As any dog owner can testify, all dogs will chew through something at some point. It is only natural for a puppy to chew as he/she will want to explore everything and anything. However, once a puppy has grown into a dog they will still have a natural instinct to chew things; this may be because although dogs do rely heavily on their sense of smell and hearing to explore, they also like to play with new things using their mouths. Whilst some dogs may chew an object such as a sock, slipper or shoe once in a while, others can exhibit a form of undesired behaviour known as destructive chewing that can frequently occur.
Chewing as a Puppy
The complexity of a dog’s psychology is far too detailed to try and sum up in article. However, we can endeavour to explain some of the psychological reasons behind destructive chewing. Destructive chewing can be a source of high stress for some dog owners as a dog that destructively chews often does so to a large extent. When looking into the psychology of why a dog may destructively chew, it is important to note that chewing in young dogs, especially puppies, can simply be due to the fact that they are teething and chewing helps to soothe sore gums. The lessons that a dog learns when it is a puppy will become ingrained in its behaviour for the rest of its life and so it is imperative that a dog is taught from a very young age what he/she can and cannot chew.
Boredom can often play a part in making a dog become destructive and chew or ruin things around the house. It is therefore vital that an owner gives their dog plenty of exercise as well as lots of mental stimulation; this includes training, playing and interacting with the dog.
Dogs can sometimes find it hard to express themselves at the best of times and so if there is a communication breakdown between dog and owner then the dog will find other ways to communicate, which can include destructive behaviour. If a dog feels that it is not getting enough attention from its owner then it may chew objects that it knows it is not allowed to in order to get the desired amount of interaction, even if that interaction is in the form of a ‘telling-off’.
Canine Separation Anxiety
A common cause for destructive chewing is what is known as canine separation anxiety. This is when a dog cannot be apart from its owner without becoming extremely anxious, resulting in bad behaviour. Excluding excessive barking, destructive chewing is the most common result of canine separation anxiety. Items that are chewed by dogs that suffer from canine separation anxiety usually have the scent of the dog’s owner on, such as shoes or socks. To try and alleviate the anxiety a dog may feel when left at home, it can be a good idea for the owner to give the dog his/her old shoes or clothing to chew on whilst they are apart.
The crux of destructive chewing hinges on the ability of an owner to understand his/her dog. Canines are forever trying to please us and understand what it is we are asking them to do; maybe we humans should try to pay attention to our dogs’ signs more and try to understand them a bit better.