Apr 24 2015

Dog Training Tips: Excessive Chewing

How to help your little chewer 

It’s not uncommon for dogs to enjoy chewing on different objects, regardless of whether or not it’s something they should or shouldn’t be chewing on, all dogs have the natural instinct to chew.  Dogs chew on things for different reasons, some of these include: they’re bored, they’re panicking due to separation anxiety, they’re teething, they’re exploring the world around them, they’re hungry, or they just naturally enjoy chewing as a daily activity.  It’s our responsibility as their owners to try to figure out why they’re chewing and ensure they have appropriate items for them to chew on.  Below is some additional information about how to manage a dog that likes to chew a lot.

  • Puppies go through two teething phases, one when their puppy teeth or “milk teeth” start to come in at about 3 weeks old and the second when their adult teeth start to come in at about 3 months old.  It’s not uncommon for young dogs up to two years of age to continue to want to chew a lot into their teenage phase even though they are no longer teething.
  • Generally speaking, younger dogs have a lot more energy than older dogs so as a result they are much more active and need to be given constructive outlets to burn off all that energy.  If they’re not given the appropriate exercise and mental stimulation for their age and breed, young dogs can become very destructive in your home.  It’s imperative that you make the time to exercise your young dog, train basic obedience behaviors to your young dog so that they learn some manners, and give them appropriate chew bones and toys.  A tired dog is a good dog.
  • Always supervise young dogs to ensure they are not chewing on inappropriate objects and to ensure they are not choking and/or ingesting parts of the toys you’ve given them to play with and chew on.  Baby gates, crates, or keeping your dog on a leash tied to your belt are all good tools for total supervision until you get to know your dog and his or her chewing habits.  Not all dogs can play with the same toys safely so it’s imperative that you monitor your dog when you give them a new toy for the first time.  Ingested toys can cause serious life threatening intestinal blockages and the surgery alone to remove the blockage can cost a few thousand dollars at a veterinary office.
  • You can ensure that your dog is not chewing on inappropriate objects by keeping your personal items picked up and put away.  Also make sure that rooms are safe for your dog and that things like plugged in power cords are out of your dog’s reach.  Closing doors to extra rooms like bedrooms and bathrooms will ensure that your dog is not sneaking off and chewing on your things or harming herself.  Remind your children that it is their responsibility to keep their items like toys and shoes put away if they don’t want them chewed on by the dog.  It’s not uncommon for dogs of any age to want to chew things that smell strongly of their owners like dirty socks, underwear, shoes, etc. so make sure they are out of your dog’s reach.
  • If your dog is chewing on an inappropriate item, always redirect their chewing to their dog toys and bones instead of scolding them.  Scolding them will not diminish their need to chew and do something mentally stimulating; it will just teach your dog to fear you.  Instead teach them what they should be doing by offering them toys or chews that they should chew on.  See the list below of toys recommended for excessive chewers.
  • If your dog is chewing on larger items that you can’t put away like furniture, you may want to try a taste deterrent spray like bitter apple spray.  However, the best option is always going to be supervising your dog when you’re home and then redirecting them to an appropriate toy when they feel the need to chew.  If you’re not home to supervise then you may need to crate train your dog or baby gate them in a dog proof room like a kitchen or bathroom.  Some people can safely give their dogs toys to chew on while they are away while others cannot because their dog may have a history of ingesting or choking on toys.
  • If your dog is excessively chewing when you are not home and is doing things like escaping out of its metal or plastic crate and then chewing up carpets, doors, or the molding around your doors or windows, you most like have a dog that is suffering from separation anxiety and should seek immediate help from your veterinarian and a behaviorist.  Please see our separation anxiety handout.  Your dog is experiencing extreme mental and emotional distress, akin to a panic attack. Do not continue to try to crate your dog; she may severely injure her body or teeth while trying to escape out of a crate.
  • Recommended dog toys for excessive chewers*:
    • Kongs stuffed with peanut butter or wet dog food and then frozen
    • Himalayan Chews
    • Goughnuts
    • Nylabones
    • Wholesome rolled rawhide bones
    • Deer, moose, or elk antlers
    • Bull horns
    • Bully sticks
    • Rope toys
    • Tuffy plush toys
    • Leather toys
    • Red Barn or Merrick marrow bones

*Items above are generally safer if they are made in the USA compared to products shipped in from overseas, particularly animal products such as rawhides and marrow bones.  Wayside Waifs does not receive any financial reimbursement for endorsing these products.  Wayside Waifs can also not be held liable should your dog have problems while interacting with these toys.

 


Dec 4 2014

“Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks”: Chatting with Gabby Munoz, Canine Behavior Manager at Wayside Waifs

While I met with Gabby Muñoz the other day, two tiny Chihuahuas explored the office, having just been surrendered by their owners the day before. Gabby pointed out that they were curious and friendly, but nervous. Their ears were set back, and they were a little shaky.

Some dogs who come to Wayside Waifs are more than a little nervous. Abandonment, abuse, or neglect may leave them not knowing how to interact with humans or other animals. They may guard their food or overreact to unfamiliar stimuli, or shy away from contact altogether. Wayside Waifs hired Gabby as an expert to help the more troubled dogs trust again, behave more appropriately and become good pets.

All of Gabby’s work is based on scientific research, in keeping with her academic background. She earned her Masters in Biology with a Zoology concentration from Western Illinois University. She has also always been a “dog person,” and is the owner of two rescue cocker spaniels now.

Gabby told me about a Wayside alum named Frank, a yellow lab/Shepherd mix. His owners had used physical dominance and punishment to try to control him. In response, he had become aggressive, to the point that many shelters might have given up on him.

The staff started Frank’s rehabilitation simply by showering him with treats and positive reinforcement and then ignoring him when he wasn’t behaving. Positive reinforcement works much better than punishment in changing anybody’s behavior. After lots of work with Gabby and the other patient humans at Wayside Waifs, Frank’s behavior had turned around. He was ready to find a forever home, and he went home with a retired man in a successful adoption match.

Because I didn’t associate Labrador retrievers with fighting behavior, I asked Gabby if certain breeds are more aggressive than others. She told me that breeding did bring out certain personality traits, but that a dog’s experience plays a large part as well. Many American pit bull terriers, for instance, can be excellent pets. Wayside Waifs carefully assesses the behavior of all dogs that come to the shelter.

I had read before that owners need to assert their dominance as the “leader of the pack”- something I probably don’t do with my two rescue terriers. Gabby explained that this idea came from studying wolf behavior. But although dogs are related to wolves, they’ve evolved to behave quite differently. She said that they best owner-dog relationships are, like any relationship, based on “co-respect.”

Gabby assured me that my dogs could definitely learn more from obedience classes at Wayside Waifs, even though I’ve had them for a while. The shelter actually offers three levels of classes: one for puppies, one for dogs and an advanced course to help dogs obey even in the presence of distractions.

Although any dog can learn a lot, Gabby said, their basic temperament will not change. A shy dog can learn to interact with others, but may never be the life of the party. A boisterous pup can learn to calm down, but may never be a couch potato.

Dogs have their own personalities and quirks, just like people do, and they deserve to be loved for who they are. After all, they love us for who we are. And isn’t that what we all want?

-Stacey Donovan
Contributing Writer


Jul 3 2010

If You Have to Surrender a Pet…

Cody was surrendered to Wayside in May

Cody was surrendered to Wayside in May

Wayside Waifs is an amazing place. If you are reading this, I am sure you have seen our new, amazing dog adoption area. You know how much work we put in to taking care of and finding homes for the animals who come through our doors. You have met the amazing staff and dedicated volunteers who come in day in and day out to help care for and socialize the 300+ animals who currently call Wayside home. You know the good things we do. So, it may come as a surprise to hear me say the absolute best place for your companion animals is in a home. 

No matter how amazing we become, Wayside Waifs is a scary and stressful place for the animals. It is new and unusual and full of strange smells and sights and sounds the animals are not used to. Yes, most animals take to Wayside very quickly and have no problem while they are here. I am certain all of these animals would much rather be in a loving home. Bringing an animal to Wayside Waifs should be the last step in trying to find your companion a home. 

People often wonder why Wayside has so many big dogs and so few puppies or small dogs. The reason is simple—we have a much easier time finding homes for puppies and small dogs. Just like every one of you knows someone (or knows someone who knows someone) who would take in a Chihuahua or wants a puppy, many of you would have a harder time finding someone who would take in a three-year-old, 85 pound lab mix. It’s the same with us. The small dogs and puppies fly out of the shelter. The super friendly, loving, happy, playful labs and shepherds and mutts tend to spend more time with us.  

What can you do to help? Encourage everyone you know to adopt and not buy animals from Pet Stores or from a breeder. We always have “pure-breed” dogs and cats in the shelter. Visit our adoptions page and count how many “pure-breed” and “designer” dogs and cats we have available for adoption. We also will often see small mammals, rabbits, reptiles, birds and the like. 

Encourage everyone you know to spay and neuter their companions. We see “accidental” litters every day. A couple of great organizations to contact for help are Spay/Neuter Kansas City (http://snkc.net/) and No More Homeless Pets Kansas City (http://www.nmhpkc.org/).

If you have to find a new home for your companion animal, utilize free services like Petfinder (www.petfinder.com) or Craigslist (www.craigslist.com) before surrendering to Wayside. It will take a little more work on your part, but you will get to hand-pick the new family for your companion and Wayside will be able to better help the animals who have no other place to go. 

What should you do with an animal you find? If you can’t take care of the animal while looking for the human companion, utilize your local animal control. This is where the human will look for the lost animal. We do not have the ability to take in found animals without an appointment as we are limited on space and don’t euthanize the animals in our care to make room for new animals. If you want to hold on to the found animal while looking for the human who lost him/her, we will gladly set you up an appointment to utilize if you can’t find them or can’t find a new home for the animal. (If you have animals, get them micro-chipped so they can be reunited with you more quickly. If they have a microchip, please update the information to make sure they have your current phone number and address.) 

We want to be able to help as many animals as possible, but we also want to be able to help the people and the animals who need the most help. There are times when someone will not have the ability to find their companion a new home. In these cases, we would love to be able to always bring them in immediately, but sometimes we can not. We don’t like to say no to anyone, but there are times when it is necessary. You love the animals in your home and want to do what is best for them. We have over 300 animals in our “home” who we love and we have to do what is best for them. Sometimes, this means we have to so no. It’s nothing personal. If everyone did their part to help increase adoptions and to lower the number of animals in our community who need help, we will be able to really help the animals and the people who need it the most.

 

Written by Joe Hinkle
Manager of Behavior & Admissions at Wayside Waifs


Oct 28 2009

Difficult Times for Small Dogs in the Shelter

Benito!

Benito!

Most of my life, I have been a big dog person.  I never understood the fascination with small dogs and I swore I would never adopt one.  I thought they were annoying, yappy and precocious beasts who were un-trainable and obnoxious.  That was before I met Ginsberg, my 14 year old Pekingese mix, who I transferred from KCMO animal control, fell in love with and adopted.

Because of Ginsberg, I have started to pay a lot more attention to the small dogs who come to Wayside Waifs.  We see dogs from a variety of backgrounds.  Our small dogs come in as transfers, strays and owner surrenders.  We do our best to help find these guys and gals new homes, but there are some who have a really hard time adjusting to life in shelter.  This occurs with big dogs, too, but I feel this happens with a larger percentage of small dogs.

Fear turns to fear aggression in some small dogs.  We see a lot more of this than I would like.  A small dog is scared when he comes in and is placed in an upper-quad (a kennel that is about face height for most people).  When we try to get the dog out again and he is terrified.  He growls, he snaps, and he bites at the leash.  For some staff and volunteers they decide this dog is aggressive and start to favor others. 

Getting a terrified small dog out of the kennel is usually the hardest part, but it can make a world of difference.  Sometimes, you will just need to lasso them to get them out.  Once out, they need someplace to relax and let some fear go.  Recently, we worked with a Toy Fox Terrier named Benito who tried to bite anyone who came near him.  Getting him out of his kennel was next to impossible. 

Once we got him out, we started working with him and letting him see that people here were not going to hurt him.  We started to work on building trust.  We would put him in play groups with other small dogs.  Small dog play groups really help scared dogs as they can witness other small dogs interacting with each other and with people.  We have found that this can help the small dogs more than anything else in the shelter.  They get to learn from their own.

Benito was moved to more secluded section of the shelter and was given more attention.  As he became more and more friendly, he was walked by more and more people.  He started to become one of the dogs we would always use in playgroups to help the other scared dogs.  Last week, Benito found the perfect home.  We let his adopters know about all of his history and since they had lived with numerous terriers in the past, they were more than happy to continue his work.

Not all small dogs have a hard time adjusting to shelter life, but some do.  As we continue to learn and understand more about small dogs, we will be able to help them more quickly and hopefully find ways to stop this from happening at all.  If you are looking to add a small dog to your life, please check out your local shelter.  There may just be a lot of dogs like Benito looking for someone to give them a loving home, a little help and a chance at a new life.  The love and joy they return to you will be immense.

Written by Joe Hinkle
Manager of Behavior & Admissions at Wayside Waifs


Jul 10 2009

Training with Kindness

How do you train your pets? Smack on the rump? The “evil eye”? A raised voice or fist? Here’s another question: How were you taught to train your pets? 

When I was a kid, the generally accepted method was still the rolled-up newspaper. When I cringed along with the dog, my mother said, “It doesn’t really hurt her.” That much was true; our dog was never physically hurt. But you know something else? She never was trained, either. Not even housebroken. 

Animal training methods fall into two camps: traditional, punishment-based methods and reward-based methods. Many of us use a combination of these. I’ve certainly spoken sharply to our dog, Eloise, commanding her to “drop it” (stuffed rabbit, expensive loafer, phone bill …). Her response? She’s a beagle; they’re stubborn. She either clenches her teeth, preparing for tug-of-war, or she dashes about the house in a merry chase. Usually I have to shake the treat box to get her to comply. 

If it’s one of my smart days, though, I’ll react very unemotionally when I see the Jimmy Choo hanging from her jaws. I take a breath, call her over with great excitement and joy in my voice, have her sit, and hold up my hand as if I’m grasping a treat (she knows that gesture). Calmly, I say, “Drop it.” When she does, loads of praise. 

Does it always work? Okay, remember … beagle. Of course not. But I realize I’ve set up the run-and-catch-me scenario over the course of five years. I know it’s an attention-getting device. It’s also a response when Eloise hasn’t had a good walk in a couple of days. I’m starting to think about the psychology of it.  

This handheld clicker sells for $1.49.

This handheld clicker sells for $1.49.

Karen Pryor, author of  Don’t Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training (Ringpress, 2002) advocates clicker training. A “clicker” is a cheap plastic handheld device that emits a loud click when pressed. (You can get them for under two dollars at pet stores.) A trainer uses the clicker to show an animal that it’s done something right. The animal quickly learns that the sound of the clicker is followed by a reward. Because the trainer can click immediately when the desired behavior occurs, the animal’s actions can be “shaped” to produce very specific results. 

So Eloise and I are going to give clicker training a try. We’ll report back to tell you how it’s going. In the meantime, log on here to read an excerpt from Pryor’s latest book, Reaching the Animal Mind. 

posted by Claire M. Caterer


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