If you’ve ever had a dog…
- Chew up your brand-new shoes
- Gnaw on your furniture
- Tear up your carpet
…you’re not alone.
One of the most common behavioral issues dog owners come across is chewing.
This makes sense as dogs have a natural instinct to gnaw on things.
In fact, dogs should be given opportunities to chew as the behavior helps keep their teeth clean and provides them with constructive entertainment.
But, why is it that your dog always seems to pick the wrong thing to chew, i.e., your brand-new bedroom slippers.
Or more importantly, how do you correct the behavior so your dog knows the difference between what he is allowed to tear apart and what should be left untouched?
Keep reading to find out…
Why Dogs Chew Stuff
First and foremost, it’s important to point out the reasons behind why your dog might be chewing up your things.
Until we know the root cause of the problem, we won’t be able to put training in place to fix it.
As we mentioned above, dogs have a natural instinct to chew.
That being said, there’s often a bigger underlying issue as to why your dog feels the need to eat your coffee table.
It’s likely that your pup fits into one of the following 3 categories…
REASON ONE: Your Dog Is a Puppy Who Needs to Chew
If you have a young puppy, he’s going to want to chew things.
The biggest reason: teething.
Puppies start getting teeth around the age of 16 weeks. And, it’s possible that they will continue to teeth until they are 7 to 8 months old.
Knowing this, it’s vital to prepare for this uncomfortable phase in your pup’s life. Even more so, it’s important to be compassionate towards your dog during this painful time.
In order to prevent your puppy from chewing on inappropriate items and learning bad behavior, here’s what I recommend…
#1 – Provide your pup with adequate chewing toys.
The best thing you can do for a puppy is to ensure he has enough “puppy appropriate” things to chew.
I personally recommend a variety of materials so your dog can select which he prefers. For example…
- Hard rubber toys such as a Kong.
- Rope toys, just a length of rope with a few good knots in it.
- Wooden toys. (I often I will select sticks or pine cones that are cheap and safe.)
- Softer material like a dish towel, damp and a knot tied in it.
- Large natural Cannon Bones. (Ensure they are solid and safe. Always avoid things like chicken bones that splinter and break.)
- Bully sticks or similar chew “treats.”
#2 – Learn the skill of redirection.
Redirection is a training technique in which you redirect your dog’s bad behavior (chewing on your table leg) to an appropriate behavior (chewing on a bone).
Remember, your dog is a puppy. It’s likely that he really doesn’t know better when it comes to chewing up your stuff.
Help teach him what’s acceptable to chew by calmly removing him from the inappropriate item he is chewing and transferring him to a toy or a treat he can chew instead.
#3 – Keep your stuff off the floor.
Last but not least, I recommend the most common-sense habit—keeping your stuff off the floor.
A young puppy isn’t going to be keen on what’s his to chew and what’s not.
Therefore, it’s your responsibility as a puppy parent to ensure your dog isn’t able to get into things that he shouldn’t.
It’s much like having a new baby in your home.
You wouldn’t leave dangerous items on your floor for a baby to reach. You also shouldn’t trust that your pup knows the difference between what is safe and not safe to chew/play with.
REASON TWO: Your Dog Hasn’t Been Trained Properly
The second reason your dog might chew things is simply because he wasn’t trained properly.
The good news…it’s never too late to teach your dog a new trick.
Here’s what I recommend trying if you’ve never taught your dog the difference between what’s ok and not ok to chew.
#1 – Timeouts
Timeouts are a very kind way to help your dog understand when he’s doing something naughty.
Here’s how it works…
- You catch your dog chewing on your slipper.
- Calmly walk up to your dog, remove the slipper from his mouth, and tell him no.
- Put the slipper back on the floor.
- If your dog goes back to chewing on the slipper, repeat the process, and then calmly walk him to his crate.
- Leave your dog in his crate for 3 to 5 minutes,and then let him free.
- Every time he goes back to chew the slipper, place him back in his crate for a few minutes.
Dogs are brilliant animals, and eventually your pup is going to realize that chewing on the slipper (or whatever object it might be) will warrant him a few minutes in puppy jail.
#2 – Reward good behavior.
This one is very simple and straightforward.
If you walk into a room and your dog is chewing his bone instead of your carpet, take a minute to reward him.
You could simply give him a nice pat or a cookie.
When you’re just starting out, it’s ok to go a little overboard with praise.
However, as your dog gets the hang of what he should be chewing, back off on giving praise/treats.
#3 – Keep your dog in eyesight.
Dogs are so smart that they’ve been known to try and hide their naughty behaviors from their owners.
For example, your dog might know that he’s not allowed to eat your stilettos. But, if the urge to chew one up hits, he may sneak upstairs into your bedroom when you’re not looking.
Unfortunately, that will leave you to walk into the aftermath of your dog’s chewing. And, because you didn’t actually catch your pup in the act of chewing, it’s not really fair or possible to scold or punish him.
The best way to stay on top of your dog’s naughty chewing behavior is to keep him contained to the rooms you are in.
You can do this by shutting bedroom doors, installing baby gates, or keeping your pup on a short leash.
Doing this will allow you to keep tabs on your dog so that, if you catch him in the act of chewing something, you can redirect him or put him in a timeout as necessary.
Before I move on to the next group, I want to note that the things we discussed regarding puppies apply to dogs who haven’t been properly trained as well.
If you’re interested in checking it out firsthand, here’s a great video of me using all three of these techniques with a little dog named Chester who loves to chew slippers.
Check it out…
REASON THREE: Your Dog Suffers from Anxiety or Another Behavioral Issue
If you’ve tried everything from providing your dog with chew toys to putting him in timeouts for naughty behavior, and he’s still chewing your stuff, it’s very likely he has an underlying behavioral issue at play.
For example, your pup might…
- Be bored.
- Have anxiety.
- Have too much energy.
All of these things can cause dogs to chew—regardless of whether your dog knows it’s acceptable or not acceptable.
Let’s start with stressed or anxious dogs.
As humans, we might resort to obsessive compulsive behaviors or exhibit habits like nail-biting when we are stressed or suffering from anxiety.
Your dog might do the same, except instead of biting his nails, he might decide to eat your priceless, antique knickknack.
One of the best ways to relieve your dog’s stress or anxiety is exercise.
Of course, your dog should be exercised every single day. However, if you see your dog uncharacteristically chewing on things, add an extra walk or a game of fetch into your daily routine to see if that helps.
By far the biggest cause of anxiety-driven chewing I see on a daily basis is from separation anxiety.
Curbing separation anxiety is somewhat of a complex issue, and I can’t do the process justice in this blog post.
If your dog is chewing due to separation anxiety, I encourage you to go check out one of my podcasts that talks directly about how to deal with separation anxiety.
Next, I want to talk about dogs who cannot switch off.
What I mean by this is that there are dogs who feel as if they have a job (protect the family, guard food, keep track of you/your kids) and they can’t turn off and relax because they are constantly “working.”
This often happens due to a dog feeling as if he is the one in charge in your home.
Eventually the stresses of “running” your household may lead your dog to chew in order to calm down and relax.
The solution: Make it clear to your dog that you are the provider in your home.
Once again, this is a bit of a complex issue, so I want to direct you to an article I wrote that talks about how I’ve helped over 37,000 relax and calm down so they can kick their bad habits.
Last but not least, your dog might be bored.
If this is the case, I recommend that you…
- Get off the couch and play with your pup more often.
- Add an extra walk into your dog’s routine.
- Ensure your dog has enough toys to chew and play with.
Even with proper training, getting your dog to stop chewing your stuff might not happen overnight. For that reason, it’s important to learn how to properly safety proof your home so that both your dog and your stuff stays safe.
I’ve put together a FREE guide for safety proofing your home, and I encourage you to give it a read.
Best of luck as you work to curb your pups bad chewing habit.