Destructive Chewing...

...Plus, bolting and chronic barking

As this is the puppy issue, and as most behavioral problems other than those genetically determined (such as temperament problems) are caused by improper primary and/or secondary socialization, or by mistakes in, or lack of exposure to, challenging experiences, I recommend breeders, prospective or recent buyers and dog people in general go to the Gun Dog website, gundogmag.com. Click on the training section and you will find four articles on puppies that I have referred to many times in my columns when addressing puppy problems.


These are: "The 49th Day," "Producing Behaviorally Sound Pups," "Giving Pups a Head Start" and "New Pup Coming, Now What?" The articles should be read and studied and considered in light of what you have learned previously. They will answer many of the questions you have before you have to ask them and they will keep you from making some well-intentioned mistakes.

(Problem) First, thanks for the advice you gave me a few months ago on training Jethro to "whoa." Now I have another question about my new GSP pup. He is nearing six months and is a wonderful, smart, bird-crazy dog. However, he is chewing up beds, couches, toilet paper, you name it.


I threw away all his soft chew toys and replaced them with hard plastic or rubber ones, but he is more interested in tearing and shredding than chewing. I keep my dogs in the house as family hunting dogs rather than kennel dogs. Another thing is my mother takes care of Nick when I am gone for work, which takes me out of town from three days to a week at a time. It is getting hard for her to keep track of Nick like I do when he's with me, and puppy proofing isn't as easy for her. But she and I will work any way we can to deter him from demolishing our homes. Do you have any suggestions?


(Solution) Puppies chew things, especially when they are replacing their baby teeth. This should be pretty well done by six or seven months. However, if it gets attention from anyone, pups will chew just to get you to play with them. Anything you do, like yell at them or punish them, shows you are paying attention to them and reinforces their behavior, so they will do it more.

The best thing to do when they are chewing something you don't want them to have is to substitute something they like better. That way they are getting a reward for stopping chewing without being told. So ignore the chewing or ripping, act like nothing is going on and give your pup a rawhide bone to chew or a soft chew toy that squeaks to get his attention away from the unwanted chewing he was doing. Another thing you should do is crate train the pup so he has an enclosed space that is all his. It should be his favorite place, not a place where he is put as punishment. Get a nylon bone and drill holes in it, say a quarter-inch or three-eighths-inch holes. Stuff the holes with cheese and give it to him in his crate.

Anytime he is destroying something, give him his bone with the cheese in it, but only in his crate. The Kong hard rubber chew toys also have holes that you can stuff with cheese. Only give him the cheese-stuffed chew object in his crate, never outside, so it becomes associated with good stuff and going into his crate. That way you can use the crate as a "time-out" place whenever he gets a bit out of control or whenever you are away from home or your mother is taking care of him and has to go out for a while. The crate has to be a pleasant place for him, not an unpleasant one. He should be happy to go in and always want to.

(Problem) I live on a .6-acre lot in southern California. I currently have three dogs, two Brittanys and a Dachshund. The two adult dogs have bark collars on when they are put outside during the day. The dogs are brought in at night, the collars removed and the dogs are kept quiet--I want to be a good neighbor.

The new three-month-old Brittany pup stays inside the house except for being taken outside numerous times during the day to play, take care of toilet duties, socialize with the adult dogs and so on. My question is: At what age is it safe to put a bark collar on a pup and not mess up later when training to hunt?

(Solution) I would hold off on the collar until the pup is sexually mature at six or seven months, when the bark is also more fully developed than the puppy play yapping. Then I would go to the Dogtra YS300 Yapper Stopper. It has a warning buzzing vibration and six levels of shock intensity. It is made so the warning comes first and a shock at the pre-set level follows.

The dog will learn quickly the meaning of the warning and will stop on it, not waiting for the shock. This is called avoidance learning. It really trains the dog by coupling the warning with the shock so there is minimum need for shocking. After a few combinations of warn and shock, the warning is all that is needed.

This will be very important to a young dog. If you prefer another make of collar, that is fine, but especially for young dogs, try to find one that has the warning to precede the shock incorporated into the collar's design.

(Problem) Recently I purchased a four-month-old English pointer out of excellent hunting and field trial blood. She is a fantastic little dog with just a couple of interesting behavioral quirks.

First of all, every time I kennel her in a vehicle she vomits, but if I let her out to roam around the vehicle she is fine. My main concern is this, though. I have a seven-year-old female setter and a 3-1/2-year-old male pointer, and she seems to have bonded with these dogs, especially my pointer, so that I have trouble yard training her or getting her to come into the house or to leave the yard for walks and short training sessions.

If I do bring her in the house she wants to immediately go back outside, which I do not allow. I keep her in for at least 30 minutes to an hour and give her a lot of affection and attention but she just wants to lie on my feet or to keep going back to the back door and whining. She seems very unsure of herself and almost timid.

Once when I took her on a small excursion with the other dogs, she tried to run to the farthest point on the property and I got a little rough when punishing her for not coming when I called. She knows the "come" command and obeys it very well in the house and in the yard but refuses to listen while in the field. But if I punish her for this she lies down and refuses to move.

Is this something she will outgrow or should I completely separate her from the other dogs to help her become more independent and develop a better bond with me? I hope I have not spoiled a potentially good hunting dog by getting heavy handed at such an early age.

(Questions) Before I tell you how to fix your dog, I need more information. The major concern I have is that I don't know how she was handled those four months before you got her. Do you know if she had a lot of people exposure between when she was born and when you got her? Di

d she have any yard training or did she just sit in a kennel? Was she kenneled alone or was she with her mom and littermates?

She sounds like she might have lacked secondary socialization (people socialization) and maybe some of her primary socialization was improper as well. Or at least she never had enough exposure to people but did have plenty to dogs, so she never really learned how to learn in a dog/people format. If you can fill me in with more on her background, we can work out a plan on how to proceed with her.

(Response): She was exposed only to the owner of her mother and his partner, who have a kennel of field trial dogs. It's a sort of small neighborhood where they live but I do know she was in a large backyard with her mother and littermates, not kenneled. I believe the extent of her socialization was probably to the guy who sold her to me, his wife and to some degree his partner, and of course, her littermates and mother.

I am afraid if I take her into the field alone she may run off and I will have to walk for miles to catch her. I am wondering if I need to isolate her and do all her training individually.

(Solution) I think my first impression was pretty much on. She didn't have the proper secondary socialization for a gun dog for on-foot hunting. For a field trial dog she got the socialization the owners wanted. Field trial dogs are expected to be out from underfoot--way out, like a half mile or more. The biggest trial winners are on the verge of bolting, as you are afraid your dog will do.

What you will need to do is essentially tame her almost as you would a wild dog. It would be good for her if you could get her enrolled in an obedience class. It would help her to get accustomed to strange people and dogs.

This doesn't mean she is a lost cause. I suggest you do a lot of yard work with her first. It will help if you have her fastened down so she can see you work with your other dogs, particularly your old male pointer, the one she is most attached to.

Walk him on leash at heel, have him do the normal obedience stuff like walk at heel, sit, stay, retrieve and so forth. Then tie him up and take her to do the same things. Keep doing the exercises until she will do everything in the yard, off leash, perfectly with never a slip-up. Then go outside the yard and start all over again on leash and finally off leash. She must be perfectly obedient, totally fail-safe.

For rewards you can take her into the field and let her run with your other dogs, one or both. If she is as attached to the older male as you imply she is, she will probably hang with him in the field too. When you have her perfectly obedience trained so she will do everything outside the yard willingly and happily and without a leash, you will be able to run her alone.

You will have a difficult job because she is also a very sensitive dog. This is partly because she is basically afraid of people. Be very careful at first with any unfamiliar persons nearby, as she might take off then as well. Later it will be good to use strangers as distractions. But throughout her training, make sure you are gently leading her through the exercises and not trying to push her through. Use the sensitive temperament to your advantage every chance you get.

For solutions to your dog's behavior problems or behavior-related training problems, you can contact Ed Bailey at: edbailey@uoguelph.ca

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