog that is chewing won't be barking, digging, or destroying precious possessions. The problem is to find chew toys that are indestructible and non-consumable. Then our job is to train the dog to enjoy chewing only those toys.

Two kinds of chew toys that lend themselves to this kind of training are Kongs and open-ended real bones, both commercially available. Stuff several of these toys with dog treats, primarily kibble, biscuits, and liver treats. Squish a really tasty treat (cheese, peanut butter, etc.) into the middle of the long bones or the end of the Kong toy. Then stuff the rest of the toy with kibble and biscuits (wedge some in tightly), corking off the end of the toy with a big piece that the dog can bite off quickly and then spend time gnawing at the toy to try to remove the rest.

Confine the dog to the kitchen, laundry room, or other room that contains nothing for the dog to destroy, and give your dog the 'stuffed' chew toys. This will not only encourage the dog to chew the right thing but will help the dog to adjust to confinement when left alone. Separation anxiety and lick granulomas (self mutilation) are two problem behaviors that would respond to this passive training technique.

Finally, when you return home encourage the dog to bring you one of the toys. In fact, refuse to pet the dog until you have the chew toy. Then use a pencil or other utensil to poke the final, specially tasty treat from out off the middle or end of the toy, dropping it into the dog's eager mouth as a reward for good behavior. This way the dog learns to chew during the most active portions of his or her day, just after you leave and just before you get home.

It will be well worth investing in half a dozen stuffable chew toys in order to train the dog to do something that is good for it and for you!