Excessive chewing is a widespread behavioral problem that many dog owners see their dogs do and have trouble solving, with the problem especially being present in young puppies. When you have a young puppy at home, you’ll most probably notice that they will chew just about anything and everything that comes their way.
But, chewing in and of itself isn’t the real culprit here. In the end, your dog has to chew on their food to be able to properly digest it.
The problem here is excessive and destructive chewing directed at items that serve no purpose to be chewed, other than plain out destruction that is.
For example, a dog chewing on a toy bone you give them to play around with is completely normal, that’s what the toy bone was made for in the first place. But, when you come back from work and find that your dog has chewed and annihilated your furniture, clothes and bedding to shredded pieces, then you obviously have a problem that you need to fix.
Why Do Dogs Chew Excessively?
So, exactly why does Fido love to get their teeth on anything and everything that comes their way?
- Exploration: Chewing is just one of the ways (along with biting, nipping and mouthing) by which your puppy learns about life, learns about their environment and simply matures.
- Attention: The good ol’ attention seeking is one of the oldest tricks in the book that your dog uses on you!
- Teething: During your puppy’s teething process at a young age, they will be in pain and have irritated gums all the time, which will lead them to chew in the process to try to feel better and relieve pain. By the time your dog reaches 6 months of age, the excessive chewing should be over.
- Separation Anxiety: To know how much the probability that your dog’s chewing destructively because of separation anxiety or not, you have to properly monitor the situation. If you notice that your dog chews destructively when you leave them alone (such as to go to work) and are not there with them, then your dog may very well be suffering from separation anxiety. However, if you notice that your dog chews destructively when you’re home with them and they’re hanging out around you, then they’re not doing it because of separation anxiety, they’re doing it because of something else.
- Stress: Many times, stress leads dogs to chew on stuff they shouldn’t be chewing on just to relieve some pressure. Stress in dogs can be caused by a large host of factors; anything from sudden loud noises like fireworks, something your dog see’s and instills fear in them, improper techniques used by the dog owner when crate training them and many more reasons.
- Boredom: Just like this is one very common reason that leads to most behavioral problems out there (such as eating their own poop, howling, and digging, just to name a few), your dog might go on a destructive chewing spree just because they don’t have anything better to do. If your dog is feeling bored, has nothing to do and has all this excess energy boiling inside them that they can’t find anywhere else to release it on, then there’s a big chance that they’re going to take it out on your possessions!
- Health Issues: Your dog’s excessive chewing might really be down to medical reasons and might not be their fault at all. One of the most common health issues that lead dogs to destructive chewing is nutritional deficiencies, which can be caused by many things, such as a poor diet or gastrointestinal problems.
How To Stop A Dog From Chewing
If you don’t attend to your dog’s excessive chewing problem during its early stages, then you’re going to have a harder time modifying this behavior of theirs.
And, if you don’t solve this problem early on and leave it to slowly escalate, your dog can get you into a whole new world of much more serious problems than the shredding of some furniture or clothes. We may be talking excessive aggression and physical attacks on people here.
This is one of the most common scenarios seen with dog owners that don’t properly attend to their (back then puppy’s) excessive chewing problem during the teething phase. What happens is that the puppy grows with time and keeps up the excessive chewing behavior, all up to the point where it becomes destructive, very dangerous and much harder to solve than it needs to be.
But, before we talk about some of the most helpful tips to get you to stop your dog from chewing destructively, let’s talk about some of the most common WRONG practices people do when faced with this scenario all the time:
- Improper Scolding: Many times, dog owners take their dogs to the “damage scene” after a while and start scolding them, yelling at them and even spanking them for what they did. Besides the fact that you should NEVER spank your dog, doing this does no good whatsoever. In order for your dog to understand that their behavior was bad, they have to be punished immediately after they do whatever they do. Punishing your dog for something they did even mere minutes ago will do no good, because your dog will never be able to make the connection between your punishment and their actions. So, always keep in mind that for your dog to understand why you’re punishing them, you have to do it during or immediately after they do what they did.
- Tape: If you’ve ever been given advice from anyone about using duct tape on your dog’s mouth to prevent them from chewing things they aren’t supposed to be chewing, run away from whoever gave you such horrible advice as fast as possible. Even consider reporting them to whoever can do anything to help, because chances are they do this to their dogs, and it’s one of the most inhumane, sickening and disgusting things that anyone can ever do to their dog! Besides the fact that this teaches absolutely nothing to your dog and only leaves them clueless as to what this is all about, just search around for some statistics about dog deaths due to duct tape, you’ll be shocked.
- Chasing: One very common mistake dog owners make is chasing their dog all around the house when they grab something they shouldn’t be grabbing and chew on it. If your dog grabs something with their mouth and starts chewing on it and you chase them, you’ll have fallen into their plot. What plot, you ask. The plot of getting you to give them your attention and have you run around with them! Yup, dogs are smart like that sometimes. 🙂
Now, let’s get into the right practices that will help you stop your dog from chewing destructively:
- Veterinarian: If all else fails and you can’t seem to correct this behavior in your dog, then the possibility that a medical reason is causing them to chew destructively arises, by which case you should have your dog checked by your veterinarian so that they can help solve any medical issues that might be leading to the chewing.
- Chewing Toys: Hey, that’s what chewing toys were made for, right? By giving your dog chewing toys to chew on, you will be teaching them that it’s only allowed for them to chew away on these toys and not on anything else that might be dangerous for them, or costly for you (assuming you don’t like to buy new furniture each and every month!). Please note that giving your dog a real bone (such as ham bone or pork bone) isn’t the same as giving them a toy bone to chew on, because the former bones can lead to damaging your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
- Redirection: The minute you see your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t be chewing on, say a calm yet firm “No!”, move them away from it wave a chewing toy at them so you re-direct their attention to the chewing toy. As soon as your dog leaves whatever they were chewing on and does what you want them to do (taking the toy you’re waving at them), you should instantly follow up with giving them a treat/praise. With time, your dog will understand that you don’t want them chewing on anything other than whatever toys you give them to play with. However, for this to work and for your dog to understand this, you MUST be fast in terms of timing. If you immediately act when you see your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t be chewing on and you do the above, then this method will work. However, if your dog is chewing on something they shouldn’t be, you see them and only decide to act sometime later after they’re done and are now doing something else, this method will fail to achieve its goal because your dog will never be able to make the connection between the two events. The same thing applies to the treat/praise after your dog’s attention is successfully re-directed. So, timing is key!
- Exercise And Playing: Since we established above that one of the most common reasons that leads to destructive chewing in dogs is plain out boredom, one of the best ways you can combat this is by giving your dog plenty of exercise and having them engage in playtime. In general, you should be aiming for 30-45 minutes of exercise for your dog each and every day. In addition to that, play around with them! Engage with them in some games, train them to learn a new trick every now and then, or just take them to the park to play around with some other friendly dogs. This makes sure that your dog doesn’t have any excess, unchanneled energy inside of them that’s just waiting to be all poured into a binge chewing session.
- Deterrents: If you know that there’s one thing your dog always seems to want to chew on, you could make use of deterrents to discourage your dog from chewing on them. All you have to do is spray a little of the deterrent on whatever your dog always seems to want to chew, which will have it taste real bad and as a result repel your dog from wanting to get near it anymore. However, if you’re interested in having your dog learn how to stop destructive chewing the right way and for the long run, spraying deterrents on objects alone won’t cut it, there needs to be behavioral training involved as well.
- Confinement Area: If you know that your dog is engaging in destructive chewing when you’re away from home, you might make use of putting your dog in a confined area for the time-being and until you get back, to ensure that they don’t chew anything and everything when you’re not there. The confined area can be something such as a crate or a small room with the door closed so your dog can’t get out. However, you must make sure that your dog doesn’t feel trapped and lonely wherever you leave them, you don’t leave them there for long periods of time (more than 6 hours at a time), any food and water they need is easily accessible and that you supply them with some chewing toys they can keep themselves busy with and entertained until you get back. Tip: When you want to leave your dog in a confined space for some period of time, make sure you give them intense exercise and a good amount of playing time beforehand. This will make it a lot easier and problem-free for them to pass by the time alone until you get back.
- No Mixed Signals: Often times, the solution to our dog’s chewing problem lies in ourselves and our actions. Have you ever given your dog something like your shoe to play around with? If so, then you should stop, because your’re only giving them mixed signals and confusing them. One day you give them your shoe to play around with, bite and chew, and the next day you scold them when they do just what you allowed them to do the other day. It’s just confusing! So, stay consistent throughout all times when it comes to what you allow your dog to play around with and chew on, and what you don’t allow them to. The best thing you can do is offer your dog chewing toys that don’t look like any household item, so you ensure that your dog doesn’t go around your house the next time and mistake some household item for something they’re allowed to chew.