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Dog that chews sofa needs better outlet for energy
Dear Pet Doctor, My family and I are in desperate need of your help. I'll give you a little background. My husband and I have two female collies named Sasha and Casey. They are both approx. 4-5 years old. Both Sasha and Casey were rescued as well as our cat named Cali. Sasha, Casey and Cali are all well trained except for a few minor problems. My son has two dogs, both rescued also. Faust is a small lab mix and Fagan is a pit bull mix. Faust is somewhat trained. He likes to chew and has accidents at times. Fagan is another story. He chews everything and has no house manners. The problem is that due to economic reasons we have to combine households. We don't know what to do about Fagan. Fagan is about two years old. My son rescued him from abuse. He was discovered tied to a fence and at one time may have been trained to fight. He is however a very sweet dog, very loving and loves to play. When all the dogs are together, they romp and play and chase each other around and in general get along. My son and Fagan have been with us for almost a year. In that time he has literally eaten three sofas. Faust has been with my son since he was a puppy. Sasha is very shy and does not really care for Fagan, but she tolerates him. Faust was really brought up with my girls and gets along with them. The cat gets along with all. I hope I haven't confused you too much. Here is the dilemma. We have considered trying to find another home for Fagan but we all really love him. Our worst fear is that Fagan, because he is a pit bull, will wind up back on the street as a fighter. We realize that no matter how careful we are in trying to find him a good home that this can happen. So we are trying to find a way to keep him and train him. Various suggestions have been made like keeping him in the kitchen which is not fair... to building a privacy fence with a doggy door. We really don't want to have him outside for fear of someone trying to steal him. We are hoping you can come up with some suggestions. We really cannot afford formal dog training classes but will do anything we can on our own. We all work, but are on different schedules during the day and we're home in the evenings. Because of my son's schedule, the training will be up to my husband and I. Please help. We love all of them. Sincerely, G.D., Wilmington
Dear G.D., With Fagan's chewing problem, it's important to know whether he does this while people are home with him or whether this is just when he's home alone with the other dogs. You are probably not dealing with a separation anxiety here, but more likely a dog with a lot of energy that is finding an inappropriate outlet in his destructive behavior. For dogs, chewing and licking themselves as well as other objects, is a way that they get out extra energy. Sometimes these behaviors are benign. Other times they can pose significant problems. Pit bulls and their mixes typically have a lot of energy. They are usually very enthusiastic, and it is not uncommon for situations to develop in which the dog gets excited, thinking its going to play with an owner or go for a ride or a walk. When the owner just leaves, you have a dog that is very excited with a lot of energy that is ready to be put into action, despite the fact that there is no available appropriate action to take. All that energy has to go somewhere, and the dog begins to chew. Simply isolating this dog or keeping him away from the couches may be unfair. But as a treatment plan, this alone will most likely fall short. This dog definitely needs appropriate outlets for his energy, and may or may not need an effective means of discipline as well (there is a good bit of variance as far as means of discipline to use with a given dog in a given situation). He should have 2-3 concentrated exercise/activity/play periods per day for about 30-40 minutes per session. The rest of the day is quiet time. The time that is usually most problematic for people is the evening when people come home from work and school. This is a very exciting time for dogs. They are highly social animals, and when you've been away all day, they get excited to see you. Again they now have this large on board supply of energy and it needs an outlet. There will certainly be times when his energy is up and you don't have the time or energy to give to him. This is where chew toys come in. It's good to have 4-5 different things that your dog loves to chew and will lay down and chew for 15-20 minutes. Pick it up and put it away when it's not being used, and the next time give, something different. If you rotate chew objects this way, they will maintain their novelty, and your dog will stay interested. My favorite chew toy: cow shin bones (tibias). The strongest bone from the cow (just four of these sticks are responsible for supporting the one thousand plus pounds of a mature cow), and they're great for keeping dogs' teeth clean. Boil them for 10-15 minutes, cool+/-freeze, then give as needed at these strategic times.