Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pooches: How Mr. B Learned Not to Destroy his Stuffed Toys

Since we've been showing a lot of photos like this, 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.
Tired of cleaning stuffing out of the crevices of our home, and knowing we couldn't afford to keep buying new toys, we decided to train Mr. B to be more gentle so he could enjoy his toys a little longer. We know all dogs are different, but this is how we worked with 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. This helps him mark the positive behavior of playing with a toy gently.

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. Or maybe it was none of the above and because Mr. B is actually part stuffy himself.
And, remember the rats. 
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9 comments:

jet said...

I have tried these tactics with Bender but with mixed success - his toys do last longer now, but they do get wrecked eventually

Luv My Rosie said...

Thanks for the tip. The newest addition to our family insists on mutiliating all of the toys and bringing the left over bodies in my bed. I have tried the stuffing free ones but she still manages to shred the fur. I am going to try to "save the stuffies"

Kristen Mui said...

Layla has a cherished fleecey bone-- a lot like Mr B's Orange one, and she is super gentle with it. But if the toy has any appendages she likes to de-appendage them. We like to mix in rope toys and tennis ball type toys for some variety too (and less mess!). We've been somewhat successful in teaching her to be gentler with her toys using similar tactics that you've used with Mr B.

adventuresofadogmom said...

Great post... I'm wondering though if these tips would work with Dottie. After 8 years of destroying every toy in sight I'm afraid she's too far gone on the idea of gentle...

cozmcgrl said...

I have been trying this when we are home but our problem is when we are not home. If there is any possible way to get to a pillow or shoe, my 2 stinkers annihilate them when we are gone. I think it is some separation anxiety. I notice it seems to happen right after I leave. Any ideas?

Taylor G said...

We have been doing the same thing with Mugsy. He loves to find the weak spot on a toy and exploit it until he destroys the toy and feels accomplished. We got him a stuffed bear and will positively reinforce when he is being gentle with the stuffy and when he gets carried away we say "ouch" or something else to try to deter him. Seems to work pretty well for us but we need to do it more often if we want to see better results.

Andrea Joy said...

I wish this worked for Beau! Ugh.

Two French Bulldogs said...

This does work. All our stuffies are blind. Otherwise we don't tear them up
Benny & Lily

K-Koira said...

He sure is adorable with his toys.

Do you guys not have wineries around in the Chicago area? It seems like I can't drive 15 minutes in any direction without running into at least one vineyard, winery, or craft beer place. I will say, vineyards and wineries are some of the best places to visit with dogs, since most of them are very dog friendly.

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