Destructive Chewing in Dogs – Tips to Stop This Destructive Behavior
Some dogs act like they were born to chew and get a great deal of enjoyment out of chewing on things; other dogs seem indifferent about chewing and rarely do it unless they get bored.
Destructive chewing in dogs might be a phrase that sounds redundant to you. You’d be right, of course, because by its nature, all chewing is destructive. Your dog’s jaws are strong and full of sharp teeth, and just about anything she chews will quickly start showing evidence of damage. So, when I mention “destructive chewing in dogs,” what I’m really referring to is inappropriate chewing. You know the type I mean – destructive chewing in dogs that is inappropriately directed toward your personal possessions and household items instead of your dog’s toys and chews.
Most Dogs Chew for One of Three Reasons:
1. Almost all dogs are born with an urge to chew. Chewing keeps them entertained, helps them pass the time and prevents boredom from setting in. Basically, they enjoy chewing, so they do it. And some things taste good when they’re chewed.
2. Chewing provides an emotional outlet for bored, lonely or anxious dogs. The repetitive act of chewing can soothe the nerves of some distressed dogs. Think of chewing as the canine equivalent of human comfort food.
3. Chewing lets dogs work off excess energy. Basically, it gives them something to do.
How to Prevent or Stop Destructive Chewing in Dogs
Dogs are intelligent, and by putting in a little time and effort you can teach your dog not to chew your personal possessions. Here are some tips to prevent or stop destructive chewing in dogs:
1. Take control by dog-proofing your home. Don’t tempt your dog, even if she’s a model of good behavior.
Remember, dogs don’t have hands, so they investigate everything using their mouths. Dog-proofing your home involves making your personal possessions inaccessible to your dog. You’ll need to take into account your dog’s size and physical abilities while you’re putting things out of her reach. If your dog is large or capable of jumping up onto things, you’ll need to move more of your possessions than you would if you have a short dog that’s not very agile.
Typically, dogs are tempted to chew on objects like shoes, clothing, eyeglasses, books, garbage, cell phones, remote controls and the like. You should also put all food out of reach. For example, don’t leave any snacks lying out on tables or kitchen countertops. Put all food into containers or back into the pantry. You should also rinse any dirty dishes to remove scraps of food before placing them in or near the sink. You’d be surprised by what your dog can reach when some food is up for grabs!
2. Prevent your dog from experiencing the enjoyment of chewing on inappropriate items. The more times your dog manages to chew on a table leg, shoe or some other “illegal” object, the more times she’ll want to do it again. Preventing her from chewing your possessions makes it much easier for your dog to learn what you expect from her. Until you’re certain your dog understands what is permitted and what is not, you should keep her in a dog crate or another dog-proofed location in your home when you’re not available to supervise her behavior.
3. Make it easy for your dog to learn. Setting clear boundaries between what’s acceptable for her to chew (her toys) and what is unacceptable (your possessions and household items) makes it easier for your dog to learn. For example, if you let your dog chew on some of your old shoes or socks, you’ll be setting her up for failure. How can she tell the difference between old socks and new?
4. Give your dog appealing alternatives to chew. You can’t blame your dog for chewing on your stuff if you haven’t given her alternatives that appeal to her but are also more acceptable to you. Keep in mind that although most dogs need to chew, a puppy or dog that is under three years of age will probably want to chew even more than an older, more mature dog. Go shopping and buy a fair number of chews and toys for your dog, then let her play with them two or three at a time. If you rotate your dog’s toys and chews once or twice a week, they’ll keep her entertained.
5. Supervise your dog. Although you might be able to confine her in the yard or in her crate, that’s not much fun for either of you. You got a dog to be able to interact with her, right? Otherwise, you could have gotten some fish. And, your dog will never learn what you want her to do (and not do) if you keep her confined in a dog-proof area all day long. In order to learn she has to be able to explore the boundaries you’ve set. That’s the only way she can learn the difference between what’s appropriate to chew and what’s not.
6. Catch her in the act. Whenever you catch your dog chewing on an inappropriate object, stop her by clapping your hands or making some other startling noise. As soon as she stops chewing, give your dog a chew toy and praise her as she takes it. This strategy will teach her that she’ll be praised when she chews her toys but she’ll get in trouble if she chews on anything else.
Be Realistic and Have a Positive Attitude
When you want to stop or prevent destructive chewing in dogs, making sure your expectations are realistic is one of the most important things you can do. No one’s perfect, so there will probably be at least one occasion where your dog chews on something she shouldn’t. This is particularly likely to happen while she’s still learning her boundaries.
Destructive chewing in dogs takes time to eliminate, so it will be a while before your dog can be trusted to leave your stuff alone. And, even after she learns the “chewing rules,” she might chew on something inappropriate if you leave her alone too long or she feels abandoned or neglected.
Spending time with your dog will help her learn faster. Remember to keep your things safely out of her reach until she understands the rules.