How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Paper

How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Paper
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-4 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Do you have a paper shredder at home?

No, not the electric plug-in-the-wall type shredder, but the four-legged furry sort that steals mail as it plops onto the mat. Transforming junk mail into a soggy pile of pulp isn't so much of an issue, but the trouble is that the dog can't distinguish between rubbish and that six-figure lottery winner's check that you're expecting.

Letters, newspapers, invoices, money, books...heck if you have a paper-chewing pooch then nothing in the house is safe. But no matter how unfortunate his habit, your dog is only doing what Mother Nature programmed him to do. Tearing, ripping, and shredding are all deeply ingrained behaviors from the days when dogs hunted for their supper and had to render a carcass in order to eat.

However, a combination of planning and training can teach your dog to lick this habit, and here's how to go about it.

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Defining Tasks

Teaching a dog not to eat paper is one of those situations that is best avoided in the first place. If you're in the happy position of having a new puppy, then be careful about what you give him to play with, as he'll add this to his mental,  "OK to chew" list. For example, letting him gnaw a newspaper or chew on a cardboard roll will encourage him to seek out other objects with the same texture.

However, once the habit has happened, help the dog to turn over a new leaf by reducing temptation (tidying up!), providing alternatives to chew, and training him to drop those things he's not meant to have.

This takes time, consistency, and patience from everyone in the household, but happily, it isn't an impossible task so stick with it and you will get there.

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Getting Started

To successfully train your dog not to chew, you'll need:

  • Chew toys
  • Squeaky toys
  • Two identical toys
  • Tasty treats
  • An external box for mail
You are going to use a combined approach of reducing temptation, providing an appropriate outlet for chewing, plus teaching a 'give it' command, in order to take charge of the situation.
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The Reduce Temptation Method

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Reduce Temptation method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Paper
1

Understand the idea

Have you ever been on a diet, only to binge while eating out with friends? Temptation is a terrible thing and there's nothing quite like it for encouraging unwanted behavior. This is especially true for dogs, because the satisfaction of ripping up paper is its own reward. Thus, the dog happily teaches himself that chewing paper is fun. As part of retraining, you need to remove this potential source of self-reward by tidying up.

2

The letterbox

If you have a mail slot, fit a box around it to catch the mail and prevent the dog collecting it from the floor.

3

Troubleshoot from a dog's eye view

Look at each room from a dog's eye view. Look for newspapers, magazines, letters, printouts or anything else the dog can reach and tidy it away. Either put the papers in a secure box or up onto a high shelf that the dog can't reach

4

Don't accidentally encourage him

Stop giving the dog cardboard rolls to play with or rolled up newspapers to chew. If he is given these as chew toys, he won't recognize the difference when he sees the Sunday newspaper on the coffee table.

5

Expend energy with exercise

Give the dog plenty of exercise. A dog that's pleasantly tired gets up to less mischief.

The Provide Appropriate Chews Method

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Provide Appropriate Chews method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Paper
1

Understand the idea

The dog isn't being malicious, he's exhibiting a natural need to chew. When he picks the wrong thing (paper), distract him and substitute a more appropriate outlet for his chewing. Indeed, giving him plenty of opportunity for appropriate chewing will decrease his interest in things he shouldn't.

2

Never chase after him

Avoid the pitfall of chasing after the dog when he's got hold of something he shouldn't. A game of chase is fun and actually rewards him for stealing the newspaper, making him keener to do this in future rather than preventing him.

3

Provide satisfying chew toys

When your dog has down-time, provide a suitable chew for him to get his teeth into. This feeds his inner need to chew so he doesn't go looking for his own outlet for this behavior. If this is rawhide or an edible chew, be sure to supervise him at all times.

4

Distract the dog

The dog is about to shred a letter. You should grab a squeaky toy and squeak it like mad to distract him. When he drops the letter, heap praise upon his furry head, and reward him with a hearty game with the toy.

5

Substitute one object with another

Alternatively, distract him with the squeaky toy and when he drops the letter, provide his all-time favorite chew toy as an alternative. You are rewarding him for relinquishing the letter, by providing something equally satisfying to chew on.

The 'Give It' Method

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'Give It' method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Paper
1

Understand the idea

For those times when your reflexes are too slow and the dog snatches a papery snack, teaching the 'give it' command could save the day.

2

Start with two identical toys

Take two identical toys (which your dog adores). Play with one and keep the other out of sight. Let the dog have toy #1 and play with it.

3

Offer toy #2 as a reward

Now divert his attention to toy #2. Play with it as if it's the most interesting toy ever. Once the dog sees this, he'll lose interest in toy #1. As he opens his mouth to let go and take the second toy, say "give it" in a firm but happy voice, and let him have toy #2 as a reward.

4

The toy exchange

Repeat this toy exchange, making it into a game. The secret is perfect timing and saying "give it" just as the dog was about to relinquish his prize for another. This helps him link the words to the action.

5

Exchange for a treat

Alternatively, you can teach 'give it' by having him drop the toy to take a treat. Your aim is to have the dog automatically drop what's in his mouth when he hears "give it" since he's worked out he gets a reward for so doing and therefore there's nothing to lose.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/13/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Tank

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French Bulldog

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3 Months

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Goes toilet for both anywhere he wants even though he has a designated area for this,he hasn't been toilet outside yet,he waits until he gets back home.

April 18, 2022

Tank's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Tina, Check out the article I have linked below, I recommend following the Crate Training method, or a combination of the Crate Training method while away or needing a break and Tethering method while home. That article will also cover what to do when you take pup potty outside but they don't go potty out there. Potty Training: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 18, 2022

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octavia

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Mix

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10 Months

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when I leave my dog to go to college class she will find a cardboard box or paper and tear them up every day. she has toys to play with and stuff to chew on but she chooses the boxes every time. so we have started kenneling her and she tries to break out. other than that she is a great dog

Oct. 12, 2021

octavia's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Ryan, At this age pup is still in the destructive chewing phase and its common for pup's this age to tear things up when unattended. If it's not prevented it can turn into a long-term destructive chewing habit, but if prevented often a young dog will grow out of it. All that to say, kenneling her is what I recommend. Give her things like durable hollow chew toys stuffed with dog food, to make those toys more enticing when you kennel her as well. You can also address the attempts to break out of the crate too. If it's during the first two weeks home with you she may just need time to adjust, as long as she isn't injuring herself attempting to break out. If it's during the first two weeks, check out the Surprise method from the article linked below and work on that method to get her used to you being out of the room while she is crated. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate If it's past 2-4 weeks or you can't wait for her to adjust on her own due to neighbors, housemates, or her injuring herself before 2 weeks, then I suggest the following. There are a couple of routes you can take with the separation anxiety. The first step is to work on building her independence and her confidence by adding a lot of structure and predictability into her routine. Things such as making her work for rewards like meals, walks, and pets. Working on "Stay" and "Place," commands while you move away or leave the room, and teaching her to remain inside a crate when the door is open. Change your routine surrounding leaving so that she does not anticipate alone time and build up her anxiety before you leave - which is hard for her to deescalate from, and be sure to continue to give her something to do in the crate during the day (such as a dog food stuffed Kong to chew on); this is the general protocol for separation anxiety. It is gentle but can take a very long time on its own for some dogs with more severe separation anxiety. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Another protocol involves teaching the dog to cope with their own anxiety by making their current anxious go-to behaviors unpleasant, giving them an opportunity to stop those behaviors long enough to learn something new, then rewarding the correct, calmer behavior instead. This protocol can feel harsh because it involves careful correction, but it tends to work much quicker for many dogs. If you go this route, I suggest hiring a trainer who is very experienced using both positive reinforcement and fair correction. Who is extremely knowledgeable about e-collar training, and can follow the protocol listed below, to help you implement the training. Building her independence and structure in her life will still be an important part of this protocol too. First, check out this video from SolidK9Training on treating anxiety. It will give a brief over-view of treating separation anxiety more firmly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3j882MAYDU Second, doing this protocol you would purchase a remote electronic collar, e-collar, with a wide range of levels. I recommend purchasing E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator or Garmin Delta Sport or Dogtra for this. If you are not comfortable with an e-collar then you can use a vibration collar (the Mini Educator and Garmin should also have a vibration mode) or unscented air remote controlled air spray collar. DO NOT use a citronella collar, buy the additional unscented air canister if the collar comes with the citronella and make sure that you use the unscented air. (Citronella collars are actually very harsh and the smell - punisher lingers a long time so the dog continues to be corrected even after they stop the behavior). The vibration or spray collars are less likely to work than stimulation e-collars though, so you may end up spending more money by not purchasing an e-collar first. The Mini Educator has very low levels of stimulation, that can be tailored specifically to your dog. It also has vibration and beep tones that you can try using first, without having to buy additional tools. Next, set up a camera to spy on her. If you have two smart devices, like tablets or smartphones, you can Skype or Facetime them to one another with your pup’s end on mute, so that you can see and hear her but she will not hear you. Video baby monitors, video security monitors with portable ways to view the video, GoPros with the phone Live App, or any other camera that will record and transmit the video to something portable that you can watch outside live will work. Next, put the e-collar on her while she is outside of the crate, standing, and relaxed. To learn how to put the collar on her, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Turn it to it's lowest level and push the stimulation button twice. See if she responds to the collar at all (if you use a collar like mini educator, most pup's can't even feel the first few levels out of the 100 levels - you are trying to find the level where she begins to feel it without going too high for her). Look for subtle signs such as turning her head, moving her ears, biting her fur, moving away from where she was, or changing her expression. If she does not respond at all, then go up one level on the collar and when she is standing and relaxed, push the stimulation button again twice. Look for a reaction again. Repeat going up one level at a time and then testing her reaction at that level until she indicates a little bit that she can feel the collar. Here is a video showing how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM A modern, high quality collar will have so many levels that each level should be really subtle and she will likely respond to a low level stimulation. It's uncomfortable but not the harsh shock many people associate with such collars if done right. Once you have found the right stimulation level for her and have it correctly fitted on her, have her wear the collar around with it turned off or not being stimulated for several hours or days if you can (take it off at night to sleep though). Next, set up your camera to spy on her while she is in the crate. Put her into the crate while she is wearing the collar and leave. Spy on her from outside. Leave however you normally would. As soon as you hear her barking or see her start to try to escape or destroy the crate from the camera, push the stimulation button once. Every time she barks or tries to get out of the crate, stimulate her collar again. If her fur is long, make sure the metal contact points are both touching her skin, and be sure to order longer contact points - many come with a short and long set). If she does not decrease her barking or escape attempts at least a little bit after being stimulated seven times in a row, then increase the stimulation level by one level. She may not feel the stimulation while excited so might need it just slightly higher. Do not go higher than three more levels on the mini-educator, or two more levels on another collar with less levels right now though because she has not learned what she is supposed to be doing yet. For example, if her level is 16 out of 100 levels on the Mini Educator, don't go past level 19 right now. The level you end up using on her on the mini educator collar will probably be low to medium, within the first fifty levels of the one-hundred to one-hundred-and-twenty-five levels, depending on the model you purchase. If it is not, then have a professional evaluate whether you have the correct "working level" for her before proceeding at a higher level. If she continues to ignore the collar, then go up one more stimulation level and if that does not work, make sure that the collar is turned on, fitted correctly, and working. After five minutes to ten minutes, as soon as your dog stays quiet and is not trying to escape for five seconds straight, go back inside to the dog, sprinkle several treats into the crate without saying anything, then leave again. Practice correcting her from outside when she barks or tries to escape, going back inside and sprinkling treats when she stays quiet, for up to 30 minutes at first. After 30 minutes -1 hour of practicing this, when she is quiet, go back inside and sprinkle more treats. This time stay inside. Do not speak to her or pay attention to her for ten minutes while you walk around and get stuff done inside. When she is being calm, then you can let her out of the crate. When you let her out, do it the way Jeff does is in this video below. Opening and closing the door until your dog is not rushing out. You want her to be calm when she comes out of the crate and to stay calm when you get home. That is why you need to ignore her when you get home right away. Also, keep your good byes extremely boring and calm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GqzeLzysk Continue to put a food stuffed Kong into the crate with her. Once she is less anxious she will likely enjoy it even if she didn't pay any attention to it in the past, and that will help her to enjoy the crate more. First, she may need her anxious state of mind interrupted so that she is open to learning other ways to behave. Once it's interrupted, give her a food stuffed Kong in the crate for her to relieve her boredom instead of barking or escaping, since she will need something else to do at that point. This might seem like a lot, but in the end this should be a LOT less work that dealing with a future chewing habit. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 13, 2021


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