How do I stop my dog from shredding things?

I’ve got an 8-month-old male golden retriever who likes to shred things. Paper, wood, stuffed toys, and most recently, speaker cable. Any paper left at eye-level gets turned into confetti. The smallest rip or tear in a stuffed item leads to it being absolutely destroyed in a matter of minutes.

The problem is that he doesn’t do it when I’m watching, but he’ll wait until I’m in the shower or otherwise distracted. He has plenty of toys, and lots of chew treats, but he still goes after this other stuff at the drop of a hat.

He’s been kenneled since three months, and I’ve slowly been working on leaving him out while I’m away. However, this shredding problem is really hampering his progress.

It almost seems like a nervous compulsion, but I don’t know what’s causing it. He’s kenneld up during my normal eight-hour work day, but I let him out for 1/2 hour on my lunch break. He gets plenty of exercise, socializes with other dogs almost daily, and I spend lots of time with him when I’m home.

Any ideas?

You should ken – oh

Maybe come home duri – eh…

Socialize him wi – er…

Maybe some chew t-- oh…

Does he get enough exer – uh…

Wow, I dunno. Seems like you’re doing everything right. Is he fixed?

Some of these actions are just him being a puppy. Some are from boredom. Some happen in order to get your attention.

Retrievers and labs love to chew on things. Our lab loves stuffed animals, pot holders, socks, cardboard boxes, and at one time shoes (a habit he has gotten away from thank God). Seems to be anything with a squishy or foam interior. He also likes to chew the corners of towels, blankets, and he even nailed the carpet in one place (chewing). He will be 2 next month and he doesn’t chew as much as he used to. I guess I should just be thankful he didn’t like oak woodwork.

Yep, he got snipped at 6 months.

Well, about the only thing you can really do is either make him not a Golden, or make him not a puppy, because Golden puppies chew. And chew, and chew. It sounds like he either gets bored very easily when you’re not around, or else he just has a perverse streak. (Some dogs are just like that.) Until he either learns to entertain himself for a bit or outgrows some of the chewing, you might try kenneling him when you can’t actually supervise him, but that could potentially cause more problems than it solves. You might get him a friend to keep him entertained, but that might just give him a partner in crime. You could get one of those shock collars and just pretend to be distracted, then zap his hairy little butt when he goes after something he shouldn’t have. You’d have to have pretty good timing and consistency for that, and some people are very uncomfortable with the idea of shock collars.

Oh, and one more thing you can do: be thankful he’s not a lab. They finally start to outgrow some of the chewing around 2 years, usually.

Have you given him any formal training? Probably not. Puppies are best suited to behavior training. Try these two simple ideas. Instead of saying NO when he does something wrong, use a word that never, ever comes up in normal conversation. The word we used was Phooey. Anytime they hear that, they know they did something wrong. Also, an aluminium can with 4 or 5 pennies in it, and tape at the opening, worked wonders. Shaking said can scares the dog sufficiently, they know that they did something wrong. The bonus is, you don’t have to physically discipline the dog, please don’t hit your dog EVER.

Punishment for your dog should be, non-physical, consistent, and within reason.

Rewards for your dog should be, just after a properly performed trick, after any obeyed command, and whenever your dog displays favorable activity.

Guard dogs are a completely different story. Completely.

A good dog obeys his masters commands because he wants to please his master, a good dog trainer acts more like a teacher than a slave master. I Am Not A Dog Trainer, but I know a thing or two about making dogs comply with your needs, without having to abuse them.

I had to crate one of my dogs for over a year. I forget exactly how long but I remember thinking that she would never get it right. Eventually, she became more trustworthy. So, I guess you need to just be a little more patient. Having a professional come in and train you how to train the dog can also be helpful. Tera was a model of good behavior for the trainer. But, I didn’t see the same kind of good behavior when the trainer was not there. Most dogs eventually grow out of this stage and my vet, as well as the trainer explained to me that crating the dog was really the most humane possibility. Dogs are den animals naturally so when they get in the crate, they settle down and sleep most of the day. Which is what most older dogs spend much of their time doing anyway, or at least my dogs sleep alot when I am not at home. Good luck.

My lab/border collie mix was 5 before he stopped chewing. I know it is almost impossible to do, but I learned to keep everything picked up, or otherwise dog -proofed. My living areas were very minimalist. Do a quick visual sweep before you leave a room and anything chewable within dog reach, put it away, or at least put it up high enough he can’t get it. I always assumed anything he could reach would get chewed, so it really improved my housekeeping.

I found that a water pistol is an excellent training tool. Fill it up, and whenever Fido misbehaves, shoot him. Hide the pistol at our side so he can’t see it. It makes the dog think that “whenever I do this something bad happens,” rather than “my human has punished me again.” It has sort of a surprise, wrath-of-God aspect to it that causes the dog to focus more on the behavior than your reaction to it. Never, ever put anything besides plain water in the pistol, or you run the risk of burning his eyes.

Remember that whatever kind of punishment you chose, it must be IMMEDIATE in order to be effective. Dogs have a very poor grasp of cause-and-effect. Even a delay of a few seconds can cause them to disassociate what they did with your reaction to it.

My pug puppy is with me just about 24/7. I work at home, and have been swamped with work, so it’s not at all unusual lately for me to leave the house for less than 10 hours/week. She has a ton of toys and our other dog as a companion. Suffice to say she’s not lonely, lacking attention (she sleeps on my lap as I work at least an hour or two a day), or deprived in any sense of the word.

If I leave her alone for 30 seconds, she’ll find something she’s not supposed to have and that I didn’t even realize was at pug-level and destroy it.

I think it’s just puppihood.

I think Athena is right. I went through this with my Weimaraner when he was a puppy, and you just have to keep at it with the best humour you can muster. Every time you catch him chewing on something inappropriate, take it away as calmly as possible, tell him “no”, and give him an authorized chew toy. I found it helped a lot to give him his rope toy and then play with him for awhile with it. Eventually, he will outgrow it.

That depends: does he use his mouth or his paws?

If he’s using his mouth, you might want to try a “bitter” concoction - available from most pet stores. Typically, these come in little pump-spray bottles and are used to discipline small “crawly” animals like ferrets or long-eared nibblers, but I imagine they would work on a dog if the juice were strong enough.

I’ve tasted it - it definitely works on humans!

Just as another suggestion: you might want to try mouse traps.

My grandmother’s dog was a chewer. She placed mousetraps around on various objects that he might try to get. The snapping action of the trap startled him, and he would avoid that object thereafter. After a while, she didn’t even need to set them.

If your dog has a pointed nose, or you’re concerned that he might actually be pinched by the trap, you could get the new “saftety” mouse traps. They have the same rapid-clicking action, but wouldn’t pinch him.

I think it’s puppyness, as well. I can’t understand why anyone would expect a dog of less than a year old to behave like a fully grown adult dog. Even the dog food bags say to feed the dog puppy food until they’re about a year and a half.

Think about a dog’s maturity in dog years, and compare that to human maturity. If a dog ages 7 human years to one dog year, then a one-year old dog has the equivalent of a human child’s 7-year-old maturity level. Would you leave a 7-year-old human child home alone for any amount of time? Probably not. (Hopefully, not.)

For a dog, at 2 years old, the dog has the equivalent of a 14-year-old’s maturity level. And while you might leave a 14-year-old human child alone all day, you might still place restrictions, depending on his or her maturity level.

My dog was crated until she was about 2 – she’s a Boston Terror and gnawed everything made of paper until about then. Our rescued Boston, who is about 6, still chews everything paper that he can get his teeth on. His development was arrested as a pup, and therefore I’m not sure he’ll ever learn to not chew (nor do I think he will ever be completely housebroken) but he’s a Special Case. (Rides the short bus to school and everything. I’m thinking of getting him a crash helmet for when the pecans drop from the tree in the backyard! He doesn’t seem to get, “Duck!”)

IANA vet or animal expert, excepting for the fact that I have four pets. I think the human to dog maturity ratio is merely a rule of thumb, but could be helpful in determining if it’s too soon to allow your dog to run free, crateless or not. Personally, especially since he’s one of those goofy-ass Goldens, I’d crate him until he’s about 18 months old and then experiment with short periods out while you’re away only. (When you’re home, he should always be out, with you.)

You could also work with him by having lots of chew toys around and replace the “bad” object with something he’s allowed to chew, whenever you catch him chewing. (This technique taught my dog to drop the newspaper in her mouth and run for her chewy toy as if to say, “See? I was being good. I was chewing on my chew toy the whole time.”)