Many pet owners have experienced their dogs’ love for chewing first hand. Whether it is the furniture, a favourite pair of shoes or even their owner’s hands and feet it seems that dogs, especially puppies, will chew almost anything. Although it is natural behaviour, destructive chewing can become an issue. There are many reasons for it including boredom and separation anxiety.
Reasons for destructive chewing
A puppy’s gums can be sore during teething so chewing relieves the pain. Giving them something cool such as a wet cloth can soothe their gums, but make sure you supervise this in case they chew off and swallow any pieces.
If left alone for long periods of time dogs can often become bored, stressed or anxious, so chewing becomes a way of occupying themselves and relieving those feelings.
Owners can unknowingly encourage their pet to chew from a young age by the way they play with them. Dogs mouthing hands and feet may be viewed as cute and endearing, yet this can suggest chewing is acceptable.
You can work towards preventing the behaviour by providing plenty of items for your dog to chew on. Tough, durable toys or tasty rawhide treats can give them hours of distraction, and helps teething puppies.
Deterrent sprays can be applied to items your dog is likely to chew. The unpleasant taste encourages them to drop whatever they shouldn’t be chewing, and is harmless. However, these aren’t always completely effective as some dogs could get used to the taste and resume chewing.
Put away loose items your dog might chew, especially when unsupervised for any length of time. Confining them to a room where they are limited with what they can chew may be best when leaving the house, and especially when they are a puppy. Only leave items out that are clearly meant for them, such as toys. Providing anything else such as an old pair of shoes could confuse them, as they will then think they are allowed to chew all shoes.
Tiring your dog out with plenty of exercise may make them less likely to expend excess energy through chewing, and it will also curb their boredom. Ensure your dog receives plenty of exercise every day.
If your dog is about to chew something they shouldn’t, or you catch them doing it, make a loud noise or shout ‘no’ to startle them. Show them what they can chew and praise them when they do it.
What not to do
You must not shout at or punish your dog if you return home to find they have chewed your possessions. They will not realise what they have done wrong if you tell them off after the damage has taken place. Don’t blame your dog for following their instincts, as they won’t understand the difference between what they can and can’t chew unless you show them.
Excessive or destructive chewing needs to be checked by a vet, as there may be a medical reason for it. If you can’t stop your dog from chewing and you need extra help, you can visit a behaviourist.