As much as I’d like to think that my precious little rat terrier is perfect in every way, I have to confess that she does have a minor problem with chewing on household objects. Her preferred dishes of choice are socks, blankets, and pillows. Of course, canine chewing is a healthy activity that soothes their gums, burns off energy, and relieves much needed tension and boredom. While my terrier’s household victims are small and can be easily replaced, there are many dog owners suffering with bigger issues like chewed furniture and doorways. It’s important to teach your dog what the acceptable and unacceptable items are in order to prevent this continuation of the problem. Here are just a few steps that you can take to stop unwanted dog chewing:

Step One-Dog-proof your house.

First of all, I’d like to note that I took all these measures with my dog and the result was a successful operation. The first thing you need to do is think like a dog. What is within their reach? What can they get to? If you were a dog, what are some of the things in the room that you would go after? Put away all of the small items that you don’t want your dog to chew. For instance, instead of leaving shoes or flip flops lying around, you’ll want to store those in the closet or in a separate basket. It’s natural instinct for a dog to want to chew on an object, so if they find something then let it be a learning experience for you, not the dog. This is the beginning process for teaching them what is acceptable to chew on. Keeping things out of reach is the easiest solution.

Step Two-Teach your dog what is acceptable.

If you’re taking away these household objects from your dog, then you cannot completely deprive them of this need. It’s like expecting your baby to not have any toys to play with. Go out and buy toys that your dog can play with. However, do not buy any toys that may resemble household objects such as a toy shoe. Don’t tie two socks together and use that as a toy for your dog. After all, how are they supposed to associate between a “good” sock and a “bad” one. These items should be easily distinguishable from the household objects. Keep all of these acceptable toys in the same basket where your dog can easily access them. After a while your dog will understand that this is their basket and everything they can play with is stored here. In the beginning stages, each time your pet gets something out of the special basket praise them with a treat or pat on the back.

By the way, if you’re having a hard time finding a long-lasting toy that your dog won’t demolish on the first day, then I highly recommend the rubber Kongs. Kongs are rubber toys that come in different degrees of toughness, depending on your dog’s size. The rubber Kong is hollowed out so that you can put peanut butter or other food in the middle. You then freeze the Kong for a period of four to six hours, and then take it out for your dog to play with. The frozen peanut butter takes your dog a long time to finish licking.

Step Three-Change your negative approach.

By now, you’ve probably scolded your dog or used spanking after catching him or her chewing on the edge of a $3000 coffee table. As I mentioned earlier, you must think like a dog in order to understand one. If you spank their bottom and yell “No!” then you still have not offered a solution. Instead, watch your dog until they do something wrong. If they start sniffing and gnawing at furniture then you tell them “No” and then bring them either a chew toy or direct them toward the acceptable toys basket. They need to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable objects, or else they’ll keep finding something to chew on regardless of what it is. Also, it’s important to use the reward system. In the beginning, each time they go to the acceptable items basket then reward them with a treat or “special” chew toy. In the event that they do something wrong, always use a one word command that can be easily memorized for a dog. By the way, if you’re still having a hard time breaking them of chewing on furniture then every pet store sells a spray to put on furniture that will leave a terrible taste in your dog’s mouth. It is a non-toxic spray that will deter them from chewing.

Step Four—Exercise with your dog.

When you bought the puppy, you knew that you would have to spend considerable time playing with the pet. After all, it’s not like a television where you buy it and simply sit there and watch it. Dogs have an innate need to bond and play, therefore you need to take a part of your day to walk your pet or play with them in the house. Part of the reason they chew on household objects is due to their pure boredom. Giving your dog a proper outlet for their energy will take their mind off of chewing.

If you follow these steps, then you will dramatically reduce the amount of chewing in the household. Good luck!