Remember that really nice pair of shoes you just bought? Remember coming home and seeing them torn to confetti and strewn about the room? For many pet owners this is an all too familiar greeting after leaving Fido alone for any period of time. Fortunately, once the motivation for chewing is identified, the solution is process can begin and the destructive activities prevented.
Why does my dog chew?
There are many reasons why dogs chew, some of the more common ones are:
• They’re bored
— Bored dogs chew because they aren’t interested or don’t have appropriate chew toys of their own.
— Many times a high energy dog will chew because they aren’t being stimulated enough during the day (Think working dogs: Australian Shepherd’s, Corgis, Terriers and Retrievers).
— The appropriate toy isn’t available. Each dog has a preference for soft and chewy, hard and rigid, small or big.
— Provide mentally stimulating toys that reward the dog with a treat.
— Take time to discover what type of toy your dog enjoys and then make sure several variants of that toy are available at all times.
• They were never taught what is okay and not okay to chew
— Yes it’s cute to watch your puppy nom on your shoe, but it isn’t cute when they carry that habit into adult hood.
— Like children puppies are very impressionable and can be trained to chew on the proper item, but if left untrained, it is much harder to train them as an adult.
— Never let your dog chew on an object that looks similar to anything you don’t want chewed.
— Take Responsibility! Remove objects you don’t want chewed from the dogs reach
• They’re experiencing separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a complex issue and may require professional help to treat and many dogs resort to destructive chewing when their owners are away, but are perfectly behaved when they are around.
Identify if your dog has separation anxiety by looking for these symptoms:
— They greet you frantically, even if you were only away for a few minutes
— They follow you from room to room and stress out if you shut them out
— They urinate or defecate inside, even after being house-trained
— Digging or scratching at doors
— There are ways to train your dog to be comfortable with you being absent from the house. There’s a great article about it here.
• Puppies chew to sooth themselves while teething
— Puppies are similar to human babies and like to explore the world with their mouths.
— A puppy begins teething around three to eight weeks old and will finish teething around six months old.
— Soak a small rope toy and freeze it for about an hour. The cold will feel good on the puppy’s gums and help numb the discomfort for a short while.
— Make sure there are plenty of soft teething toys for your puppy to chew on.
— Very Important: These measures might help, but puppies are notorious for chewing on things you don’t want them to. The best solution is to remove these from their reach until you are doubly sure that they are trained well enough to not chew on them.
• They are afraid
— Chewing is a therapeutic remedy for dogs, it’s calming and distracting.
— Provide your dog with a safe place. This can be a kennel, dog bed, or small room where the dog can go when they are frightened. Make sure that there are toys for the dog to chew on in this safe area.
— Short term calming devices like pheromone collars or a ThunderShirt are great for events like the 4th of July or New Year’s where there are fireworks.
• Even with these precautions, make sure your dog cannot escape the house.
Extra Training Solutions:
There are a few general things that can help prevent a dog from chewing on things like furniture or walls that cannot be moved out of reach:
• Make it an unpleasant experience
Use Bitter Apple, a spray on application that makes anything taste terrible.
— Before using this as a cure-all, make sure that your dog actually dislikes the taste and won’t continue chewing after tasting it. Some dogs really don’t care and will continue chewing (seriously, they eat poop, Bitter apple pales in comparison).
This deterrent has to be reapplied regularly to maintain its effectiveness.
• Invest in your dog
Proper training is vital in preventing misbehavior. Train your dog to use their toys and make sure to spend plenty of time with them and make sure they know that exercise and playtime is coming.
— Scheduling a regular play time after you get home from work is a great deterrent to destructive chewing. It provides a schedule for their energy and they will adapt their habits to rest during the day and become energetic around the time you get home to play.
If you catch your dog chewing on something inappropriate, interrupt the behavior with a loud, sharp sound. Take the object away from them and replace it with an appropriate chew-toy.
— Once they start chewing on the appropriate object, reward them with lavish attention and a treat.
Remember, training your dog not to chew is a process and there is no guarantee that relapses won’t happen. The important thing is to identify the cause and take the appropriate steps to remedy their fear, anxiety, or boredom. The responsibility is on the owner as much, if not more, as it is on the dog; they can’t provide themselves toys, so they find other avenues, and they calm themselves the best way they know how, but all of these decisions typically aren’t the appropriate choices in the eyes of the owner. Enable your dog to practice healthy and non-destructive habits and the home will be just that more happy for the both of you.