by Janine DeVault
Are you coming home to chewed furniture? Struggling to find a pair of shoes without a big hole in the toe? These are signs that your dog may have some destructive chewing behavior, and we’re guessing you need a solution before all of your shoes or furnishings have to be tossed. Here’s why dogs chew along with some simple tips for how to stop your dog from chewing everything in sight.
Why Do Dogs Chew?
There are all kinds of reasons why dogs chew, and they typically fall into two main categories: The dog is a puppy or the dog is chewing destructively. While this habit may be frustrating, especially when your prized possessions fall victim to it, chewing is completely normal behavior for dogs.
Puppies use their mouths to become acquainted with the world around them, which is why they are keen to suck, chew or nibble on everything that crosses their paths. It’s normal for puppies to try chewing everything from toys to furniture to our fingers as they get to know their surroundings. Puppies are also prone to chew when teething, just like human babies.
Fortunately, puppies usually grow out of their excessive chewing habit as they get older. They may still love to chew, but not nearly as prolifically as when they are pups!
Destructive chewing, on the other hand, usually stems from some sort of anxiety. Puppies may chew destructively, but this behavior is also commonly seen in adult dogs. Many dogs experience separation anxiety if they are left at home for long periods, while others have an abundance of restless energy they need to burn off. Either of these scenarios could lead to destructive chewing as a dog looks for an outlet for anxiety.
Chew-proofing Your Home
Chew-proofing your home is easier said than done, since the most-determined chewers will stop at nothing to wreak havoc on your home. However, you can do your best to protect your favorite items by stashing them somewhere safe. Gather up any precious items, like your childhood stuffed animals, expensive leather shoes and anything else your pup could easily grab, and place them out of your dog’s reach.
Some dogs will chew furniture, loose floorboards, doormats and anything else they can fit their mouths around and teeth into. If your dog falls into this category, consider crate-training them for when you’re not home so you don’t come home to a disaster zone.
While chew-proofing your home won’t solve your dog’s chewing habit, it will give you some peace of mind while you work on correcting the problem.
Teach Your Dog What it’s OK to chew on
Since chewing is typical canine behavior, it wouldn’t be fair to punish your dog for chewing. Instead of trying to stop this behavior altogether, teach your dog what they are and aren’t allowed to chew on.
When your dog chews on toys, offer plenty of praise, and even treats, so they know they’re doing the right thing. Don’t assume that any toy will do. It may take a few tries before you find a toy that your dog is completely obsessed with. According to the folks at Nylabone, you can help your pup gain an interest in toys by experimenting with different textures and flavors.
If your pup reaches for something you don’t want them to chew on, use one of the coveted toys to draw their attention away.
Use an Anti-Chew Spray
An anti-chew spray can help protect your possessions from your pup’s destructive jaws. While this spray alone won’t solve destructive chewing, it is certainly handy when used in conjunction with these other tips.
Skout’s Honor Super Sour! Anti-Chew Spray can be used on all kinds of household items, such as furniture, bedding, rugs, shoes and more. This pet-safe spray coats items with an unpleasant sour flavor that will deter most dogs from chewing.
Exercise Your Dog Regularly
Exercise is a fantastic way to combat destructive chewing. Many dogs become destructive when they don’t get enough exercise, so don’t underestimate the power of a regular activity routine. Exercise helps your dog burn off nervous energy and, in most cases, lets them explore a new environment, which stimulates the mind as well as well as the body. Both the exercise and the mental stimulation that come with it will help combat your dog’s destructive chewing.
Ultimately, chewing is perfectly normal behavior for dogs. Chewing in and of itself is not a bad thing at all! However, since you don’t want your pet to chew on just anything, it’s up to you to set boundaries and help your dog understand what can be chewed on and what is off-limits. You can help limit your pup’s tendency to chew unwanted items by keeping anxiety in check and practicing a consistent training routine.
Janine DeVault is a freelance pet writer, animal rescue advocate and former celebrity dog walker. She has worked with a variety of pet-industry clients and specializes in writing pet lifestyle content. She lives in Canada with her rescue cat, Kesi.