SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 22, 2013

On teething, chewing and crate training

Ask Dog Lady
Monica Collins

---- — Q: I have a 1-year-old Sealyham terrier. He loves to put his mouth around one of his stuffed toys and just pulse gently up and down. He can do this for 20 to 30 minutes. What do you think this means?

A: Sealy’s a youngster and still teething. Mouthing gives him gummy comfort as his choppers emerge. Also, this behavior is very puppyish. Surrounded by a bunch of siblings in the den, he would probably gum them, too.

To our dogs, stuffed animals fulfill a variety of roles — prey, sibling, plaything, squirrel substitute. Our dogs take stuffed toys very seriously, so make sure your pet has at least one. A plush animal with a squeaker lets out an expiring squawk. An inanimate animal allows your Sealyham to rock gently, imagining he’s back in the old country squashing a rodent softly.

Q: I have had a 2-year-old German shepherd since he was 11 weeks. I struggle to understand his behavior because he is scared out of his mind of cars, bikes, people, balloons, boxes and all objects in motion. He is especially afraid of people and even shakes. He was a normal puppy when I got him from the breeder.

He is also a severe chewer, and although he is now 2 years old, he chews up everything (the house, shoes, rugs, cables and, most recently, my entire couch, which I had to trash). I hated to do it, but I finally got him a crate. He gets plenty of attention throughout the day even when I’m at class or work for eight hours a day because my roommates care for him in my absence. When I exercised him even more, he became worse in his chewing and hyperactive behavior.

A: Your German shepherd is still an adolescent and needs care, attention and socializing. Walk him frequently so he becomes accustomed to the noises and surprises in the world. When he is calm, reward him with high-value treats (freeze-dried liver or chicken). Don’t expect your roommates to provide your dog the same quality of consideration. In all her years, Dog Lady has never heard of a well-exercised dog chewing more and becoming hyperactive. A crate will help if the crate is used well and not as punishment. You have a big dog requiring a big part of your life. Make room for the responsibility.

Q: My husband and I have a little Australian shepherd that is, for the most part, an incredibly well-behaved dog. However, whenever we leave, he turns into the Hulk and tears up anything he can get his hands on.

Is it too late for crate training? My husband squirms at the thought of caging our pet up for a few hours and is quite resistant. Should I cage both of them up? Help! I’m running out of shoes.

A: Not too late for crate training — for both your Aussie and your hubby. Aussie needs the confines of an enclosure. Your husband needs to learn that containers for dogs are good things. A dog views its crate (the politically correct name for “cage”) as a welcome sanctuary.

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Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Follow the “Ask Dog Lady” fan page on Facebook; Twitter at @askdoglady. Email questions to askdoglady@gmail.com.