How to Train a Golden Retriever to Stop Chewing

Medium
2-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You walk into the living room, and there it is: a brand new book shredded on the floor, your favorite shoes gnawed on and torn up, and your accent pillow, well, missing its stuffing. The culprit behind all this damage is entirely clear: your Golden Retriever.

Although this breed is best known for its charming, engaging personality, this dog was designed to be a sport dog assisting hunters in carefully retrieving downed prey such as waterfowl. As such, the Golden Retriever is a dog that is inherently mouthy. Combine genetics with puppy teething and youthful shenanigans, and you have a house covered with the remnants of your shoes.

You can successfully train your Golden to stop chewing. Understand that you are working to some degree against the dog’s instincts, but with the right training, patience, and consistency, you can show your dog the way you want her to behave around the house.

Defining Tasks

It’s vitally important for both your furniture and home belongings and your Golden Retriever’s safety that you help her to curb her chewing habits. Damage to your personal belongings is costly as it is, but even more problematic is the danger of your dog ingesting something foreign that she has chewed. If your Golden swallows a piece of shoe or stuffing, that can cause a blockage in the intestinal system. Expensive surgery will be necessary to remove the items, and if not discovered quickly enough, your dog can die.

Additionally, training your dog to stop chewing, through substitution or redirection, gives your dog practice at improving her listening skills and better understanding your expectations concerning her behavior. With time, practice, consistency, and patience, you can teach your Golden Retriever to stop chewing.

Getting Started

The three training procedures below involve different settings, and you might find that one location works better for your dog depending on her energy level. Other items, like chew toys and treats, may also be beneficial to have on hand for training.

Of utmost importance is training your dog with consistency and patience. If your Golden Retriever is a puppy, understand that it may take a bit longer for her to learn what to chew and what not to chew. Patience is still required even when training an older dog who may not have been taught correctly or at all. Keep training sessions short and always take a break if you or your dog get frustrated.

The Switch and Substitute Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Choose an appropriate chew toy
Based on your dog's age and chewing capacity, select a toy that is designed for a dog who chews. Make sure that it is sturdy and doesn't include anything dangerous your dog could eat or choke on.
Step
2
Wait and watch
Observe your dog until you catch her chewing on an object that you don't want in her mouth.
Step
3
Make the trade
Give your dog the command to "drop it" and once she has let go of the item she should not be chewing, offer her the chew toy in its place.
Step
4
Don't engage
Your Golden might not be willing to drop the treasured item right away, so be patient and repeat steps 1 - 3 as necessary until your dog better understands what she can and cannot chew on.
Step
5
Be proactive
Any time you see your Golden chewing on appropriate toys, praise and reward her. Also remove temptation from your dog's reach; make sure any items that you don't want chewed up are safely stowed.
Recommend training method?

The Run and Play Method

Effective
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Step
1
Identify your Golden's boredom
Many Golden Retrievers end up chewing destructively because they are bored and have energy to expend. As soon as you see your dog start to chew on items she shouldn't place in her mouth, spring into action.
Step
2
Grab the leash
Put your dog on a leash and head out for a brisk walk or jog.
Step
3
Hit the yard
Take your dog out into your backyard and engage her in some fetch exercises.
Step
4
Go for a swim
If the weather is appropriate and you have a pool available, let your Golden give swimming a try. Not only are many Golden natural swimmers, but it's an excellent, healthy way for your dog to exercise. Plus, she will nap for hours afterwards!
Step
5
Play indoors
If you can't take your Golden outside the moment you catch her chewing, then grab a chew-appropriate toy and engage her in play. A tug-of-war toy or a healthy chew stick may be just what your dog needs to avoid chewing on your shoes. You can also train her brain by using treat puzzles to keep her mind and body from succumbing to boredom.
Recommend training method?

The Crate to Freedom Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Choose a crate
Confine your dog when you are going to be out for awhile or when you can't supervise her while at home. Get a crate that is large enough for your Golden to comfortably stand, turn around, and lie down.
Step
2
Make it comfy
Place items in the crate that will be comforting to your dog and alleviate any boredom or anxiety she may experience. Put a comfortable blanket or liner, a favorite (non-stuffed) toy, and even a non-destructive food-puzzle like a Kong.
Step
3
Move to an enclosed area
Once your Golden has proven trustworthy in a crate, move on to keeping her in an enclosed area of the house. Use baby gates to prevent her from going into areas where she is not allowed.
Step
4
Proof and test
When your Golden has handled the enclosed area well for a week, test her by allowing her more freedoms throughout the house. Make sure you've dog-proofed the areas you are allowing her in, and have plenty of chew-appropriate treats ready when she wants to chew on something.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Erin Cain

Published: 02/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Biscuit
Golden Retriever
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Biscuit
Golden Retriever
8 Months

Chews everything in the house - furniture, dry wall, outside wall, carpet - we have play pins around the bottom floor and gate so he cannot go on upstairs.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
227 Dog owners recommended

Hi there. It sounds like you are dealing with some separation anxiety, or generalized anxiety. Without being able to ask a follow up question regarding if she only does this when you are not around, I don't want to give you incorrect information. But I am going to assume you are dealing with some separation anxiety. The treatment for general anxiety is nearly identical to separation anxiety, so the information below is interchangeable. Because this behavior issue is complex, I have a lot of information to send you. With some time and practice, this is something that can be turned around over the next month or so. The first step in treating separation anxiety is to break the cycle of anxiety. Every time a dog with separation anxiety becomes anxious when their owner leaves, the distress they feel is reinforced until they become absolutely frantic any time they are left alone. Owners should give the dog an acceptable item to chew, such as a long lasting food treat when they go out. The goal is to have the dog associate this special treat with the owner’s departure. Treats might include hollow bones stuffed with peanut butter or soft cheese, drilled out nylon bones, or hollow rubber chew toys such as Kong toys with similar enhancements (place these in the freezer before giving them to your dog to make them last longer). Give the bone to your dog about 15 minutes before preparing to depart. The chew toy should be used only as a reward to offset the anxiety triggered by your departure. Hiding a variety of these delectable food treats throughout the house may occupy the dog so that the owner’s departure is less stressful. In an effort to prevent destructive behavior, many owners confine their dog in a crate or behind a gate. For dogs that display “barrier frustration,” the use of a crate in this way is counterproductive. Many dogs will physically injure themselves while attempting to escape such confinement. Careful efforts to desensitize and counter condition the dog to crate confinement before leaving them alone may be helpful in some cases. However, some dogs rebel against any form of restraint, including restricting barriers and, for them, crate training may never be a positive experience. Crate training and utilizing the crate while people are home can be a positive way to make the crate a safe place. If you utilize it when people are around, your dog won’t necessarily associate the crate with departure and being left alone. Creating nap time in the crate throughout the day can also be helpful. Building Independence Independence training can help fight separation anxiety and loneliness. Independence training can help build confidence and instill obedience. “Doggie Daycare” or hiring a pet sitter may be a better alternative for dogs that are initially resistant to treatment. It can be expensive, but prices vary. Independence training is one of the more important aspects of the program. It involves teaching your dog to “stand on their own four feet” when you are present, with the express intention that their newfound confidence will spill over into times when you are away. You need to make your dog more independent by reducing the bond between both of you to a more healthy level of involvement. Decreasing the bond is the hardest thing for owners to accept. Most people acquire dogs because they want a strong relationship with them. However, you have to accept that the anxiety your dog experiences in your absence is destructive. Essential components of the independence training program are as follows: Your dog can be with you, but the amount of interaction time should be reduced, especially where attention-seeking behaviors are concerned. You should initiate all interactions with your dog, and they shouldn’t be permitted to demand attention. If you give your dog attention every time they whine, it helps to foster the dog’s dependence on you and increases its anxiety in your absence. You should ignore your dog completely when they engage in attention-seeking behavior, and avoid catering to them when they appear to feel anxious. This means no eye contact, no pushing away, and no soothing talk or body language, all of which will reward their attention-seeking mission. Attention is encouraged only when your dog is sitting or lying calmly. The goal is not to ignore your dog, but to stop reinforcing attention-seeking behaviors so that your dog develops a sense of independence. Minimize the extent to which your dog follows you by teaching them to remain relaxed in one spot, such as their bed. To accomplish this, it is helpful if you train them to perform a sit-stay or down-stay while gradually increasing the time that they hold the command and remain at a distance from you. Providing a treat or toy and encouraging individual play time can be helpful. Once your dog has learned basic obedience commands, you can train them to hold long down-stays while you move progressively farther away. First, your dog should be trained to perform a “down-stay” on a mat or dog bed using a specific command, such as “lie down.” Your dog may have to be gently escorted to the designated spot the first few times. Initially, they should be rewarded every 10 seconds for remaining there, then every 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and so on. Once they have figured out what is wanted, you should switch to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement [reward], as this will strengthen the learned response. Each time your dog breaks their “stay,” issue a verbal correction, indicating that there will be no reward, and then escort them back to their bed. First, your dog can be made to “down-stay” while you are in the room. Next, they can be asked to stay when you are outside of the room, but nearby. The distance and time you are away from your dog can be increased progressively until your dog can remain in a down-stay for 20 to 30 minutes in your absence. Your dog should be warmly praised for compliance. Of course, they need to accept the praise without breaking the stay. Your dog should become accustomed to being separated from you when you are home for varying lengths of time and at different times of day. You can set up child gates to deny your dog access into the room you’re occupying (i.e. reading, watching television, or cooking). Instruct your dog to lie down and stay on a dog bed outside the room. As previously mentioned, you can provide an extended-release food treat or toy to keep your dog calm and distracted. Once they are able to tolerate being separated from you by a child gate, you can graduate to shutting the door to the room so your dog cannot see you. Allowing a dog to sleep in bed with the family can increase dependence. If you decide to prevent your dog from sleeping in your bed, there are some steps to take to establish this routine. First, you need to train your dog to sleep in their own bed on the floor in your bedroom. They may have to be taken to their bed several times before they get the message that you really want them to sleep in their own bed. Alternatively, you can train your dog to enjoy sleeping in a crate to prevent unwanted excursions. Do not use a crate if it causes more anxiety and distress for your dog. Once they tolerate sleeping in their own bed in your bedroom, you can move their bed outside of the bedroom and use a child gate or barrier to keep them out. Always remember to reward your dog with praise or a food treat for remaining in their bed. Develop Departure Techniques Many owners erroneously feel that if separation is so stressful, then they should spend more time with their dog before leaving. Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the condition. Everyone in the family should ignore your dog for 15 to 20 minutes before leaving the house and for at least 10 to 20 minutes after returning home. Alternatively, your leaving can be made a highlight of your dog’s day by making it a “happy time” and the time at which they are fed. Departures should be quick and quiet. When departures (and returns) generate less anxiety (and excitement), your dog will begin to feel less tension in your absence. Remember to reward calm behavior. Teach your dog that your departure and return are just normal parts of the day and are not times to be stressed. You should attempt to randomize the cues indicating that you are preparing to leave. Changing the cues may take some trial and error. Some cues mean nothing to a dog, while others trigger anxiety. Make a list of the things you normally do before leaving for the day (and anxiety occurs) and the things done before a short time out (and no anxiety occurs).Then mix up the cues. For example, if your dog is fine when you go downstairs to do the laundry, you can try taking the laundry basket with you when you leave for work. If your dog becomes anxious when you pick up your keys or put on a coat, you should practice these things when you are not really leaving. You can, for example, stand up, put on a coat or pick up your car keys during television commercials, and then sit down again. You can also open and shut doors while you are home when you do not intend to leave. Entering and exiting through various doors when leaving and returning can also mix up cues for your dog. When you are actually leaving, you should try not to give any cues to this effect. Leave your coat in the car and put your keys in the ignition well before leaving. It is important to randomize all the cues indicating departure (clothing, physical and vocal signals, interactions with family members, other pets, and so on). The planned departure technique can be very effective for some dogs. This program is recommended only under special circumstances because it requires that you never leave your dog alone during the entire retraining period, which can be weeks or months. Timing is everything when implementing this program. If your dog shows signs of anxiety (pacing, panting, barking excessively) the instant you walk out of the door, you should stand outside the door and wait until your dog is quiet for three seconds. Then go back inside quickly and reward your dog for being calm. If you return WHEN your dog is anxious, this reinforces your dog’s tendency to display the behavior, because it has the desired effect of reuniting the “pack” members. The goal is for your dog to connect being calm and relaxed with your return. Gradually work up to slightly longer departures 5 to 10 minutes as long as your dog remains quiet, and continue in this fashion. Eventually, you should be able to leave for the day without your dog becoming anxious when you depart. When performed correctly, this program can be very helpful in resolving separation anxiety. Other Treatment Options Obedience Training Obedience training helps to instill confidence and independence in your dog. You should spend 5 to 10 minutes daily training your dog to obey one-word commands. It may be helpful to have training sessions occur in the room where your dog will be left when you are gone. All positive experiences (food, toys, sleep, training, and attention) should be associated with this area of the home. Exercise Your dog should receive 15 to 20 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise once, preferably twice, per day. It is often helpful to exercise your dog before you leave for the day. Exercise helps to dissipate anxiety and provides constructive interaction between you and your dog. It is best to allow your dog 15 to 20 minutes to calm down before you depart. Fetching a ball is good exercise, as is going for a brisk walk or run with your dog on a leash. Even if your dog has a large yard to run in all day, the aerobic exercise will be beneficial since most dogs will not tire themselves if left to their own devices. This is incredibly helpful in dogs that are working breeds that need a job to expend energy and work their brains. Supplements Recently, supplements have been released to the public that can help dogs with anxiety. Purina created a probiotic that has been shown to reduce anxiety and provide a calming effect on some dogs. Your veterinarian may recommend this product for treating anxiety, or other products that contain L-Theanine or L-tryptophan.

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Question
mushka
Golden Retriever
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
mushka
Golden Retriever
1 Year

chews on everything

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
227 Dog owners recommended

Dogs inappropriately chew for a variety of reasons, including: Boredom Separation anxiety Lack of training or lack of appropriate outlets of energy Lack of “dog-proofing” Chewing, on its own, is a normal behavior for dogs. Puppies typically chew when they’re teething or as a way to convey frustration. Chewing also helps to maintain jaw strength and muscle mass, and can help dogs to self-soothe, relieve stress, and avoid boredom. To deter from inappropriate chewing, It is important for pet parents to provide safe chew toys and keep inappropriate items out of reach. Ways to Prevent Destructive Chewing Teething toys, especially those that can be frozen, are a great way to relieve pain and soothe gums for puppies. Adult dogs even like toys specifically designed to strengthen teeth, but be sure to supervise their play, since toys may break into tiny, ingestible pieces. Damaged toys should be thrown away immediately. Caution should also be taken with chewing bones, which can splinter off and be ingested, resulting in gastrointestinal upset or injury. Bones can also cause dental injuries like tooth fractures or excessive wear. The best way to prevent destructive chewing is “dog proofing” your home. This involves removing all valuable and dangerous objects from your dog’s space. Crate training helps immensely, as this provides a safe place that a dog can call their own. It also prevents destruction of furniture when your dog is unsupervised. How Boredom and Anxiety Contribute to Destructive Behavior If destructive chewing is associated with separation anxiety, addressing the underlying anxiety will help to correct the behavior. In severe cases of anxiety, a professional trainer or anxiety medication may be necessary to address the underlying issues. Boredom is also a common contributor to destructive chewing. Regular exercise is a great way to minimize boredom and keep your pet healthy. Base your dog’s exercise regimen on their age, agility level, and underlying medical issues. High-energy dogs may love a brisk run or trip to the dog park, while older or ailing dogs may be happy with a walk around the block. Exercise helps to stimulate a dog’s mind and makes them less likely to act out of frustration and damage items around the house. Dog walking and running services can help to break up the monotony of a long day alone. Extroverted dogs may benefit from a housemate or by joining a dog pack for walks. Investigating what options are available in your neighborhood can help add excitement to your dog’s daily routine. Indoor enrichment toys can help to reduce boredom for pets that are alone during the day. Food puzzles dispense treats when solved, which is both entertaining and intellectually stimulating. Parents who want to check in with their pups during the day can try out a treat dispensing camera. These toys allow you to check in on and chat with your pet during the day, as well as provide them with a treat for good behavior. The Benefits of Training and Positive Reinforcement Creating a strong foundation of training for a puppy can be helpful to stop destructive behaviors before they start. Going to training classes can teach your dog basic commands, which can be expanded upon to create boundaries at home. Some dogs respond well to clicker training and this can be used to establish right and wrong behaviors. Physical discipline and yelling should never be used to correct bad behaviors. Redirection to show them appropriate chew toys and positive reinforcement is encouraged to lead dog’s down the right path. Ultimately, the best ways to avoid destructive chewing are limited access to inappropriate items, regular exercise, and appropriate training. If underlying medical conditions are suspected, follow up with a veterinarian and/or professional trainers.

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