Monday, October 12, 2015 | NHS Behavior Department
Chewing is a natural and enjoyable behavior for dogs. Dogs that have taken to chewing shoes and furniture don’t do so because they are mad or spiteful; they’re just being dogs. Young dogs use their teeth to explore the world around them and chew to help relieve teething pain. Dogs that are bored or are looking for attention can also develop unwanted chewing behaviors to help fix the problem. Set your dog up for success by preventing unwanted chewing and proving him appropriate things to chew on.
- Management: Dog proof your home by making tempting chew targets unavailable. Pick up shoes, clothes and the kids’ toys, and restrict access to areas that may cause temptation. Supervising your dog at all times will enable you to prevent bad habits from starting and teach him appropriate behavior. If he cannot be supervised, put him in a crate or dog safe-area.
- The right stuff: Keep a variety of chew toys available and rotate them every few days so that they’re always new and exciting. Puppy chew toys, the Kong and Nylabones are all great items for dogs to work their teeth on. Give your dog positive attention when he’s chewing on his toys.
- Exercise and interaction: Chewing can be a fun way for dogs to entertain themselves. Help fill this need by providing him with daily exercise and interaction to work both his body and mind. Daily walks, games of fetch or training sessions can help. You can also try feeding him via puzzle feeders or hollow toys that you stuff his meals into.
- If your dog is chewing on something that he shouldn’t, be make a sharp noise to startle – not scare – him and stop the behavior. As soon as he stops, entice him away from the item and offer an appropriate chew item.
- Teach your dog a “leave it” command, so if you catch him in the act, you can interrupt the chewing with the command. Reward the dog when he leaves the item alone.
- You can help deter your chewer from targeted items by spraying them with a taste aversive, such as bitter apple.
Things to keep in mind
- The “guilty look” is just a response to your angry tone and body posture. Putting his ears back, crouching, avoiding eye contact, and even moving away are all attempts to stop you being mad. He doesn’t know that his chewing is what made you mad – even if you told him.
- Punishment after the fact will not help, as dogs do not link past events to current actions. Unless you catch him in the act (see above), it’s best to take a deep breath and formulate a different plan to help your dog understand what he can and cannot chew.