Help for Dogs Who Destroy Toys. Train Your Dog to Play Nicely with His Toys!

09/08/2016
by Jessica Rollins

By Jess Rollins
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Got a destructo-pup? Do you find yourself buying expensive dog toys and watching them be chomped to shreds in minutes? Not only is this an costly problem for you, it is also dangerous one for your dog who may ingest pieces of toys. It can also cause him to have less toys to play with which can lead to him turning his chewing need to bigger toys such as your furniture or other "naughty" outlet behaviors.

Luckily, there is help for your Goat-Dog <grin>. With a few tips about the best toys for him and a bit of guidance for your dog, you and your dog can enjoy toys for a good long time.

The training plan below is best for the happy-go-lucky type of dog who just happens to enjoy destroying his toys. It is not suitable for dogs that are very sensitive and nervous and especially not those who guard their toys.

Let's start by discussing appropriate toys for your strong chewing dog. It will be safest and best for him and your wallet to purchase the strongest toys you can find. It will also help to buy toys that are a little larger than you might normally purchase for a dog his size. You can check out the extra-durable dog toy category at Pet Expertise for our toys that fair the best with strong chewers.

After getting some nice strong toys for your dog, you will need to teach your dog how to play with them without destroying them (even the strongest toys are sometimes no match for a determined chewer!). Ask your dog to sit or do another trick that he knows. If he complies, give him the toy and stay with him. If he plays nicely with the toy reward him with praise, attention and perhaps a treat. "Playing nicely" consists of rolling the toy, tossing the toy, mouthing the toy, etc. If he starts to rip at the toy or try to break it, say "eh eh!" to interrupt him. Once he resumes playing appropriately, be sure to reward him again and stay with him until he stops playing with the toy and then put the toy out of his reach until next play/training session (this is perfect to do in front of the television!).

If your dog does not stop ripping at the toy when you say "eh eh!", you can try clapping your hands to distract him. The idea is not to frighten or punish him, but to get him to stop destroying the toy so you can go back to rewarding him for playing nicely.

Don't try this if: If your dog seems very tense when he is chewing the toy and he is avoiding you or if he freezes over the toy and starts to frantically rip at it or even try to consume it, it probably means that your dog has a more serious problem of guarding. In this case I suggest reading our tips on teaching Drop It and possibly having a positive trainer help you with teaching your dog to be comfortable with you near him when he has things of value and even to happily give them to you when you ask.

If your dog does not seem to be "guarding" the toy, but is just not distracted by your "eh eh!" or your clapping, as a last resort you can try giving him a quick squirt with a squirt bottle. I don't usually recommend this, but if you feel that you have a mostly calm, but goofy dog it will probably do little harm and will help him to learn to play safely with his toys which will enrich his life and keep him safer.

I recommend not leaving your dog alone with a new toy until you feel confident that he has gotten into the habit of playing without destroying the toy, then you may wish to begin leaving him for short periods with the most durable toys. Being able to leave your dog with toys such as food puzzle toys or chew toys can help to keep him happily occupied and even prevent separation anxiety. As your dog gets good at playing with (and not destroying) the extra strong toys that you have purchased for him, you can begin to introduce other toys using the same techniques above.

Happy training!

-Jess

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