A dog’s jaw muscles are among his strongest. An average-sized Golden Retriever can untie the knot in a rawhide bone (or just chew it off) in minutes. If only they’d stick to those!
The tendency to chew will vary from one breed – and one individual – to another. But most dogs love chewing and will chew on objects in and around the house. Chewing can be a very serious problem so it is important to teach your dog what things he can chew on. Keeping him focused on objects intended for him is a continuous challenge!
Why Do Dogs Chew On Things?
Chewing is natural dog behaviour. Dogs explore things through their jaws like we explore things with our hands.
Puppies chew when they are teething. During the age of 3 to 7 month the milk teeth of your pup are replaced by adult ones. Chewing is a natural way to relieve the pain and uncomfortable feeling of teething. Although this chewing phase will pass automatically, it is better to learn your puppy already what items he can chew on and what things are taboo for him.
Dogs can also be destructive because they are bored. Boredom is one of the main causes why dogs start chewing. Chewing is a form of entertainment for a dog as he can not do many other things when he is alone.
In addition to boredom, (separation) anxiety can also cause destructive chewing. If you think (seperation) anxiety or stress are causing your dogs inappropriate chewing behaviour, you need to find professional help. Thanks to their knowledge and experience, professionals can better assess the behaviour of your dog and recommend suitable professional training.
How to prevent destructive chewing?
It is important to prevent your dog chewing on inappropriate objects and to redirect your dogs natural chewing behaviour to appropriate chew toys.
In the beginning, the responsibility is completely yours. You have to “manage the environment” and “puppy proof” your house. This rule is very simple : if you don’t want it chewed, put it out of reach of your dog the access to rooms that are not “puppy proofed”.
Check your environment for possible dangers such as household cleaners, electrical cords, … and put them away. Keep shoes, books, socks, t-shirts, etc. where your dog can’t get them. And, don’t confuse your dog by offering him an old shoe to chew on. Dogs do not know the difference between your old shoes and your new shoes.They simply recognize your scent and assume that it is ok to chew on items like this that carry your scent. The same does for socks, stuffed animals, eyeglasses and even remote controls.
Keep children’s toys also separated from the dog’s. Which implies that the dog has some!!
So… Keep plenty of attractive toys on hand, whether indoors or out, for your dog to chew on. Fortunately, all kinds of special toys are available. Some even have hollow interiors suitable for holding treats. The dog usually has to struggle a bit to get at the treat in the center. That’s the whole idea. It keeps them occupied and gives them a good mental and physical workout striving to access the reward.
It is also important to rotate your dogs toys. If they are lying around all the time, they aren’t special anymore. It is better only having two or three available at a time.
Rawhide bones are attractive to some dogs but be always careful when giving your dog rawhide bones. Take away small pieces as they can be swallowed. With some exceptions, real bones are usually not a good idea. Large beef bones are okay, but chicken and pork can easily splinter and lead to injury. Some dogs prefer hard rubber or special plastic ‘dental’ bones.
Keep your dog in a crate or gated dog-proof room whenever you are unable to supervise his activity. Leave him with a couple of appropriate toys such as stuffed rubber toys. As such your dog will have something acceptable to do in your absence.
He will learn to chew his toys and will develop a habit to entertain himself with chew toys. Once he developed this habit, your dog will no longer want to destroy your shoes, clothes, carpets, …
Outside, if the dog has a tendency to chew on plants, fences, etc, you can take advantage of some bad-tasting commercial mixtures or home recipes to discourage the behaviour. A little cayenne pepper paste smeared on the leaves of ‘attractive’ plants can often eliminate chewing in one lesson. If something “unpleasant” happens, like the noxious taste of cayenne pepper, your dog hopefully will make the decision not to repeat that behaviour in the future. Some commercial preparations contain ‘bitter apple’, which discourages some dogs.
If you do find your dog chewing on an inappropriate item, interrupt this behaviour immediately by taking the object away and redirect your dogs attention to one of his own chew toys. Reward your dog for chewing his toy. Gradually, your dog will learn what objects are his and which are not.
A sharp tone for grabbing an unsuitable object, such as a shoe or sock, can be useful but yelling or harsh physical punishment is not done. It works counter-productive. It’s better for both, for you and your dog, to vent that frustration elsewhere. Easier said than done the tenth time your dog grabbed one of your things, but it is really necessary for the mental well-being of both parties to keep gentle.
Give your dog enough exercise!
Dogs that are not challenged enough, who have too little exercise and mental stimulation, will find destructive forms of entertainment to get rid of their energy. A tired dog will be less into inappropriate chewing, so it is up to you to provide physical and mental challenges.
Whether it is a shepherd dog or a small lap dog, every dog likes movement and wants to be challenged. The extent to which the dog likes to work depends on the breed, age and gender. But no dog is made to lie at home all day and wait for his owner. If you find out that your dog is chewing things out of boredom, you must ensure that your dog has more to do. The dog needs more variety in everyday life.
Take nature trips together with the dog, go jogging with him, let him swim in a lake, … You know your dog best and you will know what he will enjoy most!
If ugly weather keeps you inside, play indoor games with him. Hide and seek for instance can be a funny exercise for both of you. There are many entertaining dog puzzles, intelligence toys or search games for dogs on the market too. Learning small tricks is also a good way to challenge your dog mentally.
As with any dog training, patience, persistence and consistency are the keys to success. Suppressing chewing is often one of the more challenging since you’re training the dog to NOT do something, rather than to DO something.
Redirection to acceptable objects is your best bet, since you can’t eliminate the instinct. Stay alert and keep cool – even when they’ve just chewed a hole in that new carpet. That’s expensive and annoying, but carpet can be replaced. Your relationship with your pet can’t.