Does your dog (or puppy!) keep chewing items around the house when they shouldn’t be?
If so, this guide will give you the solutions you’re looking for.
In particular, we’re going to go over the main reasons why dogs (and especially puppies) are prone to chewing things you may not want them to – and we’ll also show you what you can to change this behavior.
Understanding How Your Dog Explores
First of all, it’s important to realize that dogs like to explore and experience the world with their mouths. This is especially common with young dogs and puppies who have just been brought into new environments.
So, in the same way that a human baby will explore with their hands, a puppy will investigate by chewing things!
Of course, while this is technically normal behavior, it’s still important to redirect the behavior towards appropriate things. Otherwise, there’s always the chance that your dog will learn to chew things that you don’t want them to, and this could wreak havoc in your home – especially if they start to destroy your most prized possessions.
Is Your Puppy Teething?
Another reason why your dog may be chewing furniture is because they are teething. Keep in mind that it usually takes anywhere from 4 to 6 months until a puppy’s adult teeth are fully developed, and their teeth can feel painful and uncomfortable for them during this time.
So to help with this discomfort, something that your dog does is to chew things, because it gives some relief.
But the key thing to keep in mind here is that from your dog’s point of view, chewing any items that are lying around the house is just as good as anything else – because it solves their problem!
While this may be a little rarer, there’s still a chance that the chewing-chewing problem is caused by a medical issue, so you may not want to rule this out too quickly.
If your dog has parasites or nutritional deficiencies, then this may lead to them chewing things in their general environment. As always, if you suspect a medical issue, your first port of call is a qualified professional.
Next, it’s important to consider whether your dog is chewing because they’re lonely. If they’re often left alone in the day for long periods of time with little to stimulate them, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you return home to a chewed up sofa. Remember, your dog isn’t doing this to spite you.
They’re simply feeling stress and anxiety caused by loneliness and boredom, so even though this can be frustrating for you as an owner, try to approach the situation with some sympathy – and you should never ‘yell’ or ‘punish’ your dog – because this is cruel and unnecessary.
Keep in mind that the act of chewing gives your dog pleasure – because it releases chemicals that relieve the anxiety that a lonely dog feels, so they’re doing it to relieve a kind of ‘psychological pain’ they’re feeling.
Remove Inappropriate Objects
Now that you understand more about why this problem occurs, the first thing you need to do is remove any items that your dog keeps chewing.
While this may be impractical if they’re chewing a sofa, it’s still possible to remove smaller items in most cases. This also includes other things your dog may chew, such as shoes, books, TV remotes, or anything within easy chewing range.
This task becomes even more important if your dog is inclined to chew anything small enough to pose a choking hazard.
Provide A Suitable Alternative
If your dog enjoys chewing, then it can be difficult to stop the behavior entirely – nor should you want to. A much easier goal is to redirect the behavior in a more suitable manner.
It’s also crucial to note that dogs enjoy chewing – so the problem isn’t necessarily the fact that your dog chews, it’s just that they’re chewing inappropriate objects!
Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy a variety of chew toys to give your dog some stimulation and variety.
Try to find things that have different shapes and textures (and even flavors!), to reduce the chance of your dog becoming bored with one particular toy and returning to your furniture. We’ve written an in-depth guide on dog chew toys that will show you dozens of options you could choose from, many of which your dog will find highly entertaining – so they’re a great way to distract them from unwanted chewing behavior.
Changing The Behavior
Stopping a dog from chewing can be a difficult task, so giving them suitable alternatives is always the most important step. But if they still prefer to chew your furniture, TV remotes, or shoes – then you’ll need to correct this behavior with a few redirection training techniques.
To do this, you’ll need to catch them in the act of chewing, and quickly get their attention. A clap of the hands should do the trick, but anything you can do to interrupt their focus and redirect it back to you should work.
Once you have their attention, you can give them the “leave it” command. After this, you’ll need to provide them with an alternative item to chew (so they learn to redirect the urge to chew on this toy). Once they have the new toy in their mouth, it’s time to give them praise and positive reinforcement.
Now, this technique may require a few repetitions to permanently alter your dog’s behavior – but if you’re patient and persistent, you’ll soon discover that your dog will prefer to chew their new toy rather than the inappropriate object.
Protecting Your Possessions
If you want to discourage your dog from chewing certain items, then it can be worth investing in some chew-repellant products that are designed to have a bitter taste to your dog. These are usually bitter apple sprays which are non-toxic and safe (but always check the label), and they should provide a negative reinforcement when your dog is chewing something he shouldn’t.
Of course, this isn’t a fix-all solution – because you may not want to spray your furniture with these products, but it’s still something to consider if you have a particularly persistent dog who likes to chew things they shouldn’t.
But it’s crucial to remember that you should always have a suitable chewing alternative available before you use this solution – because it’s unfair to deprive your dog of chewing satisfaction entirely.
What You Shouldn’t Do
Keep in mind that it’s absolutely vital to catch them in the act of chewing if you’re going to use redirect them successfully.
Scolding your dog a long time after the fact will only make them fearful of you, and they won’t know what they’ve done wrong, either.
From your dog’s point of view, chewing the furniture is acceptable behavior right now, so they just need to learn what they are allowed to chew instead – rather than be scolded or punished.
Ultimately, if you’re patient with your dog and consistent with your training, then you should see good results by implementing the techniques in this guide.
What’s more, there’s never a reason to ‘punish’ your dog for chewing inappropriate items – because you’ll be wasting your time and energy, and the only thing you’ll achieve is a fearful and unhappy dog – who may be more prone to chew inappropriate items! As always, it’s smarter to positively reward desirable behavior and simply ignore unwanted behavior.
Of course, it can take some patience, but if you stick with it, you’ll be delighted by the results.