FOR THE MULCH EATING MUTTS
- First and foremost – Make sure that the mulch doesn’t contain cocoa bark. Very high in theobromine which is toxic to dogs.
- Remember just like with humans, old habits are hard to break the earlier you start the faster changes will happen.
- Be patient, train, manage them well and give your dog something else to do. Below are my top tips – with the caveat that none of these work for every scenario/og/owner, so your mileage may vary
- Cayenne pepper — cheap as hell in bulk, easy to distribute. We’ve used that to deter rats from eating chicken feed as birds have no receptors for the hot, and actually benefit from the Vit A. Probably impractical.
- Critter Ridder – spray and granules.
- Motion activated sprinklers – many out there. May not work on dogs who find that a delightful event but the startle factor might work.
- For dogs that really can’t leave the mulch, or owners who need quick help, a well-fitting basket muzzle (properly conditioned) can help prevent them from ingesting too much mulch, and also help to prevent the dog from practicing the unwanted behavior.
- Garden fencing or snow fence (shorter, for strength and visibility) plus deer netting (6+ feet tall, can be doubled up if needed) on inexpensive t-posts can make a reasonably priced barrier that is difficult to jump.
Distraction / Behavior Training Fun
- Wood based toys – such as the Gorilla Chews, Pet Stages Dogwood may satisfy the urge to chew wood. Make it interesting and fun to interact outside with you and the wooden toy in the yard. (not near the mulch) then leave the toys in the yard somewhere near the mulch area to give them something to do “instead”. I usually reserve the “outside toy” as something special that just comes with us when we go into the yard so it remains new novel and interesting.
- Curate “safe” sticks while on walks to add to my yard for my dog. Depends on the dog what I choose. My first boy would peel the bark off and then he was done, never ate it, just peeled it off. My second pup she liked sticks that had a snap to them so she could break them to bits and leave a pile so thinner dry sticks. My boy now, he likes to play tug so big sturdy thick sticks.
- Fun other toys like a jolly ball or flirt pole for “outside only” fun.
- Multidog household? – If there is one dog that is mulch eating.. Watch your other dog and see if he is “hogging all the toys” or acting like a bully with your other dog. Sometimes chewing/licking/ gulping/eating can grow out of frustration or resource guarding. Contact a trainer for a good assessment of this.
- Train a good recall In the beginning they may run right back to the mulch after there reward, but imagine if you gave them a treat and then gave them a safe wooden textured toy to chew on??
- Train a Leave It cue. Similar to the recall in theory but allows the dog to make a different choice – leave that thing = choose something else. If they leave it and you then reward with soccer ball chase or stick throwing. New habits can be formed rather quickly.
- Barrier training – Garden fencing can be useful, especially when training it gives a visual for the dog about where the “yard” ends / what area is off limits. It can be trained just like barrier training – worked on a long line, calling the dog away from the fence over and over and rewarding heavily. It takes time and of repetition, but if you are diligent about it, this can work even for a fairly persistent dog.