Ask Tom, the Dogcharmer: Maysie

Breaking the bed-chew habit.


Hi Tom,

You kept asking me to write an email with a question about our pup Maysie, and now I have one!

For the most part, she has been pretty good about not destroying anything in the home except what she is allowed to … except her dog bed. We can’t stop her from destroying any dog bed that we get. We don’t allow her to have it when we are not home (she just gets a blanket), but when we are home and not in the room with her, most frequently as soon as we get in the shower, she tears her bed to shreds.

I have looked at some “chew-proof” dog beds. But I would like to remedy the behavior instead of just trying to fool her and test her chew strength. Any ideas?

Thank you, Tom!

Amy and Shawn Clapp (and Maysie too of course!)

Dear Amy and Shawn,

This is definitely not the time for the old bromide, “She made her bed, let her lie in it!” She’d just keep chewing it till there was nothing left to lie on! Nor would I suggest you test her chew strength. I’ve seen dogs break marrow bones and effortlessly demolish so-called indestructible dog toys. The “chew-proof” dog bed is just (maybe) going to take a little longer to destroy, but worse than that, it’s going to reinforce her bed-chewing habit. Because you want, and Maysie wants, to have a bed to lie on, and because dogs are strong creatures of habit, this is a tough one.

I’d start by not investing in another dog bed right away, but rather use a carpet remnant, one that is tightly woven and hemmed. You don’t want to have loose ends about to attract her. Initially, she only gets the carpet bed in your presence, with several favorite toys nearby. If she starts to chew it, tell her, “Leave it,” a command which she has been taught. Then redirect her attention to a toy, a special one. A sterilized hollow marrow bone with a piece of meat wedged in the middle might well serve to keep her comfortable on the bed, while trying to get to that elusive chicken just out of reach in the bone. She only gets the “special toy” while she’s on the bed. If she’s not on the bed, no special toy! When you leave the house, the blanket replaces the carpet bed; when you’re home, the carpet bed replaces the blanket. It should be the only soft place available when you’re home. If you have to leave her alone for a short time, like taking a shower, either replace the carpet bed with the blanket, or give her a special, special toy with the carpet bed, or stop taking showers. Your choice. If Maysie doesn’t get to chew her carpet bed for a month, the bed-chew habit may be extinguished, at which point you can consider getting another dog bed. But introduce it by putting her carpet bed on top of the new dog bed. This will require your diligence.

Good luck,

The Dogcharmer

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