As most any dog owner knows, our canine companions love to chew…well, just about anything! Unfortunately, they often chew things that they are not supposed to chew–like shoes, cords and wires, rugs, or anything you drop on the floor. While the damage to things like these can be annoying or even panic-inducing, it’s even more alarming if our dogs chew things that could make them sick, or worse.
This is why it’s important not only to curb the destructive chewing behavior, as well as provide them with appropriate chewing toys and then reward acceptable chewing behavior.
Why Do Dogs Chew the Wrong Things?
First, it’s important to identify what is normal chewing behavior in dogs:
- Puppy teething–It’s normal for puppies to chew things around them to investigate their world, as well as seek to alleviate teething pain.
- Normal dog chewing–All dogs chew bones or toys, as part of their nature, for enjoyment and fun, for stimulation, and for alleviating anxiety. Chewing appropriate objects strengthens their jaws and keeps their teeth clean.
Secondly, it’s equally important to understand why dogs deviate from appropriate chewing behavior to engage in destructive chewing behavior:
- Puppies are never taught what NOT to chew.
- Dogs are bored and want attention.
- Dogs are fearful, or potentially neglected or abused, or ill.
- Dogs are suffering from separation anxiety.
Best Tips to Stop Destructive Chewing
While every dog is different, here are some “best” tips offered by vets, the ASPCA, the Humane Society, and dog product suppliers to help curb or stop the destructive chewing behavior our canine companions often insist on continuing to do:
- Dog-proof your home. Take responsibility for your belongings and keep them out of reach.
- Keep an eye on your dog. Supervise your dog at all times while the dog is experiencing these bad chewing habits. Correct your dog if it chooses the wrong chew “toy” and provide an appropriate one.
- Provide appropriate chewing toys. Following the previous point, always provide appropriate chewing toys for your dog, preferably not something like a shoe or sock, because then your dog will be confused between what is an unacceptable household item and an appropriate chew toy.
- Associate toys and food. Build a “food obsession” with your dog, to build an association between toys and food. For instance, some dog toys allow you to put food in a toy for your dog to munch on.
- Offer a toy or treat in exchange for the wrong item. If your dog has the wrong item in its mouth, prompt your dog with the cue “Give” and swap the wrong item for a dog toy or treat.
- Alternate edible and other chew toys. Keep your dog interested in its own toys by alternating between edible ones and regular chew toys. Supervise your dog with edible chew toys, to ensure your dog doesn’t choke.
- Exercise your dog. Provide your dog with plenty of physical and mental exercise, indoors and outdoors. If you catch your dog with an inappropriate chew “toy” – shout loudly to interrupt your dog’s behavior and give your dog an actual chew toy instead.
- Apply taste deterrents. There are products you can apply to furniture and other items that have a bitter taste.
- Spend time with your dog. Make sure you spend enough time with your dog, because our canine companions love us and want to have “people time.”
Some things to NEVER do to your dog, as it will only exacerbate bad chewing behavior:
- Don’t discipline AFTER the fact–only correct when you catch your dog chewing the wrong thing.
- Don’t chase your dog–this makes your dog think you’re playing instead of trying to correct it.
- Don’t muzzle or otherwise constrict your dog’s mouth.
- Don’t tape a damaged chewed item to your dog.
- Don’t crate your dog for an extended period of time.
View more articles written by K’Lee Banks.