Causes and Prevention of Chewing in Dogs

chewing

Every dog has a normal instinct to chew. Puppies chew to relieve the pain from teething, other dogs chew because they are bored and older dogs chew to keep their teeth strong and clean. Starting from birth, chewing is a way for dogs to explore and stimulate their mind and body.

Puppies love to chew. This is their way to discover new things and similar to babies, puppies put things into their mouth to feel out different objects, try different flavors and learn what is safe to chew and what is not. In addition, puppies go through a teething period where it is painful and they need to alleviate the discomfort. Chewing provides this relief. Unfortunately, this incessant chewing behavior can cause problems for owners if they are not monitored. Puppies will literally chew anything they can get their mouth on: toilet paper, trash, books, clothes, and furniture. They can cause damage to items that costs money to replace or fix and creates frustration for the owner. It takes patience, but there are ways you can prevent your puppy from chewing your personal belongings and direct the chewing behavior towards appropriate objects.

First, owners must realize that puppies do not know any better. Just like babies, they have an instinctual need to chew to relieve pain, explore, and learn. Getting angry, hitting, or yelling at a puppy will not teach him that that object is off limits. Showing the puppy the damage he has caused and punishing him will not work either, dogs cannot connect these two factors by time or by purpose. Second, do not tie your dog’s mouth closed or use a muzzle for a long period of time to prevent chewing. Many dogs have died by this; it teaches your dog nothing and is abuse. Lastly, owners must realize that they must be strict in setting boundaries for what objects are allowed for chewing and not. Simply tossing a chew toy in front of his face will not teach your dog that only the chew toy is for chewing and other objects are off limits.

Some effective tips owners can use to prevent destructive chewing:

  1. Supervise your dog as much as you can. The more you are there to catch his inappropriate chewing, the more he will learn what he can and cannot chew. If you see him chewing or licking the unwanted object, do not yell or hit him. You can sternly say “No chewing” or just “No” annd take away the object. But replace it with one he can chew and praise him. This way your dog will recognize that the replaced object is OK to chew and he is rewarded for it.
  2. If you are gone and your dog is alone for a certain amount of hours a day, keep your dog in a crate (if he is crate trained) or a small area with a door or gate, and remove all unwanted chewable objects. Make sure to provide him with other chew toys to keep him entertained and when you are present, remember to provide him with plenty of exercise and stimulation.
  3. Keep your dog tired! A tired dog who has had plenty of exercise or mental stimulation won’t seek out objects to chew as they are already entertained. This prevents boredom, gives physical exercise and keeps them social, all benefits.
  4. As a puppy, your dog will want to chew everything and anything. Puppy proof your home! Remove any objects that can be desirable for chewing or can harm your puppy. Do not leave valuable objects on the ground, close doors and keep your shoes and clothes off the floor.
  5. Dogs are picky too and just like humans, dogs like to have a variety of toys or chew bones. Edible chew bones allow for a little snack but do not give them cooked bones such as chicken bones as they can choke on them. Rotate toys to prevent boredom.
  6. Sprays can be an effective tool for to stop chewing. Pet stores sell sprays that are not harmful if ingested but taste and smell bad. If you see your dog chewing, spray a little on the object and see your dog’s reaction. If he dislikes the taste, he will spit out the object, shake his head and leave the item alone. Sprays are not 100% effective all the time, tastes differ for each dog.

It’s important to monitor your dog’s chewing behavior to check if it is normal or if there is something medically wrong. With a little patience and a gentle hand, owners can effectively teach their dog boundaries on what to chew and what not to chew.