Stop your dog’s destructive chewing behavior

dog chewing on shoes
At some point, every dog mommy or daddy arrives home to find some unexpected damage inflicted by his or her dog; or, more specifically, that dog’s teeth. Although dogs make great use of their vision and sense of smell to explore their surroundings, one of their favorite ways to take in new information is to put their mouths to work.

Fortunately, chewing can be directed onto appropriate items so your dog isn’t destroying things you value or jeopardizing his or her own safety.  Until the time your dog has learned what he can and can’t chew, however, it’s your responsibility to manage the situation as much as possible, so he or she doesn’t have the opportunity to chew on unacceptable objects.

Understand why dogs chew

Puppies, similar to infants or toddlers, explore their world by putting objects in their mouths. And, like babies, they teethe for approximately 6 months, which usually creates some discomfort. Chewing not only facilitates teething but also makes sore gums feel better.

Adult dogs may engage in destructive chewing for any number of reasons. In order to deal with the behavior, you must first determine why your dog is chewing—and remember, he’s not doing it tospite you. Possible reasons for destructive chewing include:

  • As a puppy, he wasn’t taught what to chew and what not to chew.
  • He’s bored.
  • He suffers from separation anxiety.
  • His behavior is fear-related.
  • He wants attention.

Be aware: You may need to consult with a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian for help with both separation anxiety and fear-related behaviors.  Our team of veterinarians will help to identify characteristics with the behavior and propose one of many solutions to help.

Teach your dog what can be chewed on and what cannot

Be attentive to pay attention to your own personal belongings. If you don’t want it in your dog’s mouth, put it in a place that is inaccessible to your furry friend. Keep clothing, shoes, books, trash, eyeglasses and remote controls out of your dog’s reach.

Provide your dog toys that are clearly distinguishable from household goods. Don’t confuse him by offering shoes and socks as toys and then expecting him to distinguish between his shoe and yours.

Supervision is important

Supervise your dog until he learns the house rules. Keep him with you on his leash in the house so he can’t make a mistake out of your sight. Confine him when you’re unable to keep an eye on him. Choose a “safe place” that’s dog-proof, and provide fresh water and “safe” toys. If your dog is crate trained, you may also place him in his crate for short periods of time.

Additional key recommendations

  • Give your dog plenty of people-time. Your dog won’t know how to behave if you don’t teach him alternatives to inappropriate behavior, and he can’t learn these when he’s in the yard by himself.
  • Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise. If your dog is bored, he’ll find something to do to amuse himself and you probably won’t like the choices he makes. On the other hand, a tired dog is a good dog, so make sure he gets lots of physical and mental activity. The amount of exercise should be based on his age, health and breed characteristics.
  • If you catch your dog chewing on something he shouldn’t, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise. Offer him an acceptable chew toy instead, and praise him lavishly when he takes the toy in his mouth.
  •  Build a toy obsession in your dog. Use his toys to feed him. At mealtimes, fill a Kong-type toy with his kibble.
  • If your puppy is teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for him to chew on. The cold cloth will soothe his gums. Supervise your puppy so he doesn’t chew and swallow any pieces of the washcloth.
  • Make items unpleasant to your dog. Furniture and other items can be coated with a taste deterrent (such as Bitter Apple®) to make them unappealing.

Caution: Supervise your dog when you first try one of these deterrents. Some dogs will chew an object even if it’s coated with a taste deterrent. Also be aware that you must reapply some of these deterrents to maintain their effectiveness.

  • Offer your dog a treat in exchange for the item in his mouth. As your dog catches on to this idea, you can add the command “Give” as his cue to release the object in exchange for the yummy treat.
  • Don’t chase your dog if he grabs an object and runs. If you chase him, you are only giving your dog what he wants. Being chased by his human is fun! Instead call him to you or offer him a treat.
  • Have realistic expectations. At some point your dog will inevitably chew up something you value; this is often part of the transition to a new home. Your dog needs time to learn the house rulesand you need to remember to take precautions and keep things out of his reach.

Never discipline or punish your dog after the fact

If you discover a chewed item even minutes after he’schewed it, you’re too late.  Animals associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they’re being corrected. Your dog can’t reason that, “I tore up those shoes an hour ago and that’s why I’m being scolded now.” Some people believe this is what a dog is thinking because he runs and hides or because he “looks guilty.”

In reality, “guilty looks” are actually canine submissive postures that dogs show when they’re threatened. When you’re angry and upset, your dog feels threatened by your tone of voice, body postures and/or facial expressions, so he may hide or show submissive postures. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but it could also provoke other undesirable behaviors.

For over 45 years, Lange Animal Clinic has provided veterinary services in Pekin, IL and the surrounding areas for over three family generations. Our expert staff of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Assistants are trained to ensure the best quality medical care for your beloved pets-whether it be as a routine medical examination to more complicated surgical procedures. We are a small companion animal clinic providing services for dogs, cats, and exotic pets.

Dr. Colleen O’Rourke, owner and senior Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, takes great pride in making certain that every patient’s experience is handled with the utmost care, compassion, and economically in the best interests of our clients. Visit us at  

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Reinforcing Positive Behavior in Dogs from Adolescence and Beyond

Dog Behavior
Puppies typically enjoy playing with other puppies and may not demonstrate any problem behaviors toward any other dog.  Lange Animal Clinic veterinarians in Pekin, IL advise that in order to understand our dogs’ behavior toward other dogs, one must understand contributing factors toward the dog’s development from a puppy.  For example, a dog’s behavior will highly depend upon its environment- it may change depending on the circumstances and other individuals involved.

The reality is that the world is not divided into dogs who are “good with other dogs” and those who are “not good with other dogs”.  A particular dog can react aggressively if certain factors are present, just as any human can use verbal or physical aggression if instigated at various levels.  These interactions between dogs are determined by factors during upbringing such as the quantity of dogs involved/interacted with, the location, and the level of interactivity and the ages of the dogs.  Naturally, the behavior of each dog has an impact on all the others.

Lange Animal Clinic offers some guidelines to help adolescent/adult dogs behave and interact better with those around him/her:

  • Try to avoid overly-excessive play situations. It is the rare adolescent dog who can remain calm and play appropriately when surrounded by other young, excited dogs.  If your dog plays too roughly in these situations, remove him or her:  select quieter, less stressing surroundings for him.  Frequent the dog park only when fewer dogs are present, making sure that at least some of them are mature adults.  Well-socialized adult dogs are valuable park-buddies for “teen” dogs, as they can teach them appropriate behavior without causing harm.
  • Consistently provide interaction with your adolescent dog to well-behaved adult dogs. By definition, the phrase “well behaved” means the adult dog interacts well with young dogs but will interrupt unacceptable/rough behavior.  Adult dogs typically use eye contact and tall, still postures to discourage unwanted contact.  Interruptions normally consist of a quick, deep sound (not a confrontation) lasting several seconds.  If the adult dog does go after the adolescent, this is inappropriate and must be interrupted.
  • Continually enforce calm behavior. If you are taking a walk with your dog and are approaching a dog park or playgroup and your dog starts barking excessively, turn around and walk him/her away.  Leave the area or venue abruptly.  If your dog absolutely will not calm down, take him/her back home.  This may seem mean at first, but preventing your dog from this type of overly excited behavior will pay off in the long run.
  • Promote only desirable behavior with your dog. Keep in mind, behavior will strengthen with practice so be certain that your dog practices only positive behavior.  Dependent upon the activity, always question whether or not the behavior is helping or hindering your dog’s interaction with others.  Maybe going to the dog park is resulting in enjoyable and positive experiences in your dog or on the contrary- is it teaching Fido to chase and boss around every dog he or she sees?  Does leaving your dog in the backyard is permit him/her to bark at or motion aggressively toward people or other dogs walking by?  Be sure to choose new activities for your dog if his current ones are reinforcing bad habits.
  • Enforce calming techniques to your dog. Consider leashing your dog while you enjoy a movie and ignore him or her.  Should he or she jump on the couch into your lap, delicately move him or her away from you with the leash.   Wait until he settles quietly on the floor, then quietly praise him.  If he jumps up again, start over.  Practicing this “Settle” exercise regularly will teach your dog that calm behavior is the way to get your attention.

Reinforcing positive behavior in your dog at an early age will promote positive behavior later down the road.  Speak with a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian for more ideas on how to help with behavioral training in your pets.

For over 45 years, Lange Animal Clinic has provided veterinary services in Pekin, IL and the surrounding areas for over three family generations. Our expert staff of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Assistants are trained to ensure the best quality medical care for your beloved pets-whether it be as a routine medical examination to more complicated surgical procedures. We are a small companion animal clinic providing services for dogs, cats, and exotic pets.

Dr. Colleen O’Rourke, owner and senior Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, takes great pride in making certain that every patient’s experience is handled with the utmost care, compassion, and economically in the best interests of our clients. Visit us at  

About Us 
Our Services
Setup an Appointment

Guidance and Safety at Dog Parks

dog park

The weather is warming and more and more of us will be out and about with our pets.  As an owner of a puppy or older dog, it is important that your pet gets enough daily exercise and social activities. For the past few years, veterinarians at Lange Animal Clinic in Pekin, IL have found that more and more dog parks have been opening in neighborhoods throughout the country, making it much easier for owners to let their furry friends run and play. While dog parks can be a fun way to meet your human and canine neighbors, know that they’re not for every pup.

Dog parks are often best suited for younger dogs, who are generally more social and enjoy interacting with other puppies. If your dog is a social butterfly, read on for some expert tips on following doggy park etiquette and putting your best paw forward.

Make Sure Vaccinations Are Up-to-Date

While some dog parks are strict and require proof that dogs have current vaccinations, some are not monitored very closely.  Dr. Colleen O’Rourke states “it is critical to realize that other dogs at a dog park may be behind on vaccinations- this lead to the potential of serious health risks for other dogs and even pet owners.” Do your part to keep other dogs safe and be certain that your dog is current on his vaccinations.

The Size of a Dog Does Matter

In larger groups, large dogs and small dogs should always be separated. Even if you have a dog that is comfortable around larger dogs and enjoys playing with them, it can still be dangerous for dogs of vastly different sizes to play together. Our Veterinarians strongly encourage that you seek out dog parks that have a small dog area if you have a smaller pet.

Bring Water and Treats

Much like kids tend to get sick more often when they are around large groups of other children (McDonald’s play area), dogs can also get sick while spending time in groups. You can help keep your dog healthy by bringing your own water, treats and bowl. Dr. Gail Mercier suggests, “It’s always good to have water on hand especially on hotter days. Always avoid allowing your dog to drink from a group bowl at a dog park, as a disease is easily spread and can cause illness from any dogs that drink from the same bowl.” Keep a bottle of water and a bowl with you or in the car, and give it to your pooch when he seems thirsty.

Protect Your Dog from the Sun’s Rays

As with humans, the outdoors can pose some health hazards for your pet. If you have a short-haired or white dog, make sure to give her sunscreen.  Make certain to put it on prior to any extended play time or walks in the direct sun. Many dog parks are out in the open and have full sun, so you want to do your best to keep them from getting sunburned.  Epi-pet is the only FDA compliant dog sunscreen. If you can’t find this product, make sure that you carefully research available options, as some are toxic if ingested.

Fleas, Ticks and Other Annoying Insects

Unfortunately, fleas, ticks, bees, wasps and mosquitoes also reside in dog parks.  Dogs can end up with lots of stings and bites.  Herbal mosquito repellent is an option, but its effectiveness is debatable, as it is lacking the dangerous pesticides that are most effective on bugs.  But don’t worry, you can safeguard your pet from bug bites. Discuss flea and tick prevention options with a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian to learn what’s best for your four-legged friend.  Bees and wasps are a bit more challenging to manage. They tend to hide in areas with tall, overgrown grass, the same tall grass where your do is likely to stick his nose and go exploring.  Keep a flat plastic object like a credit card handy to scrape out a bee stinger (never tweeze or pull, as that will squeeze more venom into the dog) can help after a dog is stung.   If your dog gets stung numerous times, bring your dog into us immediately.

Be Responsible

Even if your dog is not normally aggressive, there is always the chance that she may bite another dog or a person. Overstimulation may cause a dog to play nip, or it may induce stress so he feels threatened. If your dog does bite, it is best to take responsibility, exchange information, offer to pay any medical expenses, and follow up.   Our veterinarians also recommend paying attention to your dog’s body language and behavior.   If your dog is actively avoiding other dogs at the park, that’s a sign that they may not be enjoying it. Be aware of any sign of your dog is showing an eagerness to exit the park. Don’t force fun on a dog, let them choose their own fun.

Clean Up

Last but not least, always clean up after your dog. Be sure to bring pick-up bags and always have enough on hand to be prepared. It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep the park clean!

No matter what the season, it is fun to go play with your dog. Exploring different dog parks can keep you both you and your pup fit and healthy, and it’s a great way to expend excess energy.

How to Get Your Dog to Stop Excessive Barking

Lange Animal Clinic’s veterinarians get this question more often than one may think.  How to get my dog to stop excessive barking.  Dogs bark for many reasons. Does your dog bark excessively? If so, consider covering windows to avoid stimulation by people and/or pets passing by. You can also try to redirect their behavior by engaging them in an activity such as throwing a ball. Still no luck? Click on the article below for six great ideas that may help.

Here are six great methods to try to help your dog reduce barking:

1. Remove the motivation

Your dog gets some kind of reward when he barks. Otherwise, he wouldn’t do it. Figure out what he gets out of barking and remove it. Don’t give your dog the opportunity to continue the barking behavior.

Example: barking at passersby

  • If he barks at people or animals passing by the living room window, manage his behavior by closing the curtains or putting your dog in another room.
  • If he barks at passersby when he’s in the yard, bring him into the house. Never leave your dog outside unsupervised all day and night.

2. Ignore the barking

Ignore your dog’s barking for as long as it takes him to stop. That means don’t give him any attention at all while he’s barking. Your attention only rewards him for being noisy. Don’t talk to him, don’t touch him, and don’t even look at him. When he finally quiets, even to take a breath, reward him with a treat.

Lange Animal Clinic’s veterinarians state that to be successful with this method, you must wait as long as it takes for him to stop barking. If he barks for an hour and you finally get so frustrated that you yell at him to be quiet, the next time he’ll probably bark for an hour and a half. He learns that if he just barks long enough you’ll give him attention.

Example: barking when confined

  • When you put your dog in his crate or in a gated room, turn your back and ignore him.
  • Once he stops barking, turn around, praise him, and give him a treat.
  • As he catches on that being quiet gets him a treat, lengthen the amount of time he must remain quiet before being rewarded.
  • Remember to start small by rewarding him for being quiet for just a few seconds, then working up to longer periods of quiet.
  • Keep it fun by varying the amount of time. Sometimes reward him after 5 seconds, then 12 seconds, then 3 seconds, then 20 seconds, and so on.

3. Desensitize your dog to the stimulus

Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing him to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes him bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that he doesn’t bark when he sees it. Feed him lots of good treats. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats!).

Example: barking at dogs

  • Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight or far enough away so your dog won’t bark at the other dog.
  • As your friend and her dog come into view, start feeding your dog lots of very yummy treats.
  • Stop feeding treats as soon as your friend and her dog disappear from view.
  • Repeat the process multiple times
  • Remember not to try to progress too quickly as it may take days or weeks before your dog can pay attention to you and the treats without barking at the other dog.

4. Teach your dog the “quiet” command

It may sound nonsensical, but Lange Animal Clinic staff all agree that the first step of this technique is to teach your dog to bark on command. Give your dog the command to “speak,” wait for him to bark two or three times, and then stick a tasty treat in front of his nose. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, praise him and give him the treat. Repeat until he starts barking as soon as you say “speak.”

Once your dog can reliably bark on command, teach him the “quiet” command. In a calm environment with no distractions, tell him to “speak.” When he starts barking, say “quiet” and stick a treat in front of his nose. Praise him for being quiet and give him the treat.

Example: someone at the door

  • When the doorbell rings, your dog alerts you to the presence of an “intruder” by barking wildly.
  • Once you’ve taught your dog the “quiet” command in a calm environment, practice in increasingly distracting situations until your dog can immediately stop barking when asked to, even when that “intruder” arrives at the door.

5. Ask your dog for an incompatible behavior

When your dog starts barking, ask him to do something that’s incompatible with barking. Teaching your dog to react to barking stimuli with something that inhibits him from barking, such as lying down in his bed.

Example: someone at the door

  • Toss a treat on his mat and tell him to “go to your place.”
  • When he’s reliably going to his mat to earn a treat, up the ante by opening the door while he’s on his mat. If he gets up, close the door immediately.
  • Repeat until he stays on his mat while the door opens.
  • Then increase the difficulty by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is on his mat. Reward him if he stays in place.

6. Keep your dog tired

Make sure your dog is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is a good dog and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration. Depending on his breed, age, and health, your dog may require several long walks as well as a good game of chasing the ball and playing with some interactive toys.
Lange Animal Clinic in Pekin, IL offers great suggestions by our staff of experienced Veterinarians on many important pet care topics.  We are a small companion animal clinic that provides veterinary care for dogs, cats and exotic pets.  Visit us on the web at for more information.