Dogs’ mouths function much like our hands. It’s their preferred tool for exploring surroundings. This means that your dog will frequently examine something interesting by tasting and gnawing it.
With some dogs this chewing becomes a destructive problem, and correcting it is part of providing the best dog care.
Dogs chew for a variety of reasons:
- A puppy may chew because of teething
- It can occur out of boredom or because of instinct
- It may be a result of anxiety if your dog is uncomfortable with the surroundings or because of being left alone
Identify the cause. The key to stopping the behavior is identifying the reason for the chewing:
- Chewing on a wide variety of objects in the house regardless of whether you are home is probably the result of boredom. Your dog probably needs more play, exercise and physical activity to work off some energy. Providing appropriate chew toys will also help kick the chewing habit.
- Separation anxiety can be the cause. Dogs may chew or paw to try to escape the area where left or may chew on inappropriate objects as a nervous reaction to your absence. This is a difficult type of chewing to treat because it occurs when you’re not present, and it is the dog's anxiety that needs to be treated. Dog behaviorists will use socialization, desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques to cure separation anxiety. Ask your veterinarian if your dog would benefit from being referred to a veterinary behaviorist.
Apply discipline correctly. Unfortunately, the only time you can effectively discipline your dog for chewing is when you catch it in the act. If you find a chewed-up shoe an hour after the deed is done, your dog won’t be able to associate punishment with the act of chewing. Your dog may seem guilty when you wave the shoe in front of its face, but this is just submissive behavior as a reaction to you.
Catch your dog in the act. When you do catch your dog chewing, stop it with a verbal command or a loud noise. When your dog stops, provide a chew toy. When your dog starts chewing on the toy, provide praise and positive reinforcement.
Chew toy choices vary. It is also important to choose the right type of chew toy. Never give your dog an object that looks like something you don’t want chewed. If you provide shoes or clothes, your dog won’t be able to understand the difference between them and appropriate objects.
Use deterrents. Products are available that can be applied to household objects to discourage your dog from chewing them. These products have a taste or smell that is unpleasant (but not harmful) to dogs but not offensive to humans.
As always, consult your veterinarian for additional advice and suggestions.