It’s a common problem all dog owners face: dog chewing. Dogs love to chew. It’s a normal dog behavior and yet, we’re always frustrated when we come home to discover that (insert very expensive item here) has been gnawed on or ripped to soggy shreds. What can we do to train our dogs to stop chewing?
Before you can figure out how to stop dog chewing problems, you need to find out what’s causing it. Some of the most common causes for dog chewing are boredom, fear, separation anxiety and attention-seeking.
Exercise is necessary to keep your dog from getting bored and being destructive. Dogs are naturally active and long walks with your dog or a game of fetch can keep him from growing bored. If your dog is tired, he’ll be too busy sleeping to chew! Not to mention the added health benefits for you and your dog. If you aren’t able to dedicate as much time to physical activity, consider hiring a dog walker and try entertaining your dog with stimulating and interesting toys. Rotate the toys so your dog has something new to play with, without you having to go out and buy new dog toys. Teaching your dog basic commands and progressing to more difficult tricks can also provide your dog with mental stimulation and keep your dog from being bored.
If your dog is chewing as a coping mechanism for fear or separation anxiety, establish a place in your home that he is comfortable and likes to be in, like a dog crate. Many people have also found the Thundershirt to be helpful in calming anxious dogs. This might be worth looking into if you’ve tried other methods and have had no luck. Your first instinct may be to shower your dog with attention to reassure and calm him down, but be careful not to inadvertently spoil your dog, as he’ll think he’s being rewarded and that this behavior is acceptable to get attention. Which brings me to the next cause: attention-seeking.
Despite the stereotypes that dogs are simple-minded animals – any dog owner can attest that this isn’t true and that dogs know how to manipulate us into getting what they want. Don’t believe me? How many of you started out saying, “My dog will never be allowed on the furniture,” and now your dog has a designated side of the bed? Mmmmhmmm, that’s what we thought! If your dog is a diva and doing destructive chewing in hopes of getting your attention, make sure to discourage this behavior. If you catch him in the act, immediately remove the object from his mouth with a stern, “No,” and continue with what you were doing. Provide your dog with positive attention and praise when he exhibits good dog behavior and ignore bad dog behavior to show that is not the right way to get attention.
Most importantly, don’t set your dog up for failure. If you can, remove whatever it is that your dog is chewing. Before you go out, make sure to put any shoes or dangerous things your dogs may chew or eat out of their reach.