Most – if not all – dog owners encounter a chewing problem sooner or later. Even the most well behaved pooch can fall for the temptation of chewing a shoe, a remote control, or why not a sofa cushion! Why is that, and what can we do about it?
To start with, why do dogs chew?
Puppies explore their world by putting things in their mouth. They do a good job exploring the world through their eyes and sense of smell, but one of their favorite ways to learn about things is chewing on them.
Puppies also teethe for about six months, and chewing makes the sore gums feel better.
Adolescent dogs – for some breeds this period can last up until they’re two to three years old – are a lot like human teenagers. There’s a lot going on in the body, they have energy to spare, they get bored, and sometimes they want to bend the rules a little. All this often adds up to unwanted behavior such as chewing, and the dog no longer has the extreme puppy cuteness to protect it. Unfortunately many dogs are given up during their adolescence, because their owners can’t cope with a teenager on four paws.
Adult dogs sometimes also chew. They don’t do it to spite their humans. Some common reasons why dogs chew on your belongings include:
- As a puppy, the dog was never taught what to chew and what not to chew
- Dogs often chew because they’re bored
- The dog might suffer from separation anxiety
- The behavior can be fear related
- It’s a call for attention
If your problems stems from separation anxiety or fear, you might need to seek help from a behavior professional.
How can the problem be solved?
First of all, take responsibility for your belongings. If it doesn’t belong in your dog’s mouth, keep it out of reach. Make sure shoes, clothes, books, trash, remote controls, eyeglasses, and similar are kept out of reach.
Invest in good chewing toys that doesn’t look anything like the forbidden objects. Many let their dog chew on an old shoe, or make a toy out of an old sock. The difference between allowed shoes and socks and forbidden shoes and socks is clear to humans, but not at all as clear to dogs.
Spend extra time with your dog. Spending time with you will increase your bond, and help your dog learn acceptable behavior. If need be, keep doggie with you on a leash in the house, and confine him or her when you’re unable to keep your eyes on him. Provide plenty of “safe” toys.
If you have a teething puppy, try freezing a wet washcloth and offer it for chewing – this can help soothe the sore gums. Supervise so your puppy doesn’t chew it up and swallow it.
Make sure your dog gets ample physical and mental exercise. Many chewing problems stem from the dog being bored. You might want to invest in puzzle toys, enroll in a training program, learn tricks, or take him jogging. You can also use meal-time as doggy entertainment. Instead of just pouring kibble into a bowl, mix it with a little peanut butter or soft dog food, stuff it into a Kong, and freeze it. Getting the food out will take a while, and give your dog something to work with.
If you catch doggie chewing on something forbidden, interrupt through making a loud noise. Then, offer an acceptable chew toy, and give lots of praise when he or she takes the right toy.