It is normal for puppies and dogs to chew on things as they grow and get older. People often wonder how do I get my dog to stop chewing things. Chewing does a lot of things for a dog. For young dogs, it’s a way to relieve pain that might be caused by incoming teeth. For older dogs, it is natures way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing is also a sign of boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration.
Chewing is a Normal Behavior
Chewing is a perfectly normal behavior for dogs. Dogs love to chew on bones, sticks, and just about anything else available. They chew for fun, stimulation, and to relieve anxiety. While chewing is normal, dogs sometimes direct their chewing behavior towards items and things they should not. Both puppies and adult dogs should have a variety of chew toys. However, just providing the right things to chew is not enough to prevent inappropriate chewing. Dogs need to learn what is okay to chew and what is not. They need to be taught in a gentle manner.
Interesting objects and the discomfort of teething motivate puppies to chew. Much like a person’s baby, puppies go through a stage when they lose their baby teeth and get pain as their adult teeth come in. This stage in their life should end around roughly six months of age. Some recommend giving puppies ice cubes, special dog toys that can be frozen or frozen wet cloth to chew on, which might help numb teething pain. Although puppies do need to chew on things, gentle guidance can teach your puppy to restrict chewing to appropriate objects, like his own toys.
- Put valuable objects away until you are confident that your dogs chewing behavior is fixed to appropriate items. Keep shoes and clothing in a closed area, dirty laundry in a hamper, and books on shelves. Make it easy for your dog to accomplish your goal.
- Provide your dog with plenty of his own toys and chew bones. Pay attention to the types of toys that keep him chewing for long periods of time and continue to offer those. It’s ideal to introduce something new or rotate your dog’s chew toys every couple of days so that he doesn’t get bored with the same old toys. (Use caution: Only give your dog natural bones that are sold specifically for chewing. Do not give him cooked bones, these can splinter and seriously injure your dog. Also, keep in mind that some intense chewers may be able to chip small pieces off of natural bones or chip their own teeth while chewing. If you have concerns about what’s safe to give your dog, speak with his veterinarian.)
- Offer your dog some edible things to chew, like bully sticks, pig ears, rawhide bones, pig skin rolls or other natural chews. Dogs can sometimes choke on edible chews, especially if they bite off and swallow large hunks. If your dog is inclined to do this, make sure he’s separated from other dogs when he chews so he can relax. Also, be sure to keep an eye on your dog whenever he’s working on an edible chew so that you can intervene if he starts to choke.
- Identify times of the day when your dog is most likely to chew and give him a toy that you are able to put something good in it for him.
- Discourage chewing inappropriate items by spraying them with chewing deterrents. When you first use a deterrent, apply a small amount to a piece of tissue or cotton wool. Gently place it directly in your dog’s mouth. Allow him to taste it and then spit it out. If your dog finds the taste unpleasant, he might shake his head, or even drool. He won’t pick up the piece of tissue or wool again. This will most likely allow him to have learned the connection between the taste and the odor of the deterrent, and he will be more likely to avoid chewing things that smell like it. Spray the deterrent on all objects that you do not want your dog to chew. Re-apply the deterrent every day for up to four weeks. Please realize that successful treatment for destructive chewing will require more than just the use of deterrents. Dogs need to learn what they can chew as well as what they can’t chew.
- Do your best to supervise your dog during all waking hours until you feel confident that his chewing behavior is under control. If you see him licking or chewing an item he shouldn’t, say “Uh-oh,” and remove the item from your dog’s mouth, then insert something that he can chew. After let him know it is OK to have what you give them.
- When you can’t supervise your dog, you must find a way to prevent him from chewing on inappropriate things in your absence. For example, if you work during the day, you can leave your dog at home in a confinement area for up to six hours. Use a crate or put your dog in a small room with the door or a baby gate closed. Be sure to remove all things that your dog shouldn’t chew from his restricted area. Give him a variety of toys and chew things to enjoy. Keep in mind that if you confine your dog, you will need to give him plenty of exercise and time with you when he/she is not confined.
- Provide your dog with plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. If you have to leave your dog alone for more than a short period, make sure he gets out for a good play session beforehand.
- To help your dog learn the difference between things he should and should not chew, it is important to avoid confusing him by offering unwanted household items, like old shoes and discarded cushions. It isn’t fair to expect your dog to learn that some shoes are okay to chew on and others are not allowed.
Things Not To Do
- Do not show your dog the damage he/she did and spank them, or punish him after the fact. He cannot connect your punishment with some behavior he did hours or even minutes before.
- Do not use duct tape to hold your dogs mouth closed around a chewed object for any length of time. This is inhumane and dogs have died from this.
- Do not tie a damaged object to your dog. This is inhumane and will teach your dog nothing.
- Do not leave your dog in a crate for lengthy periods of time to prevent chewing. No more than 6 hours.
- Do not muzzle your dog to prevent chewing.
Things To Watch For (Frustration)
Dogs who are prevented from engaging in exciting activities sometimes direct biting, shaking, tearing and chewing at nearby things. Dogs and puppies sometimes grab and shake blankets or bowls in their kennels whenever people walk by because they want attention. When they do not get this their frustration is showed through destructive behavior. A dog who sees a cat run by and wants to chase, but is behind a fence, might grab at the gate. A dog watching another dog in a training class might become excited by the sight of his pal classmate having fun that he grabs and chews his leash. The best intervention for this problem is to anticipate when frustration might happen and give your dog an appropriate toy for shaking and tearing. In a class situation, carry a tug or stuffed toy for your dog to hold and chew. If your dog is frustrated by animals or objects on the other side of a fence at home, tie a toy to the fence or something sturdy by the gate. Give dogs and puppies toys and chew bones in their kennels. Whenever you are able, teach them to approach the front of their kennels and sit quietly to watch people going by to give them attention.
Lack Of Exercise
Some dogs just do not get enough physical and/or mental stimulation. Dogs that are bored tend to look for ways to entertain themselves, with chewing being an option that most turn to. To prevent chewing, be sure to provide plenty of ways for your dog to exercise his mind and body. Great ways to accomplish this include daily walks, playing with other dogs by running and games, tug and fetch games, clicker training classes, dog sports, and feeding meals in food puzzle toys.
A few training books are still on the market that advocate inhumane methods for stopping destructive behaviors, such as putting duct tape around a pet’s mouth or physically hitting a dog. Needless to say, there is no excuse for such corrections. Not only are they extremely unfair, they’re ineffective. The use of proper management along with proper exercise, takes care of 99 percent of destructive behavior problems. Happy Tails, Happy Trails!