Dogs and puppies normally chew. In puppies, it can be a way of relieving discomfort caused from incoming teeth; in adult dogs, it’s a way of strengthening the jaw and cleaning the teeth. However, chewing should never be excessive. Destructive chewing is a real problem and it is important to understand the underlying cause to help your pet overcome the problem… and to save your furniture and shoes!
Identifying the Causes of Destructive Chewing
Dogs that chew due to separation anxiety normally only chew when you are not in the house (or the chewing is noticeably worse when you are not around). Other symptoms of separation anxiety are usually noted, too (barking, whining, pacing, defecation and urination).
If your dog is on a calorie-restricted diet in order to lose weight, sometimes they can become destructive as they look for additional sources of food.
Dogs licking, chewing and sucking fabrics is often seen in animals that were weaned too early. When excessive, it can indicate that the habit has become compulsive and usually requires professional help from a certified animal behaviorist to resolve.
Like human babies, puppies experience teething pain when their infant teeth are replaced with adult teeth. Infrequently, the chewing can become excessive. Usually, any chewing ceases by around six months old as the adult teeth are normally all through by that point.
Lack of Exercise / Boredom
Without both mental and physical stimulation, dogs can become bored very quickly. This usually manifests as chewing or other destructive behavior. Ensure you provide many opportunities for your dog to exercise both his body and mind, including:
- Daily walks that involve different routes
- Off-leash playing with other dogs
- Fetch games
- Dog sports (flyball, agility, etc.)
- Food puzzle toys, such as KONG®, or Twist ‘n Treat™
- Clicker training classes
Stress and Environment Change
Destructive chewing can occur as a result of frustration and stress caused by things like a new pet in the household that they don't get along with, or a new baby (where focus shifts away from the dog). Essentially any substantial environmental changes can be the cause.
The best way to prevent stress-induced destructive behavior is to anticipate the impact the change in environment may have on your dog.
Useful Tips To Help With Chewing :
Recognizing When Chewing Starts
If you know when your dog is most likely to chew, ensure you give them a chew toy or puzzle toy. You can include some of your dog’s food in the toy to give additional focus.
Dog-proofing your house
Ensure valuable objects are hidden away until the chewing is under control so damage to them is prevented. Only leave items you don’t mind your dog chewing on during this period.
Lots Of Chewable Toys and “Bones”
Change the chew toys every few days to prevent boredom. Natural bones are OK, but only ones that are specifically sold for chewing. Cooked bones are not recommended, as they may splinter and hurt your dog. Rawhide chews are acceptable as well, but be careful of them breaking up as your dog may choke on them.
Deterrent sprays can be useful in reducing chewing behavior. However, our tip here is to remember to keep focus on what is causing the behavior rather than trying to mask it. Just because your dog doesn't chew (because it now tastes horrible) doesn't mean the underlying cause has gone away.
When you are at work or cannot supervise your dog, a crate or small room with the door closed or a baby gate closed can be used for up to six hours. Ensure you give him a variety of toys and chew things to enjoy during this period of confinement.
Don't Confuse Things
Don’t give your dog old shoes or cushions to chew on, as that will only confuse matters. It is important for your dog to understand what he can and cannot chew. Giving him old shoes to chew on could result in chewed new Jimmy Choo’s!
Things You Should Not Do :
- Don’t punish your dog after the fact. Dogs are not able to associate your punishment with something he did several minutes before.
- Try not to punish him, period. Remember that your dog is chewing for an underlying reason. He isn't just a bad dog that likes chewing your things to pieces.
- Do not leave your dog in a crate for long periods (over six hours).
- Do not muzzle your dog just to stop him from chewing.
We hope these tips help. Remember that it is important to correct the underlying cause. If weeks go by and your dog persists in this habit, we recommend you seek professional help.