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Ask AKC: Dog Eating Paper

American Kennel Club, Inc. (c) 2011

Dear Lisa: My 3-year-old large (100-plus pounds) Labrador Retriever constantly eats toilet paper, napkins, paper towels and socks if they are accessible. We have to change our way of life practically so that he doesn't eat what we leave around. Yes, we have been lucky and he passes these items either through his bowel or vomits them up. We live in terror that we will leave something around and then he won't be able to pass it. --Hungry Hound
The first thing you need to do is close the bathroom door, pick up the laundry and get yourself a crate for your pet. If you are not able to supervise your dog when home and he has a problem with chewing, you need to set up some physical solution immediately, such as keeping him in the crate when you are not home, before he does damage to his digestive system.

In order to stop this behavior you are going to have to teach your dog a more appropriate "owner-approved" behavior. Be proactive and let your dog know what you are expecting from him. I'd suggest obedience class to teach him how to pay attention to you and to increase the amount of exercise he gets, maybe increase your daily walk by 10 minutes a day to start. Overall, just spend more time with him. I suspect his chewing is a stress reliever and a way to get your attention that he is craving.

This is what worked with one of my dogs that had very bad toilet paper-eating habit. Whenever I saw my dog had something in his mouth, I instructed him to either "drop it" or asked for the object with the "give" command and then replaced it with an approved toy or his favorite sterilized bone. I also kept all his "approved" toys in an open-topped box and taught him that anything in box was okay to chew. Whenever he went into his toy box on his own I would praise him with a "good boy" and make a big deal out of this good behavior with verbal kudos or treats if handy. With paying a little more attention and training on your part and a newly instilled behavior for your dog, soon their will be harmony in house.

 

If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.