Inappropriate chewing is one of the most frustrating problems facing dog owners and dogs can make quick work of carpet, shoes, upholstery, furniture, or even walls and doors.
The reasons that dogs chew varies, but in all cases, chewing is extremely frustrating for you and potentially dangerous for your dog. There are solutions for inappropriate chewing, but the first step is to understand why your dog chews.
Chewing is Normal
Chewing is one of the most normal aspects of being a dog. All dogs chew, so teaching your dog not to chew isn’t possible. What you can do is teach your dog what to chew and what not to chew.
Here are some reasons that dogs chew:
- Puppies explore the world with their teeth. Simply sniffing something is just not enough for a curious puppy – they want to explore with their teeth and mouths. Furthermore, teething puppies seek out a variety of textures to soothe their aching gums. Until they are taught, puppies cannot make any distinction between your things and their own.
- Chewing is beneficial for your dog’s teeth and gums. Dogs instinctively chew in order to clean their teeth and stimulate blood flow in their gums. If you do not provide material suitable for this activity, dogs will seek out things to clean their teeth themselves.
- Chewing can be very soothing for dogs who are experiencing anxiety or stress. Chewing on something allows your dog to lose themselves in the project and forget about their worries, much like how we engage in hobbies.
- Your dog may find chewing entertaining when they are bored. Even if they have other options, chewing on something new may be tempting when your dog gets sick of their own toys.
- Hungry dogs may resort to chewing on all kinds of things in an attempt to find something to eat. If your dog is on a strict diet and has only started chewing, hunger may be the culprit.
How to Eliminate Destructive Chewing
Once you know why your dog is chewing, you have a much better chance of stopping the behavior. Does your dog chew only when you are gone? They may be bored or suffering from separation anxiety. Is your puppy chewing on all kinds of materials? They may be teething and in need of special puppy toys or frozen materials with which to soothe their gums.
Here are some tips for eliminating destructive chewing in general and for solving particular destructive chewing problems:
Have your dog checked by a vet
If your dog suddenly starts inappropriate chewing or increases the frequency of their inappropriate chewing, consider having them checked by a veterinarian. Dental or gum problems, as well as issues with their jaw, may cause your dog to chew inappropriately.
Dogs who are not receiving a well-balanced diet may be attempting to satisfy a need for minerals or vitamins. Make sure your dog has a clean bill of health before you begin working with their behavioral causes of chewing.
Provide a wide range of chew toys, food distributing toys, and edible chews
The best way to prevent and stop destructive chewing is to provide your dog with plenty of things that are appropriate to chew on. Choose toys that are rated for your dog’s size and chew strength and make sure you only give your puppy toys that are made for their more delicate teeth.
The greater variety of toys you can provide, the better. Here are some toys that are great for most dogs.
- Food distributing toys. These handy toys are an essential component of most dog owner’s tool kits. You can choose a toy with the difficulty and durability that is appropriate for your dog. These toys can be filled with your dog’s usual food or treats or they can hold other chew toys for even longer periods of play time. Many of these toys can also be frozen to extend playtime and to provide a soothing experience for teething puppies.
- Natural chews. Dried, natural chews, like hide, esophagus, hooves, and ears are tolerated well by most dogs and can provide a long-term, highly engaging chewing experience. Dogs that aren’t interested in other sorts of toys or chews will usually enjoy natural chews.
- Artificial chew toys. All sorts of rubber and nylon materials have been formulated specifically to satisfy your dog’s need to chew safely. Some of these products are flavored and scented, while others can also function as food distributing toys. Be careful to choose products that are appropriate for your dog, as some plastics can be too hard or soft for some dogs.
Providing plenty of different toys throughout your dog’s lifetime, playing with them together with your dog, and encouraging your dog to play with them alone will build a healthy toy obsession that will allow them to express their desire to chew their toys instead of your things.
It is a mistake to think that dogs intuitively know how to play with toys, especially food-distributing toys. Watch your dog play with their toys and help them learn how to do it. Pay attention to whether your dog seems to be more interested in certain textures or designs and get more toys that you think will appeal to them.
Never encourage your dog to play with a non-toy item
It may seem logical to give your dog an old sock or shoe to play with if they want to play with your socks and shoes. Unfortunately, this strategy is generally counterproductive. Dogs are easily confused about what things belong to you and what things belong to them and allowing them to play with anything that belongs to you or has your scent can be confusing. It is best to only let your dog play with their own toys.
Don’t chase your dog!
Chasing your dog when they have stolen something from you is considered playing by them, regardless of how upset you might be. If your dog likes to steal things to get your attention, this is a good sign that they need more play and engagement.
In order to solve the problem in the instant, never chase your dog. Instead, walk away and get a treat or toy that will be attractive enough to your dog that they will bring the object back to you and drop it for the more desirable item.
Be careful of doing this too frequently, as your dog may learn to steal things in order to get a reward. Instead, teach your dog proactive things that they can do for a reward.
Give your pooch a dog-proof space
You’d be amazed at the amount of destruction your puppy or dog can do in an incredibly short amount of time when you aren’t watching. And destroying your home isn’t the only concern, as puppies and dogs can very easily get into something that will hurt them or make them sick.
When you need to leave your pet alone, leave them somewhere that has been thoroughly dog-proofed. It is best to crate your dog until you know what they may try to get into, as some dogs can destroy walls or floors, as well as more obvious things that you may remove.
Observe your dog closely and correct when chewing happens and not after
Your dog will not associate a correction with their chewing behavior unless you catch them in the act. Even an instant after the fact is too late to redirect your dog. You must watch your dog like a hawk in order to catch even the first signs of chewing on something inappropriate. If you catch your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t be, get their attention with a sharp, clear sound like “no” or “nuh uh” and give them something appropriate to chew on.
Once your dog has had some time to learn which things are theirs and which are yours, deliberately put inappropriate chewing items within your dog’s reach when you are watching, so that you will have the opportunity to redirect and train them.
Provide lots of training and mental stimulation
Much inappropriate chewing in dogs is caused by boredom. As we covered in raising a relaxed dog, if you provide sufficient training and mental stimulation for your dog, they should remain content with their standard chew toys and not feel the need to chew on your things.
Continue to stretch your dog’s mind every day with new training and activities. Just like your dog needs a variety of chew toys in order to remain happy, they need a variety of training and mental stimulation in order to remain mentally satisfied.
Bitter sprays and other deterrents
There are a variety of products on the market designed to keep your dog from chewing. If your dog constantly chews on furniture or other things that are difficult to keep out of their reach, a chew deterrent may be a good Idea. Here is our list of the best dog anti-chew sprays available.
Research any product that you are considering thoroughly, in order to feel confident that it will be safe for your dog. Always observe your dog for some time when you are using any kind of deterrent, before you leave them alone with it.
Some dogs like the taste of deterrent, while others may be deterred for only some time, until they overcome their disgust and continue to chew on your furniture.
Working with a dog who is destroying your things can be very frustrating. Many people have a tendency to lose their temper and resort to punishment, which is not effective and may damage the human-animal bond. Plan ahead to prevent your dog from being able to get into anything that you don’t want them to get into and when you make mistakes and destruction occurs, try to take it in stride as part of the process of learning with your dog.
If you are having serious repetitive problems or if your dog is experiencing extreme anxiety in the crate or breaking out of the crate, it may be time to work with an animal behaviorist or consider rehoming your dog to someone who will not need to leave them alone.