While chewing is normal and healthy in dogs, most pet owners would prefer not to sacrifice their favorite pair of shoes or a brand new throw pillow. Here, our vets explain the causes of destructive chewing in dogs, and how to stop it.
What causes destructive chewing in dogs?
Puppies and dogs to chew on objects to explore the world. For puppies, chewing can also help relieve pain that might be caused by erupting teeth. For adult dogs, chewing can also help keep jaws strong and teeth clean.
So while chewing is usually a healthy behavior in dogs, there are a few reasons that a dog may chew excessively and destroy your things.
Dogs that are left alone for extended periods of time without mental stimulation will become bored, and may resort to chewing on interesting objects that they find around the house to pass the time.
Anxiety & Stress
Dogs are highly social animals, and for this reason many of them suffer from separation anxiety while their people are away. These dogs will often turn to chewing and a comforting activity.
If your dog is on a calorie-restricted diet, they might chew and destroy objects in an effort to find another sources of nutrition. This kind of chewing is usually directed toward objects related to food or that smell like food.
Just like human babies, puppies lose their baby teeth and experience pain and discomfort as their adult teeth come in. During this time, your puppy will chew in order to relieve some of this discomfort.
Managing & Redirecting Chewing
To prevent destructive chewing, start by identifying its cause and eliminating any of the problems listed above. Then, focus on redirecting your dog's chewing to more desirable objects, like chew toys.
Start by making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise before leaving the house. High energy German Shepherds need at least two hours of exercise each day, while Pomeranians and other small dogs usually do well with about 40 minutes. Talk to your vet about how much physical activity your dog needs each day to be healthy and happy.
To help reduce separation anxiety or boredom in dogs who must be left alone for extended periods of time, try training your dog to associate alone time with positive experiences. Each time you leave, provide a puzzle toy stuffed with food, and a variety of fun, special toys that your dog only gets to play with while you are away (to retain the novelty).
Providing lots of interesting toys will not only create a positive association with alone time, it will also serve as a distraction from the objects that you don't want your dog chewing on, and prevent boredom chewing.
To ensure that your dog only chews designated objects like toys, remove all other temptations. Put valuable objects out of reach, make sure your laundry is put away or in a hamper, and that books and children's toys are stored away where they belong.
Discourage Unwanted Chewing
Spray any objects you don't want your dog to chew with a dog deterrent spray. If you encounter your dog chewing on an item they shouldn't be, say "no," take it away, and provide replace it with a chew toy, and then provide lots of praise when your dog chews on that.