If Benji treats your shoes like chew toys, you're most likely not a happy camper. Punishing and scolding him when you come home to find the damage is ineffective, because he won't associate your anger with his destructive chewing. The first step toward correcting his behavior is finding out why he's chewing on your shoes. Then with determination and a healthy dose of patience, you can stop Benji's shoe-chewing fetish.
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Exploring and Teething
If Benji is a puppy, he might chew your shoes while explore his surroundings, or he might be teething. Similar to babies, his incoming teeth cause discomfort. Chewing on shoes might be his way to make his gums feel better. Teething can take about six months, and even after this, Benji might still continue exploring with his mouth. Usually undesired chewing wears off when dogs reach the age of 2, which is when they reach full maturity.
Boredom and Attention
Benji's chewing fetish might be triggered when he's bored or craving your attention. It might be his way of releasing pent-up energy. Leaving him alone for long periods with minimal exercise is asking for trouble. To stimulate Benji physically and mentally, spend quality time with him -- take him on long walks or go jogging with him, arrange doggie play dates with other dog owners, practice obedience training for a short period every day, and play games, such as fetch and tug-of-war.
If your dog follows you throughout the house, only chews on your shoes when you're not home, acts up when you get ready to leave and welcomes you lavishly when you return, separation anxiety might be brewing. Your dog targets your shoes because they smell like you, which is comforting to him. Exiting and entering the house as if it's no big deal, leaving a T-shirt with your scent behind and gradually increasing the duration that your dog is alone might reduce his discomfort. In severe cases, consult a veterinarian or animal behavior specialist for possible treatment methods.
Benji's shoe-chewing behavior might just be his way of dealing with stress from everyday happenings. If he doesn't like the other pet living in your home, your shoes might fall victim to his teeth. If an outdoor cat is teasing him, the frustration of not being able to chase him might trigger Benji's chewing. Learn what scenarios stress your dog out and try to prevent them or make sure he has an appropriate item to chew on to release his frustration.
To keep Benji from destroying your shoes, reinforce good behavior. Arm yourself with a variety of chew toys, and when he goes for your shoes, say "no," and present one of the toys. When he shows interest, praise him and give treats to motivate him to repeat the behavior. Rotate the toys to keep him interested. Other solutions can include, closing the door to the room with your shoes, crate training your pet companion when you can't watch him, and tethering him to you in the house.
By Kimberly Caines
ASPCA: Destructive Chewing
The Humane Society of the United States: Chewing: The Whys and Hows of Stopping a Gnawing Problem
101 Training Tips for Your Dog; Kate Delano Condax
ASPCA: Enriching Your Dog's Life
The Humane Society of the United States: Separation Anxiety
The Dog Behavior Answer Book; Arden Moore
About the Author
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.