By Sherry L. Granader.
Chewing is as natural to dogs as sleeping and barking. But when a dog is constantly destroying your home, you need to address this behavioral problem sooner rather than later. The great news is that dogs can be easily taught what to chew – and not chew – with some patience and consistent training.
Why Dogs Chew
Inappropriate chewing is listed as one of the top dog behavior problems. Understanding why your dog chews is the first step in preventing the unwanted behavior, says vet technician, Jenna Stregowski on the About.com Guide. While not all dogs are the same or do things for the same reason, typical reasons for chewing include:
- Puppy Teething: Chewing helps alleviate gum pain.
- Boredom or Excess Pent up Energy: Dogs need jobs. If they aren’t given an appropriate job, they will find one to occupy their time and relieve energy not released through exercise.
- Anxiety/Separation Anxiety: Chewing calms an anxious dog and relieves separation anxiety when they are alone.
- Curiosity: Dogs (like infants and toddlers) explore and define their world with their mouth.
- Dogs NEVER Chew out of Spite! They’re not programmed that way; spite is a human behavior.
Stop the Chewing
Understand that you cannot – and should not – stop all your dog’s chewing. What you can do is redirect and teach your dog what is theirs to chew and what is not.
- Manage the Situation. Until your dog understands what is off-limits, protect your things and your dog’s safety, advises the Humane Society of the United States. For example, keep clothing and shoes behind closed closet doors; keep eyeglasses, remote controls and other items out of reach; leave your dog crated while you’re out of the house, or use a baby-gate to keep them in safe, dog-proofed areas with plenty of appropriate toys.
- Avoid Mixed Signals. Never give shoes or socks to your dogs as toys! They have no way of distinguishing between your designer shoes and the ones he can play with. You’ll only confuse your dog.
- Physical and Mental Exercise. Tired dogs are not bored, and they don’t look for things to vent excess energy on. Make sure you are giving your dog the exercise he needs based on his age, health and breed characteristics, reminds the Humane Society of the United States.
- Supervise and Train. The only way to effectively stop unwanted behaviors is to supervise your dog closely. Keep them on a leash next to you so you can address unwanted chewing the second it happens. This way, your dog clearly understands which behavior is unacceptable and can be redirected to an appropriate toy or bone for chewing. If you come home and find your sofa destroyed, it’s already too late to address the behavior. Your dog lives in the moment and the second he finished off the sofa, he forgot about it and moved on to the next thing. So punishing him after the fact will only create fear and anxiety.
- Better Chewing Options. If you have a puppy that is teething, give them a frozen, wet washcloth (under supervision) to soothe his painful gums. Leaving your dog alone? Leave a stuffed Kong to keep him entertained and calm. Stuff a Kong with peanut butter and freeze it for a long-lasting treat.
Chewing is a natural way of life for a dog; but it doesn’t have to mean disaster for you and your home. Use the steps above with some patience and consistent training and you can protect both your dog and your belongings!
Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of Marek via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)