Toys and Chewing Part II

Baby Sadie loves watching our 11 month-old puppy, Wally. Now that she is becoming more mobile, she’s able to get closer to Wally’s things. She is most interested in his tennis balls. If she does get her hands on one of his tennis balls, I’ll let her look at it and touch it. If she tries to put it in her mouth, I say, “Ew, yuck!” and then take the ball away.

Sadie and Wally
Sadie and Wally
I’ve been watching Wally very closely when Sadie gets his toys. Sadie’s pediatrician told me it’s less important to worry about teaching your baby not to take your dog’s toys, and more important to teach your dog that it’s ok for the baby to explore (because they will). Typically, Sadie grabs one of Wally’s toys when we’re playing fetch; I usually sit right next to Sadie so when Wally brings the toy back to me, she goes for it. Since Wally is in “play” mode, sometimes he tries to go after the toy when he sees Sadie grab it. This is the behavior I’m trying to correct. When he moves to get the toy from Sadie, I can stop him by calling his name in a deep voice. Once I have the toy back in my hands, I hold it in front of his face for a second to make sure he still won’t snatch it out of my hands. Then, I throw it and say “Go get it!” so he knows he can retrieve it.

 

One downside to Sadie playing with Wally’s toys is that he has had to revisit the lesson that Sadie’s toys are still off-limits. Since Sadie started touching his toys, he has gotten a little confused (perhaps even jealous) and has started stealing her toys. When he misbehaves this way, I show him the stolen toy, firmly say “no,” and then he has some crate time.

 

How did Wally steal Sadie’s toys? He learned how to escape his new crate while we were out.

Wally in his chewed-up, wooden crate
Wally in his chewed-up, wooden crate

Unfortunately, we had to return his original metal crate and we bought a wooden crate (that also acts as a table) in its place. This was a mistake. I learned Wally is a big-time chewer, especially when he’s left alone. Do not buy a wooden crate if you have a chewer. Each time we left him in it he chewed it more. Even after putting bitter apple spray on it and nailing wire mesh to the inside, Wally continued to chew the crate and then figured out how to get out of it.

Since the crate wasn’t a working solution, I started leaving Wally out in the main living area when I went out. I’d close all the doors and try to keep everything off the floor. The first few times he did great. Then, one of my shoes got destroyed because I accidentally left it out. I figured, “OK, just remember to put your shoes away.” But once there were no shoes for him to chew, then he moved on to the door frame and then, our floor. Our floor.

Wally's handiwork
Wally’s handiwork

His toys were left untouched. Now, this is partly my fault because I set him up for failure. I did not read the signs early enough that he used chewing to cope with me being gone. When I came home, I could tell he knew he had done something wrong (ears and tail down, cowering to the floor, not looking me in the eye), so I didn’t yell at him. I just pointed to his crate and he went right in (he won’t chew the wooden crate when people are home).

We bought a new metal crate the next day. I also reinforce it with a padlock whenever I leave (since he’s a Houdini). We haven’t had any problems since then. If your dog is chewing things due to separation anxiety, I recommend putting your dog in a crate when you leave and ensuring the crate is sturdy enough to withstand your dog’s bite.
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