Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"How-To" Week: How to Teach Your Dog to Be Gentle with Toys

It seems a lot of people are impressed with Mr. B's ability to not only carry around his favorite stuffies, but keep them relatively intact.Since this is "how-to" week, here is how we taught Mr B to change his baseball-mitt ripping days to be gentle with his stuffie toys:

After writing this post, we had an overwhelming response asking for our secret to teaching Mr. B not to tear apart his toys. When we first got Mr. B, he was a pro chewer: ripping apart baseball mitts in minutes and quickly tearing through all of Miss M's toys.
Knowing we couldn't afford to keep buying new toys, we decided to train Mr. B to be more gentle. We know all dogs are different, but this is how we trained our Mr. B:

1) We reinforce positive toy-chewing behavior
Dogs really don't know that we get upset when they tear apart their toys, so we have to reinforce positive behavior by marking when they're gentle. We started by supervising all of his soft-toy chewing. Every time Mr. B would nibble on the toy we would associate the words "Yes gentle". When he licks the toy we say "Yes  kisses" and give him lots of head rubs.

2) We have a signal to let Mr. B know when we're disappointed
Dogs are in-tune with us and they don't want to hurt us. Like when Miss M first came to live with me she thought she was showing affection by mouthing and chewing on me. Every time she did that I pretended to cry or be in pain, and eventually she learned to stop that behavior. We do the same thing with the toys; every time he would become aggressive with the toy we would pretend to cry and he would stop chewing it. Then when he would lick it and become gentle we would give the positive reinforcement. Eventually we were able to stop the fake-crying and insert a mournful "Oh no!" which gives the same effect.

3) We supervised toy playings and kept chewing time to a minimum
We would supervise his soft-toy chewing and only allow it for short amounts of time before taking it away. Eventually, he built up the time and we trust him to chew on his own. Sometimes we hear him getting rough with the toy and we just take it away. But now that he understands how to play with toys,  he's content just laying with them in his tepee.
We know Mr. B is sensitive, but I wonder how this would work with most dogs. Or does anyone else have some other tips?
PS. Stay tuned to our facebook page for more recent updates while we're on break.

22 comments:

LibbyD said...

Thank you for posting this great info. I am going to try this approach with our boy.

Kate said...

Great info. All of our dogs rip apart stuffies and I have dreams that someday that won't be the case anymore!

Melinda Clevenger-Davis said...

My auntie did this with her rotties. The only thing she did differently was to replace the stuffie with a bone when the pup started getting rough with her toy.Now all she has to do is say "go get your bone" when Tessa forgets. It's really cool.

Rebelwerewolf said...

Badger can't really tell when we're disappointed, so I'm going to try this. Also, I'm waiting for Easter to be over so I can buy Easter-themed squeaky toys on sale at Petsmart!

Claudia said...

This has changed our lives. I am so proud to report that the 3 holiday toys (known as "Reindeer", "Polar Bear" and "Penguin" - we're really creative!) are all still intact! In April. Yes, two of them have been mended, but they all have almost all of their stuffing and are much loved in an appropriate way. Thanks for the tips!

Sarah said...

I tell people to get another dog. :) Adding Hurley to the mix at our house immediately stopped the large majority of Maggie's toy destroying ways. He simply doesn't let her have much one on one time with toys and steals them for a rousing game of Chase the Hurley and Tug. I guess your way's probably better since most people look at me like I'm craisins when I suggest another dog. Ha!

Karen and Pearl said...

This is super impressive. Pearl can destroy a stuffie in record time, so we may have to try this method if we ever dare to buy her another stuffed toy.

Karen and Pearl said...
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Two French Bulldogs said...

We are smart like you. Why rip your stuffie? Then you won't have it anymore
Benny & Lily

HoundDogMom said...

The hounds don't destuff to much. Winston loves to greet you at the door with some kind of stuffy in his mouth. I recently did the "ouch" thing with Bella. She loves to rough house but sometimes she nibbles just a little to much. So I just say "ouch" or easy nibbles and she stops. Oh, i had no idea you were on break this week, Winston would have been visiting you for sure. BOL.. Sniffs, The HoundDogs

misssodakgal said...

I will have to try this with my two Jack Russells.

On a side note, is the tinfoil on the couch cushions to keep the dogs from getting on the couch?

Faith Shen said...

wow he really gave important of his cool stuff, he loves to sleep on his nylabone pillows, we will take care our toys too :D


Dog Shock Collar | Puppy & Human Bond

Glenna said...

The photos of him being gentle with his toys are so adorable!

susan said...

What a great idea. I never even thought about fake crying, I wonder if that would work on other things too.. thanks!

AJ said...

I can't say thank you enough for this original how to be gentle post with Mr. B. We used the same technique when we needed to teach Roadie to be gentle with his soft toys. We haven't had to repair any in a long while.

Two Pitties in the City said...

So glad this has been working for many of you. And yes! The tinfoil is to keep the pooches off the couch. We wrote more about it here: http://pittiesincity.blogspot.com/2010/08/another-favorite-story-of-miss-m-and.html

Kolchak Puggle said...

I would like to send Kolchak to Camp Two Pitties to learn this special skill, please. We have a fine collection of dead toy pelts. I stuff the empty shells with spare eggs from the Egg Buddy toys...I gave up on ever having fluffing free carpets long ago.

Tanaya said...

I randomly came back to this post because it was linked on the bottom of a new post and have to say that this really did change our lives. Our Bella boo used to kill the most "indestructible" stuffies in a matter of moments. We started using these techniques and now her stuffies will last for several months. The only rule she has now is that she can't sneak them away into the bedroom. Where we have discovered the sad remains of a few stuffies thrown all about our bed.

David bone said...
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David bone said...
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Kayla said...

I'm going to try this with my puppy. She distroyed all of her toys. Then when can get her new toys and I won't have to keep sewing these ones up all of the time. Thank you(:

Russ Balsman said...

Thanks for this great idea! My Border Collie learned to be gentle with her toys very quickly with this method. Thanks again!!!!!

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