Dogs have been known to chew almost everything from doors, windows, and car seat belts to balloons, books, mobile phones and underwear! So what is going on, and what’s the reason for all this chewing?
Before you begin to put together a solution for your dog or puppy’s chewing, it’s important to understand the real cause of the behavior. You need to be a bit of a detective.
So here are the 5 most common reasons that your dog or puppy is chewing and what you can do about it.
Reason #1 – Puppy teething
Puppies love to chew and it’s one way they discover the world. They don’t use their paws the same way that we use our hands to investigate.
Also, just like with young kids where teething can be painful, there is (for some dogs) a degree of pain when their new teeth are coming through. To help them with this they chew. It releases pleasurable endorphins into the bloodstream which help to deal with the pain.
It’s best not to try and stop this chewing… just simply redirect your puppy onto their chew toys. One thing to consider is the texture of the toy. It’s no use giving a young puppy a solid plastic lump that they can’t get their teeth into.
They will far prefer a soft toy. And if your puppy keeps chewing something harder then maybe find them something they can really get their teeth into.
Reason #2 – Dogs that are bored
If your dog is left a long time alone with no toys or no new toys, they may well become bored go exploring… looking for adventure: “Hey what’s this… looks like a broomstick and the handle smells of Mum and Dad… I know it’s not really mine, but I’m bored…”
However if your dog had been given something to keep their mind occupied beforehand they would probably leave your kitchen broom alone. Maybe consider something new to chew on like a solid rubber ball. Again making sure they have a decent supply of fun toys to chew and play with is the key. And giving them plenty of exercise and stimulation is vital too.
To keep your pups entertained, chewing on the things you want and not your furniture, check out:
Reason #3 – Their toys aren’t labeled
Often dogs and puppies are simply not aware of what is theirs and what is not. After all its unlikely that your dog’s toys are clearly labeled! And since we have touched nearly everything in our homes, everything has our scent on it, so we need to make it very clear when it is their toy to chew so there is no misunderstanding.
The best and easiest way to do this is to very simply call them over to their bed when you have something to give them, then say “This is for Oscar” whilst putting it into their mouth and then praising them as they chew it. If they go to chew something they shouldn’t, calmly take it off them and replace it with a similar item that they can chew.
Reason #4 – Tastes or feels good
When something smells of you, it instantly becomes more interesting to your puppy or dog. So a smelly sock is more interesting than a clean one! And natural fibres are often more interesting than synthetic, so a leather gardening glove that you’ve been wearing can become a highly desirable item to a young dog!
In this situation it’s a case of putting used clothing in the wash bin, as my mother would say, and giving your dog as many interesting items to keep them happy as you can! So set your dog up to win and keep it simple… oh, and that way you’ll also have a tidy bedroom! The same applies to garden fertilizers such as blood and bone (it smells good to dogs!) and bags of dog food. If it can be moved and put securely out of the way then that’s a great solution! Remember…Keep It Simple.
Reason #5 – Stress related chewing when you are not home
Okay. I left this one till last because for me it’s the big one. It’s the one that people miss. Because this type of chewing is actually a symptom of separation anxiety.
Chewing as we discussed earlier releases endorphins into the blood which help ease stress. It’s the same reason that many people will chew gum or finger nails when they become stressed. So if you have a dog or puppy who seems to turn into a chewing machine when you leave, then I would suggest they probably have separation anxiety. Especially if it’s combined with barking, whining, self mutilation, digging or trying to escape. Classic signs for this are chewing doors and windows to get out, chewing items that you handle a lot such as phones, keys, books, glasses, remote controls and washing off the line.
Separation anxiety is a serious issue where the hierarchy of the pack is not clear to the dog and they believe it’s their job to protect you. In this situation leaving down chew toys or bones is not going to help you.
The best analogy is to imagine you are looking after a young child at home. You are responsible, and suddenly you realise that they have walked off down the street. Do you relax with a cup of tea? What about if you are offered a box of chocolates? No, nothing will calm you down. The only thing that matters is finding them, and if you are locked inside the home and can’t get out you may very well start chewing some gum and your fingernails!
The simple way to solve this serious issue is to understand the game of ‘who’s in charge’ that your dog is playing. Once the pack structure is clear to them, you’ll find they’re more than happy for you to come and go as often as you please. To see how I’ve trained over 77,000 dogs (many of which had chewing problems) read this now!
Best of luck with the chewing…
~Doggy Dan 🙂