There are certain things that dogs do. They wag their tails when they are happy, They gaze longingly at your food until you throw them a morsel. They greet you excitedly when you return home. All of these are endearing little habits. However, there is one habit that does not give owners such a warm feeling and often involves the destruction of a favorite slipper, shoe or toy. It leaves owners asking, “Why do dogs chew?“
How do I stop my dog from chewing? There are many reasons why dogs destroy objects by chewing them. For instance, they like to explore their surroundings with their mouths. Dogs are driven to chew for a variety of reasons and the main one is often because they feel ignored. Let’s look at a variety of reasons and then cover the steps you can take to stop your dog from gnawing everything in sight.
Table of Contents
Reasons Why Dogs Chew
Lack of attention – imagine the situation, your dog comes up to you whilst you’re trying to relax and watch television. He starts chewing it and then runs off with it when you get up, how annoying! From his perspective though, “hmm I’m bored. I know, I’ll have a little chew of this thing that smells like my owner. Ooh ooh, he’s got up! Ooh ooh, he’s chasing me around the house, this is great fun, woof!”. He sees this as fun and next time he wants a little chase around the house he’ll have a nibble of something else perhaps, perfect!
Teething – When your little puppy starts to get their teeth to come through it will be quite painful for them. Chewing stuff relieves some of this pain and also hastens the natural process of their adult teeth coming through.
Bored, bored, bored – If you think your dog is chewing because they’re bored then it’s most likely they’re not getting enough stimulation. How much stimulation a dog will need depends on their breed but they all like your attention so stop watching television and start playing with your best friend!Paragraph
It’s personal – It may be that your dog just likes annoying you and always finds your reaction hilarious. Okay, this one may not be true but it sure seems like it sometimes!
The steps you must take to stop your dog from chewing:
There are a few proven ways to stop your dog from chewing and before you ask, these actually work. They’ve been tested over time. None of them is particularly challenging to put into practice so just do them and watch the results! Well, when I say ‘watch the results’ – you will need to persevere with these over time of course. You won’t be able to just click your fingers and sort this just like that. But most of the time you’ll get to the bottom of it quickly.
1) Separation Anxiety
Firstly, and arguably the most important point – could this chewing be the result of separation anxiety? This will only typically occur when they are left alone.
There may be other signs though, apart from the chewing. They may bark a lot, walk around aimlessly (or in circles), they may whine and go to the toilet inside where typically they wouldn’t. This separation anxiety may be caused by a lost fellow pet, a change of environment (moving house?) or even a change in a member of the family.
In mild cases, you may be able to fix this at home. Spend more time with her and never change the routine so much that all of a sudden your dog is left on her own for long periods of time.
Whenever she is obviously feeling stressed, comfort her and even consider giving her a treat. She may then associate this feeling with a good thing and so the fear of it will eventually diminish. For more serious cases, or if this doesn’t work then you should consult your vet as there are some medications that can help.
2) Negative Reinforcement
You need to ensure you can differentiate between good chewing and bad chewing and communicate this to the dog. Whenever they are chewing on something they shouldn’t be, take the object away (if possible) and say loudly and firmly ‘No!’ or ‘Stop!’ Don’t bend down to her level, stay standing up straight and sound in command (even if you’re not!).
Never, ever hit your animal to try and reinforce your point. It will serve no purpose except to give you something to regret, years in the future, which you can never change. Just don’t do it. The dog will know you’re being serious as (hopefully) most of the time you speak in a gentle, relaxed and friendly manner.
For your dog to hear her best friend suddenly talk to her like this will be a shock, and they will pay attention. If you’re always talking like this though then the dog will know no difference and they simply won’t care.
3) Positive Reinforcement
The opposite of negative reinforcement. Now, whenever your dog starts chewing on something it should (like specific dog-chew toys) then it needs to be encouraged. Make a fuss of her and give her a little treat. She’ll remember this response and of course want the same reaction later. Hopefully, she’ll remember what she did. A couple of things to remember when using positive reinforcement though.
Firstly, don’t do it too often – doing this will diminish the sense of reward. Secondly, find a few treats they really like and alternate them. You wouldn’t want them to get bored with the same thing over and over again, eventually, it won’t seem like much of a reward to them.
There are numerous deterrent sprays that you can spray onto furniture to make it taste unpleasant. I used to have something similar sprayed onto my thumb so it wouldn’t take nice whenever I tried to suck my thumb. I must have been around 4 I think. Seemed to do the trick – I’m quite a bit older now and don’t recall sucking my thumb for some time.
Of course, the idea here is when the dog chews on something that has been sprayed (it should not smell to you) it will leave an unpleasant association in their brain. Hopefully stopping them from doing it.
What some people find happens though is it just makes them chew something else. Where do you stop? Spray your whole house maybe? I think this may be more of a tactical solution rather than a strategic solution but definitely worth a try.
5) Encourage ‘good’ chewing
If they want to chew then let them chew! We’re being a bit crafty here though with both us and your dog winning. They get to chew on something and we stop them from chewing our table legs off, both of us win! Provide your dog with several, purpose-built toys that are designed to be chewed. Leave them around the house, near items that they would usually chew (perhaps combining this tactic with spraying).
They will then (err hopefully) chew the toys you want them to and leave the items that you don’t want them to chew. They may think they’re being a bit naughty chewing these (as they’ve been told off when they’ve chewed before) – they’ll like this as all dogs are naughty, fact! Well, most of them. The point here is these toys will satisfy their urge to chew until they get over it and start on the next naughty episode in their lives.
If your little doggy has her teeth coming through then they will naturally want to chew as this helps with the discomfort that they can feel. This can occur from about 3 months and last until they are around 8 or 9 months old. This is a difficult time for her and there will be a natural urge for them to chew quite literally your whole house down.
Give them what they need, there are loads of different chew-toys available online and you won’t have any difficulty finding them.
If you get enough and if they like them then they won’t even think about chewing your expensive piano. Well, maybe they’ll think about it. Be patient with them through this time, if you know they’re teething then lay off a bit on the discipline. They’re going through a hard time, give them the toys they need to get through it and just spend a bit more time with them to take their mind off the pain they’re feeling.
7) Spend time with your dog
Dogs are incredibly sociable animals and they don’t like to be left on their own. When they’re on their own you will find their stress and anxiety levels increase which can have a detrimental effect on their health. They will become restless and bored with no stimulation and look for alternatives. This can lead to something known as destructive dog behavior. Your dog won’t get to this point overnight, it will take time.
Try and spot the signs before it gets to this point. Spend more time with her, play with her. Is it possible to not leave her alone so much? Could an option be for someone she trusts to come over and dog-sit whilst you’re out? There are many different ways to resolve this but the best way is to not let your dog be alone for long periods.
Another option is one I don’t particularly like but I have to mention it. If things get really bad then you may need to consider keeping your dog in a pen whilst you’re away.
Hopefully, this will be a large pen and you will only be popping out for a short period of time. You have to be careful with this though as it could actually make the problem worse. She will feel trapped (which she is) and will become anxious, possibly chewing more when she gets out.
8) Keep objects you don’t want your dog chewing out of its reach
Am I stating the obvious? err yes of course I am but the reason I’m including this in here is to try and do it at an early stage. The reason you’re reading this is most likely they’ve already started so it might be a bit too late but if not then let’s see what you can do.
Not always that easy is it though. I mean, what are you going to do with the coffee table, stick it onto the ceiling? This will only work with certain types of objects but if you’re fond of your shoes then, just for the time being, don’t leave them on the floor.
9) Teach your dog commands
Start at an early age (or as soon as you can) and train your dog to understand and react to ‘stop’ commands. If she is doing something she shouldn’t be firm with her, stand-up and raise your voice a little. You need to make sure you are communicating in a different way to normal. Be firm and instruct her to stop.
If she does then reward her with a treat and give her a big fuss. If she doesn’t then continue to be your firm self, but in no situation should you hit your dog as we mentioned previously. The trick to getting your dog to learn new stuff is that there has to be something in it for them.
10) You’re Smelly!
Sorry for being rude, but to your dog you are. In a nice way of course! Your scent will be familiar to her and will be comforting. If you need to leave the house for a bit grab a few of your dog’s favorite toys and rub them around in your hand for a bit. Give them to your dog and they will smell of you and this will comfort you. What you’re doing here is giving yourself a bit of extra time. Your smell will hang around just a bit longer and they will be less likely to get anxious so quickly if you do this.
11) Leave the radio on
A lot of people have said that when they go out they leave the radio on. Your dog (and especially a puppy) won’t like it if it’s really quiet, it will stress them out. They need some kind of background noise and if you have the radio on during the day then don’t turn it off as you leave.
Keep it on and it will in a way help soothe the anxiety she will feel with you not there. This combined with the above idea to leave a toy with your scent on will give you some extra time.
12) Prevention, not cure
Touched on above but try and not give her the opportunity to chew by moving everything she might want to grab out of her sight! It’s like baby-proofing a room where you don’t leave anything dangerous around for them to get.
Do the same for your dog, don’t leave anything chewable where they might be able to get it. This might seem like a pain at first but you’ll get used to it and also once you’ve identified the problem they will snap out of this annoying habit in no time.
You will be doing this already with walks most likely but increase the amount of exercise and activity your dog gets. The problem may be related to excess energy and boredom. Stimulate them more by adding some extra distance to your walk or having more play sessions when you’re at home.
If they’re getting a lot of exercise and having a lot of fun then they will be tired more. If they are tired more then they will be sleeping more. If they are sleeping more they will be chewing less!
Oh, it all sounds so easy. I know it’s frustrating reading articles (I bet you’ve read a few) that you’ve already tried or just won’t work in your situation. It’s just a case of trying different things until you find the one that works. It might take a little while to get there but get there you will.
14) No chasing!
If your dog grabs something of yours that they want to chew, don’t be tempted to chase after her. This will be seen as fun by your dog and probably won’t get the result you’re after! Stand up, put your strict voice on and command your dog to obey you.
Hopefully, they will remember that when they do this they get a nice treat and will come over to you, probably still holding one of your best shoes in their mouth. If they drop it, give them the treat and casually take back your property.
15) If all else fails
Okay, so you’ve tried everything you can but just nothing seems to work. You’ve bought countless replacement shoes and you are going a little bit crazy. What next? Talk to your vet.
There’s no harm in admitting defeat and if you can’t find the answer then try and find someone else that does (which is what you’re actually doing right now). It may be that your dog has a problem that requires some more expert help and even some medication. Either way, it doesn’t cost you anything to give them a call.
I hope that you get to the bottom of what’s causing your cheeky (if not sometimes annoying) little doggy to chew your most valuable possessions. You’ll know this by now but you are of course not alone, not by a long shot. This is a very common problem and something that most dog owners will experience at some point in their ownership.
Consider it just a stage they need to go through. In a few months, you’ll forget it ever happened and will be telling your friends the funny story about when your dog started chewing on your favorite priceless antique clock.
One last thing, if you want to see which dog breed I consider ‘the best’ then take a look at the article 🙂 You may not agree…