Chewing is another of many built in instinctual actions that a dog can get caught up in. For many dog breeds, chewing begins as a puppy, when teething and excess energy get channelled into chewing everything in sight. This is not abnormal, and while it is important to teach a dog otherwise from a young age, you also need to take precautions, puppy-proofing your home to avoid unnecessary damage.
As your dog gets older though, chewing can move beyond youthful indiscretion and into the territory of serious behavioural problem – one that needs to be addressed with specific actions and careful training.
Learn about the essential:
Why Do Dogs Chew?
Chewing occurs for a number of reasons, but you should know that it will happen no matter what you do. Your goal should be to direct it toward the right mediums and to minimize it where it can cause destruction. Even then, some dogs may just be psychologically wired to chew more than others. That is when you’ll need to make adjustments to their environment to reduce what they have access to.
First, know that most dogs learn their chewing behaviours as puppies. When teething, they seek out anything in sight to chew on. Owners who give them old socks, shoes, or toys from the house are basically telling them that those items are okay. If your adult dog is constantly raiding your closet for shoes or old t-shirts, try to remember if you did this when they were young.
Even if you did not give your puppy household items to chew on, you’ll need to retrain them to understand that those items are not okay to chew on. Simply yelling at the dog will almost never have a positive impact. They are doing something natural and until you show them that your belongings are not okay to chew on, the behaviour will not stop.
To start, you may consider crate training your dog. By removing the dog from an environment as large as your home, you can control what they do when you’re not home. To that end, when you are at home, make sure you have a chewing substitute to hand them when they start chewing on a shoe, or a cushion, or whatever else in your home they gravitate towards. A rawhide is often a good substitute if they like leather, fabric, or suede. Some dogs are partial toward rawhide, however, so you may want to take them to the pet store with you and have them choose a chew toy from the racks there.
Deterrents from Chewing
If your dog continuously finds new things to chew around your home, there are other pro-active ways to stop the chewing behaviour. To start with, there are sprays sold by most pet stores that are unpleasant to a dog when they chew. Bitter apple spray works for many dogs, as does cayenne pepper spray. Make sure to get something organic and non-chemically laden. It should be humane, and just taste bad. You don’t want it to cause physical pain.
This kind of deterrent is especially useful for a dog that has a habit of chewing on carpets or cushions and clothing. Additionally, you should teach your dog to “leave it”. This common command forces your dog to drop what they are doing immediately, as you take control of the item. It is an alpha leadership command that is very important for a dog when you take them out of the house. The last thing you want is a dog with a home bone or a dead animal in its mouth that will not drop it. The “leave it” command can be taught with treats or a clicker, and a whole lot of patience.
Potential Health Concerns
Something to keep in mind when your dog chews chronically is that there are certain health conditions that lead a dog to chew on things like plastic or rubber, or to swallow items whole in place of palatable food. This isn’t just a dog acting out. This is an issue that should be addressed by your vet as it can lead to poisoning or intestinal blockage. If your dog eats a coin or a rubber band once, you may be able to chalk it up as an accident. If it occurs repeatedly and cannot be curbed with sprays or training, see a vet to learn what options you have.