1 year old pup chewing problem.
November 7, 2011 8:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm asking this to try to help my niece who has her busy hands full taking care of Altzheimer's mom and her own sick husband. Their one year old "Cav-a-poo" is way more doggie than she bargained for. They love him very much but he is just so difficult to manage. He's destroyed part of her sofa, and even chewed the baseboards off the wall. They didn't want to crate him but are forced to do so as he's so wild. She's had the home coach which was pretty good re: barking but the chewing is just crazy. They have all the non destructible chew toys, tried tobasco sauce, spray water bottle, clicker, etc. ' He has a big fenced yard but only likes to go out when someone stays with him. He is walked several times a day. One thing is he is much bigger than the breeder said he would be. Instead of 15 lbs he is more like 25. She's had to give up sleeping in her bed as he cries all night in the crate and it disturbs her husband who needs his sleep. She lies on the couch together with the pup and then has to be up and out of the house by 6 AM to go to work. I'm trying to help her find a way to a more peaceful life including Mr Chewy, of course, and would appreciate any helpful suggestions.
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I will be pilloried by some dog lovers for suggesting this, but she should consider finding the dog another home. Taking care of a sick mom is hard, a sick husband on top of that is even harder. She is not doing the dog or herself any favors, and it is very likely that there is another home - perhaps within the family/friend networks, where she could visit? - where the pup would have a better, happier life.
posted by jbickers at 8:52 AM on November 7, 2011 [13 favorites]

Hate to say it, but I agree w jbickers. It sounds like they've already done all the rational things we could suggest, and this dog is just too much for their situation.

If it helps, this state of affairs isn't doing the dog any favors either.
posted by Naberius at 8:55 AM on November 7, 2011

I don't mean to be flip, but given all the stress in her life, why doesn't your niece call it a day and return Mr. Chewy up to a breeder? It sounds to me as if she has done all she can do with this animal. We had a cat we were very find of, but she didn't like to use her catbox -- she liked peeing on throw-rugs and pooping on the living room carpet. We tried everything, including working with the shelter from which we'd adopted her, but in the end we had to give up and return her. We adopted another cat who is perfectly well behaved.

So I see no reason why she can't cut her losses and either get another dog, or do without for a time while she manages her family members -- who after all are more important than a pet, and more needful of her time and energy.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:55 AM on November 7, 2011

"...return Mr Chewy to the breeder..." I meant to say.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:57 AM on November 7, 2011

Puppies chew. That will happen. But it doesn't sound like they know how to discipline, or don't want to discipline because it's "too hard" for them.

Dogs are like children. They need consistant, firm rules. Crying all night, and giving in to the dog just teaches them that they're in charge and will get results when they cry.

A little bit of pain for a few weeks, letting the dog "cry" (whine), etc will yield long term results.

It sounds like they are new to dogs, and just don't know how to properly train. Unlike the current responses, I don't think it's a problem with the dog. But the end result is the same - either do they homework and be consistant with the discipline or find a better home. A 25 lbs dog should in now way be able to rule a household. (heck, a 140 lbs dg shouldn't either)
posted by rich at 8:58 AM on November 7, 2011

I think she should carefully consider rehoming Mr Chewy. The dog is nearly twice the size expected and sounds very difficult. I've never had a dog that really chewed at all once they were through teething. We've always given our dogs chew sticks/pigs ears and that has kept them happy and they've never chewed the furniture.
Sleeping on the couch every night is just not sustainable.

It would be better for the both of them to find an owner with the time and energy to take care of this dog.

If she really wants to keep the dog, I would suggest earplugs for the sleeping and pigs ears for the chewing - 25lbs is still pretty small so that should keep him occupied.
posted by missmagenta at 9:07 AM on November 7, 2011

A little bit of pain for a few weeks, letting the dog "cry" (whine), etc will yield long term results.

With her husband's illness, a few weeks of sleepless nights may not be practical.
posted by missmagenta at 9:08 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree with what rich said, but I really think that they all have enough to deal with right now and maybe aren't doing themselves or the dog any favours. I think that in the long run she should maybe try and find the dog another home. Of course that is easy to say as animals can become loved family members despite their problems, would it be possible for another family member, maybe one good with dogs, to foster the dog for a while? Give the dog the stable life it needs, and give everyone involved a bit of a rest until the situation gets better?
posted by wwax at 9:10 AM on November 7, 2011

This sounds like the dog has separation anxiety. Does he only destroy furniture when left alone? Refusing to go in the yard by himself, not adjusting to being crated alone, needing to sleep with someone, etc are all pretty big signs of severe anxiety. They should talk to their vet about medication options, there are pills that could potentially help.

If not, the chewing is something the dog will largely grow out of. One year is still solidly in teething range, and only time cures that. It also sounds like the puppy might have more energy than they can cope with. Poodles and poodle mixes in particular seem to have springs for legs for the first few years, so a few walks might not be enough to wear the dog out. They might consider doggie daycare during the daytime. If the dog is too exhausted to throw a fit at the end of the day, it will make crating at night much easier.

Also it seems like they might be approaching crating with the wrong idea. Crating isn't a cruel last resort, its just a specific method that works best for some dogs. Of the four dogs I have had, I only crated one, but it's not because that dog was a "bad dog", it just had a personality that crating suited well. They really have to follow through on the adjustment to crating though, they can't give in early.

As far as the dog being larger than expected, that's something they will just have to accept as part of the risk you run when getting a mixed breed. Unlike purebreds, which are bred to standard for generations and pretty easy to predict the attributes of, "designer breeds" are something of a crapshoot on how the cross will come out. 25 lbs isn't really much bigger than 15 lbs in the big scheme of dog sizing.
posted by internet!Hannah at 9:15 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Getting a puppy while taking care of someone with Alzheimers and sick husband was a bad idea. And puppies don't play by themselves, even with a large yard. I'm always surprised at people who think having a large yard is a substitute for interaction.

She might try having the dog go to doggie daycare so he can play all day or hiring a kid in the neighborhood to take it for nice long walks. Tired dogs are much less destructive. My dog does well with bully sticks and rawhide chews; he ignores hard rubber chew toys. And a house trained dog shouldn't have to be crated at night. A walk before bed, a nice fat pillow, a chew stick and lights off are all that should be required. The OP doesn't mention when the dog chews.

Dogs are work. Training dogs is work. Giving a dog a few long walks everyday is work. Playing fetch with your dog til he's tired is work. Your niece doesn't have time for this work. These things can be fun to do with your dog but if these are just more chores to get done, it's not surprising it's not working out.

It sounds like the dog needs to be re-homed. The home situation is not going to improve anytime soon.
posted by shoesietart at 9:17 AM on November 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

There is nothing at all wrong with crate-training a dog. Many dogs like crates the same way that you like a house—it's a place where a dog can feel safe and enclosed. My wife used to be executive director of an organization that trains service dogs for the disabled, and they crate-trained all of their dogs. We've fostered many an SPCA dog in our home, and we've crate-trained nearly every one of them. Emphasis here on trained. We didn't just lock them in a crate and call it a day. A trainer can help with that.
posted by waldo at 9:35 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Puppies are high-maintenance. A new home would be the most loving choice. The breeder, rescue organization or shelter may be able to help.

I love having a dog for the love and company. In this case, an older, calmer dog might be a happy match. Many shelters have terrific dogs that have been surrendered by their owners, and are housebroken, and have less energy than a puppy.
posted by theora55 at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

So the dog is different the "breeder" expected? Not a surprise, since so-called designer mixed breeds are still mutts, plain and simple. Mix two or more well-established breeds and the results will be unpredictable ... in terms of size, color, temperament, intelligence, everything. You might get the best of both parents, but you might get the worst. And a truly professional dog breeder knows that.

Chances are this "breeder" won't take the puppy back, as it was bred to sell and for no other reason. They're not likely to be interested in your satisfaction. Please find the pup a good home ... or a rescue group that will find him a home.
posted by peakcomm at 9:49 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding waldo - crate trained dogs are happy in their crates. Our dog loves her crate, it makes her happy and calm. Just putting a dog in a crate is not the same thing as crate training a dog, not by a long shot.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Training a dog takes time, consistency, energy and focus...none of which your niece can provide because of the overwhelming life situation she has going on right now. Not her fault, not dog's fault. Cast me as another vote to return the dog to the breeder or re-home.
posted by jeanmari at 10:21 AM on November 7, 2011

Can someone else take the dog for a while, maybe a month to give your nice a break. After that she can decide whether to regimes him or not. She's in an incredibly stressful situation right now and will have a hard time making decisions without help.
posted by fshgrl at 10:39 AM on November 7, 2011

as a dog owner and lover myself, this situation saddens me. unfortunately, people tend to think they can get a puppy and presto, it's going to know what to do and what not to do with little or no training. if they want to keep the dog, then she needs to take the pup to puppy obedience classes and then to regular obedience classes after the puppy course has ended. i'd also get that trainer back to help her train the dog properly with regard to crate training and destructive habits. if she doesn't have the time to do these things then she needs to look into rehoming the dog, either with a rescue or the humane society. if he's still a puppy, he'll have a better chance of finding a new home.

there were all sorts of bad decisions going into this including getting a mixed breed dog from a backyard breeder (mixed breed designer dogs like this are basically mutts you paid a lot of money for) to the fact that your niece doesn't sound like she really thought through the amount of time and attention needed to train a puppy given the other circumstances in her life. a dog's destructive behaviours are a result of it's owner's irresponsibility; not because it's an inherently untrainable dog. it doesn't sound as though she is interested in or can devote the time actually doing what it takes to properly train this puppy and unless she does, the dog's behaviour will only become magnified as it grows older. now is the time to get him into a home where these behaviours will be nipped in the bud. unfortunately, i doubt the breeder will be amenable to taking the pup back—backyard breeders are in it for the money. they're obviously not breeding to improve the breed and have very little understanding about looking for temperament traits or anything else ("oops, he wasn't supposed to be this big!").
posted by violetk at 11:56 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions. Several of you are correct in that they never had a dog before.
She loves him very much (and vice versa) and she will never part with him.
No, she probably, didn't consider how much work a puppy is but her heart was in the right place, she and her husband were recent empty nesters, and who knew "Chewy" would be such a hand full? I've had 3 dogs in the last 20 years and never had a problem even near what she has had.
Oh well, back to the drawing boards...somewhere there has to be a solution.
The medication one might work. My friend got a big Lab from a Rescue place and she had to have him on calming/anti anxiety meds for the first few years. He's 7 now and is a wonderful pet. He just needed something to get him over the hump.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 12:26 PM on November 7, 2011

The medication one might work.

as has been suggested above what about obedience classes? i mean, try actually, training before you go and medicate your pet into submission. that's a short-term solution. training is the only effective long-term one.
posted by violetk at 12:31 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, maybe the dog needs meds. Definitely the dog needs training. I understand that she has a lot on her hands right now, but everything she is doing is reinforcing all the dog's bad behaviors. I mean sleeping out on the couch so your dog won't whine? That's classic positive reinforcement as far as the dog sees it. Want something? Whine to you get it? They don't respond quick enough, whine longer, it has always worked in the past hasn't it? Put it to you this way, you say they are empty nesters, which meant they had kids. Did they give their kid a candy bar every time they wanted one so they wouldn't cry and throw a tantrum in the store? Probably not because they realized that would just make it all worse. I understand her husband needs to sleep, but the only way to break the dog of that habit is tough love. If putting the dog in another room for the night won't make it quiet enough for her husband to sleep, send him off to a friend or family's house for a couple nights, or a hotel. Or buy earplugs. Then put the dog in the crate or a different room or whatever the plan is, and then leave it be, no amount of whining changes it. I dog sat my friends dog who tried the whining in the crate at night time. She got told to be quiet, a blanket put over her crate to restrict her view, and would have been put out in another room, but she got the picture right quick.

As far as the chewing goes, you have to catch her in the act and punish her. I'm not talking about beating or anything, but sharp no, and maybe put outside (since she doesn't like it out there without her people). Lots of good chewable toys (my dog won't touch the hard rubber things but once or twice, but some bones or rawhides, those he loves) and lots of exercise (my dog at this age was never tired out by a few walks a day, it had to be hard core running and playing for hours before he was tired), which will be hard on her, but if she can't do it, she has to hire someone else to do it. As said multiple times above, tired dogs are better behaved dogs.

If she won't rehome the dog, she is going to have to put serious work into fixing all the problems she's created. Harsh, but that's dog ownership, she's making a little monster with this dog now by giving in to all it's whims and nothing but hard work will make it better.
posted by katers890 at 12:47 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I totally agree with the people here who said that the dog needs *training* not medication. Teething is probably a big factor here and you may have a brief resurgance as his adult teeth kick in (around 18 months - 2 years). But a puppy who is frightened is going to be destructive. I know from first-hand experience how difficult that can be. When we first adopted a shelter dog, she was traumatized by her experiences and chewed a LOT of stuff. Taking her to training classes and learning how to discipline the dog positively made a lot of difference. I agree with putting this dog out in the yard whenever he is caught in the act of chewing. Ignoring and ostracizing the dog is the worst punishment for a pack animal - he will soon learn that this happens only when he is chewing something that is not "his" to chew.

Practically, smearing some white stick deodorant on things and places that he tends to chew (something without harmful additives, like Tom's of Maine) will stop the chewing immediately. Dogs hate the taste and the smell of that stuff - and it doesn't harm furniture. But he'll likely find other things to chew, if he's frightened and lonely. His behavior does sound like separation anxiety (been there, lived with that). He needs to understand that people always come back to him. That will only come with experience - but his owners need to learn to leave the house quickly and unobtrusively, while he is busy with something else. Don't make a big deal about leaving, or the dog picks up on this and is made anxious. Giving the dog a Kong toy stuffed with treats/dog food as you leave (with some Kong paste or peanut butter to gum it all together at the top) worked wonders with our dog. By the time she had worked her way through that lot, we had been gone for long enough that she no longer worried about it. Prior to that, she worked out her angst on the furniture or drywall (yes, really, the drywall - it's amazing how much of an impact one small border collie can have). Take the food out of the dog's meal allowance.

Puppies learn very quickly to manipulate humans by crying, so you do need to be hard-hearted about him sleeping alone. He will cry for a few nights, but he'll soon get used to this. I suggest earplugs for the husband, until the dog adapts.

Finally, attend some training classes with the dog. Get him used to the fact that the world does not end if his human walks away from him (and that his cries are ignored). Get him socialized. And don't let him guilt-manipulate his owner so much that he runs the house and their lives.
posted by Susurration at 1:16 PM on November 7, 2011

Oh - and make the dog associate going into his crate with getting a treat (even if he gets a LOT of treats for a few weeks). This worked miracles with our dog. Now, when we rise to go to bed, she SCOOTS into her crate, to get the late-night treat.
There is no way that this dog should be sleeping on the couch with its owner. Get it used to sleeping in his crate overnight.
posted by Susurration at 1:21 PM on November 7, 2011

Could the dog be mirroring the chaos in the house? I've always found that when things started falling apart for me, my dogs went to pieces too. Partly they were that tuned in to my emotional state, partly they felt neglected because I was so focused on something else, and partly they needed a calm, predictable environment.

If that's the case here, it might make more sense to help your niece find help caring for her husband and mother, instead of focusing on the dog. Especially if she's working, she and the dog would probably both benefit from someone coming in even for an hour a few days a week, so that she and the dog could take a long and relaxing walk (tired dog, etc.) or even simply have a few minutes to play ball in the back yard.

Oh, and you say there are non-destructible chewy toys. That's great, but the only thing that ever kept my dogs from chewing on furniture, etc., was rawhide to chew on instead. (Or a stuffed Kong, as someone suggested above.)
posted by Jaie at 3:25 PM on November 7, 2011

Might I suggest a cat or two? They don't require extensive periods of training, and are generally much easier for people with disabilities or time constraints to manage. And they can be just as affectionate. But again, I might recommend adopted an adult rather than a kitten, because they do require some supervision and can be really high-energy when young.
posted by threeturtles at 7:10 PM on November 7, 2011

Yikes! I see I have to nip back in here and defend my poor niece!

She is a wonderful person, an RN who works her butt off at work in a busy urban hospital.
She cares for her husband who is a cancer patient (remission) and who has Parkinson's plus her 80 year old mom with the Altzheimer's and an 80 year old dad, both of who live nearby. Her kids are college graduates who live away from home and she got "Chewy" for companionship. He was a gift from her sister.
She has taken him to several obedience classes and had the in-home coach come on a weekly basis at $100.00 an hour.
She has even give up sleeping in her bed every night just to try to calm him as her husband is very sensitive to noise and needs his sleep. She has adjusted her house and her life to manage this dog, who she loves very much. What is she doing wrong? Her attractive, well kept suburban house is NOT chaotic!
Please, folks, cut her some slack, she is a great person trying to do the best she can under difficult circumstances. How many of you could do half of what she does even without Chewy???
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 5:07 PM on November 8, 2011

What is she doing wrong?

you're getting defensive when i think almost everyone here is trying to state that, given that she already had a lot going on in her life, she should have had some idea that perhaps taking on another big project wasn't going to help her situation—and surprise, it's not going well. as a result, the dog isn't being properly trained, her husband is losing sleep, etc—i.e. she bit off more than she can chew (no pun intended) and now you're going to suggest she take the easy way out by medicating the dog rather than tell her to give it proper consistent training. and no, a few obedience classes and sessions with a trainer isn't consistent training. i often hear from ppl how well-behaved my dog is but that's bc when i got my puppy, i enrolled him in a 12 week puppy course, then another 12 week training course, and then another 12 week course after that, in addition to working with him every day on our own. and there are still things we constantly work on—even tho he's 6.5 now. and no, i didn't do that while caring for elderly parents with alzheimers and who is a cancer patient. but if that was my situation, i wouldn't have taken on a puppy on top of everything else.

it's a lot of work. and i think it's totally, totally commendable that your sister wants to keep her dog—but i don't think medication is the route to go. that's a cop-out and just because she has some other major things in her life going on doesn't mean that medication is the answer because she can't give this dog the consistent, dedicated training it needs. if she can't provide that, she's doing both the dog and herself a disservice because it's not going to get any better, and a medicated dog is not a trained dog.
posted by violetk at 10:27 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

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