The Australian Cattle Dog (Blue and Red Heeler) is a highly intelligent and active working dog. With a breed like this, boredom is one of the major causes of many behavior issues, including destructive chewing.
Chewing itself is a natural and beneficial behavior for dogs when it is directed in a positive way. However, it becomes a serious (and often expensive) behavior when the target of this chewing is your shoes, furniture, and other items around the home you don’t want your Heeler tearing to pieces.
In addition to the dental health benefits, chewing helps provide mental stimulation and entertainment for your dog. It also has psychological benefits. When a dog chews it releases endorphins into its brain giving them a calming feeling. For more on the mental benefits of chewing for dogs see here.
Causes of Blue Heeler’s destructive behavior
Often the best approach to dealing with any behavior issues you may be having with your Blue Heeler is to determine the cause of the behavior. Once you know why they doing something you can select the appropriate course of action to correct the issue.
Possible causes for their chewing behavior can include –
- Teething – all puppies go through the teething stage at around six months. Chewing is a good way for them to relieve the discomfort. Even an adult dog with dental health issues with its teeth may take to chewing to find relief.
- Boredom – a major cause of many behavior issues including destructive chewing.
- Excessive energy – being a high-energy working dog, Blue Heelers require a good volume of exercise to burn pent-up energy. If they are unable to get all that energy out it can make them extremely frustrated. This frustration can lead to destructive behavior or in some cases, even aggressive behavior.
- Separation anxiety – The most common time a dog will engage in destructive chewing is when they are home alone. This may be due to boredom, but often it is the result of some form of separation stress or anxiety. For more on separation anxiety in Blue Heelers see here.
Solutions to Australian Cattle Dog destructive chewing
Once you have worked out the root cause of your Australian Cattle Dog’s destructive chewing behavior you are halfway to fixing the behavior. The next step is to decide upon the best solution. Recommended approaches include –
Increase exercise and enrichment
Boredom and excessive pent-up energy is the major cause of many dog behavior issues including destructive chewing. The first solution you should investigate is whether or not your Blue Heeler’s exercise needs (both physical and mental) are being satisfied.
Try increasing your Blue Heelers’ daily exercise, especially ensuring they are getting a daily walk. The walk allows them to leave their property and explore. This not only provides physical exercise, but also gives them plenty of mental stimulation from the smells, sights, and social interaction they receive.
For a full guide to Blue Heeler exercise see here. Within a week or so you will be able to access if this has reduced the chewing behavior if not completely stopped it.
In addition, look for ways to provide more enrichment and challenges for your Blue Heeler’s mind to reduce boredom. For mental stimulation and enrichment ideas for a Blue Heeler see here. Also, try to spend more time with your Blue Heeler as social enrichment is crucial to a breed like this that thrives on human company.
Managing the behavior
Managing the destructive chewing behavior may require you to supervise them. If you miss them in the act it is too late to correct the behavior. They won’t understand why they are being corrected. If you can catch them chewing you can establish rules, boundaries, and expectations around the behavior.
When you notice your Blue Heeler about to chew on an item they shouldn’t be, you can use positive reinforcement techniques to change the behavior. Get their attention by calling them and giving a command such as “leave” and rewarding them with a treat and praise. Better still, give them a chew toy they are allowed to chew.
Redirecting the behavior
Chewing is an instinctive behavior for a dog. You can’t train an instinct out of a dog, but you can redirect the behavior or cater to the instinct in other ways. This is where chew toy training comes in.
Provide your Australian Cattle Dog with some strong chew toys and teach them that this is what you want them to chew. For recommended chew toys for Blue Heelers see here.
One of the best ways to get a dog to be more interested in chewing what you want them to instead of your stuff is to use their food drive. Provide them with edible chews such as raw bones or deer antlers. Alternatively, use a food-stuffing chew toy like the Kong Extreme.
Avoid putting your Australian Cattle Dog in situations when they are likely to engage in destructive chewing. The most common time for this type of activity is when they are left home alone. For a full guide to leaving an Australian Cattle Dog home alone see here.
If your Heeler is a destructive chewer you may need to confine them when you are not there. This can be in a dog-safe room or even a kennel and run outside. Also, ensure they have chew toys and other ways to entertain themselves and prevent boredom.
Even for the times you are at home it is important to put away all of the things your Heeler may chew. This is especially true for a puppy. This can include shoes, children’s toys, and so on.
Chew deterrent sprays are a great way to stop a dog from chewing on a particular item they have taken an interest in. This can be the corner of a piece of furniture or something similar. These sprays have an unpleasant bitter taste that discourages chewing.
For more on chew deterrents view on Amazon here.
Destructive chewing is often the result of boredom and excessive pent-up energy. Ensure your Australian Cattle Dog is getting sufficient daily exercise (both physical and mental). Often this type of behavior occurs when they are home alone and can be caused by separation anxiety.
Another common reason for chewing is that their teeth are sore. In the case of a puppy, they may be going through their teething stage at around six months old. If they are adult dogs it may be a dental issue causing pain. Have your vet examine them to provide the correct treatment.