Destructive chewing is one of the most common behavior problems in dogs. It can be frustrating to deal with dog chewing, but there are a number of things you can do to stop this problem.
Why Dogs Chew
Before looking at how to stop dog chewing, it helps to know why dogs chew. There are several reasons dogs might chew:
- Puppies, much like human babies, explore the world with their mouths. They pick up and chew anything and everything.
- Puppies also chew to relieve teething pain.
- Some dogs find chewing soothing. It helps them calm themselves down.
- Chewing relieves boredom in dogs.
- Dogs engage in destructive chewing when they're anxious, as we see with dogs with separation anxiety.
- Lack of training is another reason dogs chew on inappropriate objects.
It's important to know that dogs don't chew out of spite. Though it can be frustrating for dog owners, dogs chew on inappropriate things because they don't know any better. They don't understand that your favorite shoes are any different than their favorite chew toy until you teach them otherwise.
The most important thing you can do to prevent dogs from destructive chewing is to have plenty of dog toys on hand that your dog can chew. Dogs like to chew. It's easier to train them to chew their toys instead of a table leg than it is to train them not to chew at all. By having lots of interesting and appropriate chew toys on hand, it'll be a lot easier to end destructive chewing.
No matter how angry you get when you find your dog has just chewed your favorite possession, it's important that you don't punish. Punishing your dog will only increase his stress levels and anxiety which in turn increase his need to chew. Punishing your dog may only serve to increase the problem.
Supervision and Confinement
Until a dog is completely chew trained, he should not be allowed to roam freely around your home. This just sets him up for failure because there are too many interesting objects to explore and chew around your home. Supervise him around the house, and when that's not possible, the dog should be confined to a crate or in a room where there's nothing inappropriate for him to chew.
Redirect and Praise
Now that your dog is always either supervised or confined, you will be on hand any time he chews something. If he begins to chew something inappropriate, tell him "no" or "wrong" and redirect him to an appropriate chew toy. You may need to engage him a little by shaking the toy or turning it into a game. As soon as the dog is chewing on the toy, give him lots of praise.
Praise should also be used anytime you notice your puppy or dog choose an appropriate chew toy. This will encourage him to go for his own toys rather than furniture, shoes, and other objects around your home.
Use an Aversive
If there's something you just can't seem to keep your dog away from, try applying an aversive like Bitter Apple to the object. This is a spray that us not harmful to your dog or most items, but it tastes bad. Apply some to items your dog keeps trying to chew, and the bitter taste should stop him cold.
Be Patient and Realistic
Even the best-trained dogs have bad moments now and then. In your dog's lifetime, chances are he's going to chew something you would rather he didn't. If this happens, just go back to the beginning, and reinforce your dog's good chewing habits. Your patience will pay off.
Edited by Jenna Stregowski, RVT