Why Your Dog Chews and How to Stop It
With adoption rates at their highest levels in years, many people around the country are becoming new dogs owners. With dog ownership comes responsibility and oftentimes some chewing. Nipping at your hands, chewing shoes, gnawing at baseboards, and bitemarks on the furniture are all common issues during your new puppy’s early days. So when do dogs grow out of the chewing phase? The fact is, they don’t; adult dogs love to chew too. And if your dog doesn’t learn what he can and cannot chew on, you can expect many more years of household destruction. So if you have ever wondered why your dog is chewing everything in sight, continue reading to learn why they do it and how to stop it.
Learning to chew at a early age
As a puppy, most dogs begin to chew things to relieve the teething pain. Doing so gave them some relief from that pain. As this behavior continued for months, they began to learn to associate chewing with pleasure. As your dog began to outgrow the teething, the chewing continued as a great activity that brought joy and happiness. This can quickly become a big problem for dogs who were given no real boundaries and allowed to chew everything they found. For those dog parents who prevented their dog from chewing everything and provided boundaries their dogs learned from an early age that all objects are not chewing toys.
You can quickly see the importance of giving your dog good boundaries and approved chew toys when they are teething, teaching them good behaviors while they are young. This helps them grow into the dog that does not take your new running shoes outside the tear them into 100 pieces (if they never learn your sneakers are chew toys they’ll never look at them that way) . If your dog was allowed to chew anything it could reach as a puppy, you may have your work cut out for you later.
Chewing is Natural for Dogs
Chewing is a natural dog behavior. Your dog’s sharp teeth are there for a reason, their canine ancestors needed to tear apart a prey animal just to survive, it’s ingrained deep. Chewing is also proven to help dogs clean their teeth as well as exercise their jaws. Chewing is also a way dogs use to pass the time and amuse themselves (this is why we often see chewing issues when an owner leaves and the dog is left at home alone. It’s unrealistic to expect your dog to never express this instinctive behavior.
So why do dogs chew the things they do; why do they choose and old pair of shoes, or that remote control or a couch cushion. Remember dogs are not ruled by taste, but by smell. That pair of shoes is rich with smells, so is the couch, taste is not even a consideration. Not all objects are smell driven though. We often see wooden objects chewed, like table legs, base molding etc or plastic items. These may have been chosen due to their soft nature and how it feels on their teeth. They may be after that satisfying chomp or crunch.
Start with Toys
Step one in dealing with bad chewing is to provide appropriate alternatives. This may not be as simple as throwing a bunch of chew toys on the ground and hoping for the best. Upon first sight, the chew toy is an unknown object, something he may have never seen before, however, that shoe is a proven delight. You need to encourage your dog to select the toys by making them as appealing as possible. To help prevent boredom, you can also try rotating the toys so there are new options every few days.
Food dispensing chew toys can be a really good way to entice your dog to choose the right toy for chewing. The Kong brand toys are a great option here. They are made of a durable rubber so they’re long-lasting with just enough give. But better than that, you can stuff them with food like peanut butter to really add some fun. Take it a step further by adding a layer to the soft food with harder pieces like liver treats. Lastly, you can try freezing the toy after stuffing it with treats to make it last longer.
Now that your dogs have some good options to choose from for chew time, it’s important to limit the alternatives and reduce the chance of falling back into old habits (or starting new ones). Do your best to put away things that were previously being chewed and limit those temptations. For example, put shoes in the closet with a shut door and remote controls in a drawer. If there are particular objects or furniture that were being chewed, block or limit access to those areas. This will further help in directing the chewing to the correct toys. If you are unable to limit access, try using a bitter tasting spray to keep your dog away. Apply the spray on baseboards, furniture, or other immovable items every day for at least three or four weeks. That should be long enough to break your dog’s habit, especially if you’re using that time to establish new habits.
The important thing here is to instill a chew toy addiction in your dog and break the habit of going after your possessions for chewing relief. If you continue to offer fun new chews and prevent/limit inappropriate chewing, your dog will quickly learn what they can and cannot chew.
Lastly, don’t forget the importance of adequate and physical exercise. Most dogs need a certain level of physical exercise and boredom in dogs is a big contributor to inappropriate chewing. If you don’t give your dog enough to do, they will look for their own fun (and that is usually not fun for you because it involves their teeth). Learn more about what physical activity is needed for your dog in our article titled: How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need
If you are unable to get them out of the house daily or find yourself too busy consider a dog treadmill, these are a great option for ensuring your dog gets the exercise he needs when your stuck at home. View our full line of Dog Treadmills and Treadwheels
Remember, when your chooses the right item, be sure to praise and reward them to increase the chance they will make that same choice in the future. In the early stages of this, make sure to keep a close eye on your dog, anytime you see bad behavior quickly stop is and redirect to the chew toy. When you can’t supervise, consider using a crate or safe area to protect your house. But always provide appropriate chews in the crate to help you dog pass the time. Once your dog understands what they can and cannot chew, then they are ready for freedom.
Some dogs exhibit chewing behaviors when they experience separation anxiety. Many dogs suffer from this, especially when so many are gone working during the day (though this may be changing with our new work from home push across America). In these instances your dog is under pressure or anxiety with your absence and looking to feel the time or void with some chewing. If you feel your dog has separation anxiety you will want to start with a solid crate build for this, take a look at our line of Zinger Crates build for high anxiety dogs as well as consulting a professional.
- Nov 01, 2020
- in Pet Blog