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How do I stop my dog chewing his leg? [long]

(18 Posts)
SalsaVerde Thu 05-Jun-14 09:24:49

I'm at the end of my tether with his chewing. He's a 3 year old staffie cross. For about 2 months he's been fixated on chewing his left back paw. He does this almost exclusively when two people are in the house. If it's just one he gives it the odd lick,but that's generally all. The second someone else comes through the door he starts. And cannot be stopped.
The only thing that distracts him occasionally is a particuarly tempting treat,and even then not always.

Sometimes he just holds the paw in his mouth,other times he sits and makes loud screaming noises.

This started when we got a dog trainer in. We had no problems with this before. He's a nervous dog generally,and excitable,so I paid a lot of money to bring a dog trainer in. I think the whole experience,strange people,and having training discs thrown at him was a sensory overload for him.,and the problem started then. The dog trainer didn't return after two sessions,but that's another thread.

We took him to our lovely vet yesterday who said he has a skin infection,and gave us steroids and antibiotics for him. She agreed it's partly anxiety too,and recommended a pheremone collar which we've ordered.

The vet recommended ignoring him when he chews,we'd been putting a soft muzzle on him for short periods of time to stop him chewing, as it seemed to let him relax,but now he knows how to get it off. Bitter apple has not helped.

The problem with ignoring him is that he's making it red and sore by chewing it. So I don't feel that I can do that all day either.

Does anyone have any tips or advice? How should I react to him when he's chewing/sucking his paw in order to help minimise the problem?


Lilcamper Thu 05-Jun-14 09:34:22

The trainer you hired added to his stress and made him more anxious. Ask your vet for a referral to an APBC behaviourist who can help undo the damage.

moosemama Thu 05-Jun-14 09:49:05

It sound like you need to bring down his general anxiety levels.

Things to try would be a Thundershirt (100% money back guarantee if it doesn't work, so always worth a try - Pets at Home sell them). DAP or Pet Remedy diffuser. (One is the pheromone, the other relaxing aromatherapy and if one doesn't work the other often will, but it varies from dog to dog.) Something like Zylkene supplements (vet can prescribe, but it's cheaper to buy online, although still expensive).

The trainer sounds dreadful. Perhaps you could look for a Tellington TTouch practitioner in your area and try a bit of that or if you'd prefer, attend one of their training seminars so you can do it yourself if he's not happy being handled by other people.

Increased exercise will also bring down his stress levels.

I wonder what would happen if you bought a boot for that particular foot? Might be worth a try, although he may just redirect his anxiety licking/chewing onto another foot.

You will need to counter-condition his reaction to multiple people being in the house as well, but I would try and reduce his overall anxiety levels first.

moosemama Thu 05-Jun-14 09:49:35

Also second Lilcamper's advice for helping with the last part.

SalsaVerde Thu 05-Jun-14 10:06:37

Thankyou all for the advice so far. It's very helpful. I think we may need to get a behaviourist in,though we don't really have a spare £250 circumstances have changed since then,but we'll have to find it. I'll also try the other tips/products suggested.

The dog trainer's website said only positive methods are used,and emphasised how gentle the training methods were, as did the trainer when we talked on the phone,but as I discovered the trainer believed in pack theory,which is what I was trying to avoid,but we'd already paid the money by then. The second session was easier on him,I'd said I wasn't happy using the discs,but they didn't return after that,which was probably a good thing.

He was always fairly confident with visitors before this,a little too excitable,but happy to see them. Now he's still happy to see them,but also anxious,hence the paw chewing,even with a family member.

I've had several dogs and this is the first time we've had a behavioural problem with one,so it's all new to me.

Lilcamper Thu 05-Jun-14 10:10:05

If he is insured check the policy, a lot will cover a vet referral to a behaviourist.

SalsaVerde Thu 05-Jun-14 10:24:44

Unfortunately his doesn't.

Lilcamper Thu 05-Jun-14 10:28:16

I suppose you need to weigh up the cost of ongoing vet bills and his emotional state against the price of getting someone in.

SpicyPear Thu 05-Jun-14 10:33:21

Yes yes yes to a behaviourist. Your dog is stressed and now has very bad associations with people coming in your home. The only way to deal with it is to reduce his stress levels, build his confidence, countercondition his negative response to visitors and give him an alternative outlet for any feelings of stress. Anything that just stops the chewing will be treating a symptom rather than the cause (his underlying emotional state).

I would be starting right away with some basics. Does he have Kongs you can stuff with something amazingly tasty, or can you get him a raw meaty bone? Keep trying until you find something he loves. Present it to him when anyone comes into the house. Does he have a crate/den/cosy safe space to relax in?

This is an example of why some of us get so passionate about certain training methods - you can very clearly trace the problem back to a trainer using a method that was highly aversive for your dog. Unfortunately it will take a lot more work to undo that the two sessions it took to make him that anxious in the first place. I'm very sorry that this trainer has let you and your dog down. One of the worrying things about the growing positive training movement is pack trainers rebranding their methods as kind and positive.

Floralnomad Thu 05-Jun-14 11:30:34

A very simple and cheap idea would be to buy some dog boots or just bandage the foot up for periods . At least that way it will be the bandage he's sucking not his skin . I do realise its not solving his problem but it might stop his foot getting sore. Ask the nurse at the vets to show you how to bandage it properly .

mistlethrush Thu 05-Jun-14 11:39:53

We had to stop mistlehound pulling at bandages - then stitches on her toe at christmas and I put a child's sock, held on with vet wrap at the top - it stopped her (although she's not persistent anyway). You can get Buster Collars that might make it much more difficult to grab the foot without going for a lampshade collar.

I've tried a thundershirt for severe anxiety (fireworks, thunder) and its a complete miracle with our dog - to the extent that DH who is a very strong skeptic about anything that is not obviously scientifically proven rang me to ask where it was when we had the last thunderstorm and I was out. Within 5 mins mistlehound goes from pacing, lip licking and cowering to asleep on the sofa.

Personally I wouldn't use a soft muzzle - if I did try a muzzle I would use a basket muzzle so that he could still pant and drink water.

How awful that this appears to have been caused or at least significantly exacerbated by someone that you had asked to help with your dog.

soddinghormones Thu 05-Jun-14 23:14:31

Sorry to hijack but what on earth are training discs??

GobblersKnob Fri 06-Jun-14 06:04:33

Training discs, all the rage 20 years ago, they were created by John Fisher and used as an interrupter, I still have mine but wouldn't use them anymore.

moosemama Fri 06-Jun-14 10:04:42

... and training discs were never intended to be thrown at the dog.

You were supposed to condition the dog to the sound as an interrupter/indicator of non-reward, by removing treats repeatedly, simultaneous to rattling them. Then whenever the dog heard the rattle, it was supposed to recognise that whatever behaviour it was doing at that time would be non-rewarding and stop. hmm

Essentially they're a negative interrupter, as opposed to the positive interrupter - for example like the one Kikopup uses, where the dog is conditioned to the sound of the interrupter as positive/reward-related and therefore stops whatever it's doing to come and get the reward.

I remember being told by a so-called behaviourist to use them on my extremely people and dog fear-aggressive large-breed dog - she was prone to throwing them as well. Needless to say we left and didn't take any of her advice (which also included tying him to a hook and making strangers repeatedly approach hm just out of reach angry).

Bohemond Fri 06-Jun-14 10:23:16

Agree it is probably anxiety but have you considered intolerance to gluten?
Our small dog is completely coeliac and used to chew her paws all the time until we moved her onto a gluten free food.

affafantoosh Fri 06-Jun-14 22:06:32

Curve ball - ask your vet for an acupuncture referral. Whilst I totally agree that a behaviour referral is really important here, and a priority, dogs are really habit-forming. Localised acupuncture can really help when dogs develop this sort of problem, using a technique known as "fencing the dragon".

I'm a very science-loving, sceptical, pragmatic vet but this is something which undeniably responds well to needling in loads of cases. Definitely worth a bash if you have difficulty getting the chewing to resolve.

SalsaVerde Tue 17-Jun-14 22:42:13

Thankyou all for the advice. It's very helpful.

Sorry about the late reply. We've ordered a few of the recommended items to try,and have found a behaviourist who will arrive this week.

We really are at breaking point with him. He's gotten even worse over the past few weeks,and he has lunged and snapped at family members. I love him,but he's not happy,and we're miserable,so if the behaviourist, DAP collar,accuncture etc don't work,then we may have to make a horrible choice.

I have a family member with a serious illness which is triggered by stress and lack of sleep. The situation is resulting in both. Hopefully it won't come to euthanasia.. But I can't have an unhappy dog and miserable,stressed,seriously ill family member.

Hopefully the behaviourist can help us,and him.

SalsaVerde Tue 17-Jun-14 22:46:29

I forgot to say that the medication the vet prescribed has not improved the situation one bit.

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