DEAR OLD TRAINER: Charlotte, my 18-month old Aussie/Lab mix, loves to pull her bed out of her doghouse and chew it. I have tried everything to stop her, but nothing works. Sometimes when I come home the backyard looks like storm hit it. Do you have any suggestions?
A: I know the problem well, Carol. Some of my best and smartest dogs spent their youthful years doing the same thing. Beds are just another toy to a young dog.
I use old blankets and sheets for my dog’s beds and I have one of the world’s finest collections of blankets and sheets with holes in them.
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It’s not a serious behavior problem and is easy to cure if you catch the dog in the act, but that can be hard to do. You can’t scold a dog for something it does while you are gone or it thinks it is being scolded because you came home.
If you do see her in the act, roll up a newspaper and whack it on your leg, making as much noise as possible, and tell her, “no, this is not a toy, don’t you chew this bed, blah, blah, blah.” The words are unimportant as long as you make lots of noise with the paper and let her know you are upset. Point the paper at her between whacks.
If you don’t catch her in the act but see she has pulled the bed out, use a variation of the same lecture. Pick up the bed and hit the bed with the paper. Tell her “this is my bed. My bed. This is not a toy! This is my property.”
Again, the words are unimportant. You are showing her the bed belongs to you and you get mad when something happens to it. That way you focus your anger on the bed, not the dog. She begins to realize there is something special about the bed that is different from her toys.
Another solution is to remove the bed when you leave and only put it back in the doghouse when you can watch to see if she starts to play with it.
But the easiest solution is to remove the bed and spread about a foot of straw in the dog house. Dogs love straw or hay as a bed, they can’t chew it, and when it gets worn after a few weeks you just empty it out on the ground and it becomes compost. You can get straw and hay at any farm and ranch supply store.
It may take a combination of all these things, plus her maturing a little, but eventually you can put a stop to it.
Be patient and don’t get frustrated. Training is much easier when you make it a game you both enjoy. When I have a problem training dogs, I tell them, “I am going to outsmart you and we’ll both have fun while I do it.” Their tails always wag because they read my body language and know we are going to have a good time.
Dogs love to do the right thing and they always will if you are able to explain to them what you want. Figuring out how to do that is part of the fun.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.