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Adult dogs continue chewing for any number of reasons, and in order to correct the behavior you must first determine why your dog is chewing. Dogs do not chew because they are angry, jealous, or spiteful – they simply do not have that capability.
A dog may chew because –
So what can we do as owners to prevent destructive chewing and keep our pets and our things safe?
Prevention is the best method to control problem chewing. If your puppy or dog can’t get to it, they can’t chew it! Take the time to puppy-proof your home – instead of constantly reprimanding a young puppy for getting into things, puppy-proof any areas of the house to which your puppy will be given access, in the same way one would child-proof an area for a baby. Take the time to get down on your hands and knees to see your home how a puppy or dog would – sometimes we forget about things that might look tempting to our four-legged friends! This is important whether you are home or away – when your back is turned for a moment - even though you are ‘watching’ your puppy, they will find something!
Safely confine your puppy to an area where there are no tempting chew things – either baby gate him in a puppy-proofed laundry room or kitchen, or use a suitably sized crate whenever you’re unable to safely supervise him. When introduced properly and used correctly, crate training is a safe, effective, and preventative housetraining tool. A crate provides a puppy a secure, protective den, while offering the owner piece of mind. See our brochure Crate Training for Dogs to properly introduce your puppy or dog to a crate. This tool is especially important while you are gone and cannot supervise your puppy, it keeps them and your things safe!
Provide Appropriate Chew Things
No matter how much you try to prevent it, a dog wants and needs to chew. Chewing satisfies a natural urge that dogs will always have. The key is making sure they chew on appropriate items.
Remember, the more items you provide that are appropriate to chew on, the less likely your dog will be to chew on an inappropriate item.
Appropriate chew toys include Nylabones®, Kongs® or other hard rubber toys, natural parts such as bully sticks, and real bones. Keep in mind not all dog toys are chew toys – there is no such thing as a plush toy that is meant to withstand a dog’s bite! It is important you pick safe chew items – avoid toys with pieces that come off that your dog could ingest.
So what do you do if your dog has plenty of chew toys and you still catch them chewing on an inappropriate item? If it’s after the damage is already done, clean up the mess and do not reprimand your dog. Dogs only have a three second window to associate what they are doing with either reward or punishment, so finding a mess an hour or even minutes later and punishing your dog for it has no meaning for them. The best thing you can do to teach your dog what is appropriate and what is not is constant supervision – that way if they grab something they’re not supposed to, you can calmly take it from them, tell them “No!”, and replace it with their own appropriate chew toy. If you’re not home to correct the behavior, safe confinement to a crate or puppy-proofed area should be practiced.
How can you tell if your dog is bored? Dogs exhibit boredom in various ways, including excessive:
Most puppies and young dogs have more energy than we give them an outlet for daily. One way they can release that excess energy is by chewing – and remember, they’ll do it whether or not we give them something appropriate to chew on! If your dog is bored, he’ll find something to do to amuse himself and you probably won’t like the choices he makes! Remember a tired dog is a good dog, so make sure he gets lots of physical and mental activity. The amount of exercise/entertainment should be based on his breed characteristics and age – the younger, more energetic dog you have, the more work you have cut out for you!
“But I put my dog outside in the yard with plenty of toys, why should he be bored?”
Many people feel like dogs would prefer to be outside – the truth is, they would rather be with you! Just because you provide some ropes or balls outside, dogs aren’t going to entertain themselves for hours on end. How much fun would you have with a tennis ball by yourself? These toys quickly lose their fun and they come up with a more exciting activity you may not approve of – like digging some new landscaping, or ‘remodeling’ the deck.
Dogs and puppies often chew to relieve excess energy, so a tired dog is generally a less destructive dog! Unfortunately for people, dogs’ greatest chewing period coincides with their highest energy period – between 6 and 18 months of age. Excess energy contributes to an increase in chewing. Puppies who are destructive indoors need at least an hour or two of physical outdoor exercise daily. This means more than a walk around the block – most of the time a leashed walk is not enough exercise for a young, energetic dog. Teaching your dog to play fetch, running with him, teaching him to run alongside you on a bike, or taking him to a fenced area where he can RUN are much easier ways to wear out a dog. Playing in a large open area with other dogs is also a great way to release excess energy, so a local dog park or doggy daycare might be a good option.
Proper training can go a long way in helping problem behaviors. Even 5 to 15 minutes a day can make a big difference for young dogs. Obedience classes with a professional trainer are a great place to start to have your puppy learn some basic manners, and a trainer might have additional suggestions to help with destructive behaviors. Obedience training can also help if your puppy grabs something he’s not supposed to have while you are home – you can teach him to let go by using the “Drop it” or “Leave it” command.
Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit distress and behavior problems when they’re left alone. The most common behaviors exhibited include:
There are differences between “normal” destructive behavior and destructive behavior associated with separation anxiety. If most or all of the following statements are true, your dog may have a separation anxiety problem:
It is not fully understood why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and others do not. However, it is important to realize that the destruction and house soiling that often occur with separation anxiety are part of a panic response. Your dog is not trying to punish you for leaving them alone. It is important not to punish them for the results of their frightened or frantic behavior.
How to Treat Minor Separation Anxiety
Many of the management tools that we use for other destructive behavior work in cases of minor separation anxiety. Making sure the house is puppy-proofed, providing lots of ‘busy’ toys like a Kong or other treat dispensing toys, and making sure your dog is tired before you leave all help lessen separation anxiety related behaviors. In addition:
Tone down departures and arrivals – Making a big deal out of coming and going increase anxiety in a nervous dog. They already know you’re leaving, your increased attention and long goodbyes do not help! Rather, virtually ignore your dog for about 15 minutes before you leave and after you come home.
When you leave, give them a stuffed Kong or other treat dispensing toy. Most of the behaviors associated with separation anxiety occur immediately after leaving, and a toy that holds a tempting treat is usually enough to distract dogs with mild separation anxiety.
Try leaving a radio or tv on to provide soothing background noise
Consider using an over the counter calming product that may decrease anxiety in dogs, such as D.A.P.
You may need to consult a professional trainer or behaviorist for help with even mild separation anxiety behaviors, or for more severe problems.
Chewing is part of the every day life of owning a dog. From puppy to adulthood, most dogs continue to chew to some degree. There are many causes, but also many solutions. Through management practices such as prevention, safe confinement, providing appropriate chew things, proper exercise, and decreasing boredom, inappropriate chewing can be easily curbed.
It is important to remember, chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. While dogs make great use of their other senses like sight and smell, it is also normal for dogs, especially young puppies, to explore with their mouths. Dogs learn by mouthing, and one of their favorite ways to take in information is through chewing. Young puppies in particular will chew anything they can get their mouths on. As an owner it is your responsibility to understand why your pet is chewing. Dogs can chew for many reasons – curiosity, teething, boredom, excess energy, or they may be suffering from separation anxiety. It is your job to effectively manage the situation for the health and well-being of your pet, and for the safety of your household things!
Why do Dogs Chew?
Dogs chew to relieve a natural urge. As puppies, they chew during their teething phase. Puppies, like infants and toddlers, explore their world by putting objects in their mouths. And, like babies, they teeth for about six months, which usually creates some discomfort. Chewing not only helps facilitate teething, but also makes sore gums feel better.