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6 Ways to Prevent Your Dog's Destructive Chewing

Updated on March 1, 2011

Does your dog chew up everything in your house?

In order to curb destructive chewing it is first important to understand your dog's motives. A dog's destructive chewing can cause a lot of stress for both dog and owner. Are you tired of having to replace shoes, remote controls and furniture? Please read this lens to understand your dog's need for chewing and find out the best ways to prevent your dog's destructive chewing.

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Why Do Dogs Chew Destructively?

Each dog is unique, and thus will have different personality traits. Some dogs may only chew as puppies, and then grow out of it. While other dogs hang on to this trait for their whole life. Hunting breeds, such as spaniels, retrievers and hounds are predisposed to chewing, since they have long been bred to use their mouths.

Some dogs find pleasure in chewing, while others will chew as a result of being bored. If you have an active dog and you are away from home a lot of the day, you may find that your dog needs to be entertained to prevent destructive chewing.

Chewing by its very nature is already destructive, which makes the expression "destructive chewing" very redundant. Your dog has many sharp, pointed teeth and a powerful jaw, which is perfect for chewing on an object until it is destroyed. This "destructive chewing" was essential for wild dogs to survive before they became domesticated. The trick is to train your dog to use this chewing on their own toys and dog bones, and keep them away from chewing your shoes, electronics, furniture, etc.

Here are three of the main reasons why dogs chew:

1. Almost all dogs have a natural tendency to chew. Your dog may find chewing a fun way to pass the time. Additionally chewing is a self-rewarding, and a self-reinforcing activity. This means that if your dog is chewing on a tasty treat, they are rewarded or reinforced to continue chewing until the treat is gone.

2. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, boredom or general nervousness, chewing is the perfect outlet to "express" their emotions. Some people may find that their dog only destructively chews while they are away at work, so the owner can immediately recognize that their dog is bored and/or lonely. Dogs that have an anxious temperament find the repetitiveness of chewing very soothing, allowing them to focus their attention away from feeling anxious. This behavior is similar to humans eating comfort food.

3. The last main reason dogs chew incessantly, is due to lack of exercise. Even though most dogs will sleep a majority of the day, if they don't get to burn off some energy then they will look for another way to do this. A dog that is pent up inside all day will often end up being destructive using chewing as a main outlet.

Understanding your dog's behavior will result in being able to better train your dog. This can save you a lot of stress and frustration, and will lead to a happy and healthy relationship with your dog.

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6 Ways to Prevent Your Dog's Destructive Chewing

You may think that it hopeless to try to stop your dog's destructive chewing, but not to worry it is possible to train your dog. It may not happen overnight, and it may take some effort and patience, but all your training will pay off in the end. Below are six ways to effectively prevent your dog from destructive chewing.

1. The first step to take is to dog-proof your home. No matter how well-behaved your dog is, there is no need to test their self-control. Since dogs explore the world using their mouths, you need to take control of the situation by managing your possessions.

The best way to dog-proof your home is to move whatever you don't want to end up being chewed. Important factors to consider when moving objects is to determine how agile and high up your dog can reach. Dogs that can jump or climb need further consideration when placing an object high up. It is best to keep objects out of sight, so your dog doesn't attempt to jump for the object and end up hurting themselves. Also keep in mind how tall your dog is when standing on their hind legs.

The most common objects dogs like to chew in the home are: garbage, shoes, clothing, eye glasses, books, and small crunchy appliances such as cameras, cell phones, and remote controls. It vital that all food is securely put away. Specifically don't leave snacks on low tables or counter tops -- many dogs perform amazing fetes to get hold of a tasty snack. Also, make sure that dishes in left in the sink are rinsed off and don't have any food left on them.

2. If your dog always chooses a specific object that is off-limits to chewing, it is imperative to stop your dog from continuing to chew that item. The more times your dog is able to chew on a forbidden object -- such as your sofa, a chair-leg, a pillow, your shoes -- the more readily they'll target those items in future. It will be a lot easier for your dog to understand what you expect of them if you can stop your dog from chewing your stuff in the first place. The most effective way to do this is to confine them in a dog-proofed area until you are confident they understand what your house rules are.

3. A good way to prevent inappropriate chewing is to not confuse your dog. This means when playing with your dog don't give them any clothes, socks, shoes, or towels. It is not realistic for your dog to know the difference between you offering them a sock to bite on, and them finding a sock to chew on (one that you don't want destroyed).

4. Give your dog many tasty alternatives to chew, so they will leave your stuff alone. If your dog doesn't have many or any chew toys, then it is hard to blame them for targeting your possessions. Always remember that most dogs need to chew; if your dog is under three years old or a puppy, they will have a greater need to chew. Make sure to have plenty of different chew toys on hand, and then give them only two or three to play with at a time. It is best to rotate the toys every few days, so your dog will stay interested with the "fresh" toys.

5. Make sure you do a lot of active supervision of your dog. It can be easier for you to keep her penned up in her crate or the yard, but that is terribly boring for them and isn't much fun for you either. Your dog won't be able to learn what you expect from them, if they spend all of their time cooped up in the dog-proofed area of the house. You need the opportunity to teach your dog what their boundaries are, so they can understand what your expectations are.

6. During these active supervision times when you catch your dog chewing something inappropriate, interrupt them immediately by making a loud noise. You can either clap your hands or make an "Ah-ah-aah!" noise. Then, instantly give them a tasty and dog-appropriate alternative such as a rawhide bone or other chew toy. Once your dog has closed their jaws around the toy, praise them lavishly. This is the best way to get your dog to understand that chewing "their" toys equals praise from you, but everything else equals trouble.

Keep a productive and positive attitude

Most importantly remember to keep your expectations realistic. You and your dog are not perfect, and there will likely be at least one time when a cherished item is damaged by their curiosity. During the early days of your relationship, they are still learning the ropes. It can take awhile before they are completely reliable, and remember that if your dog is left on their own for too long too often, they may revert back to finding something to chew to stay entertained. Your dog needs time to learn the rules, and giving them plenty of 'you-time' will help them learn faster.

How Do You Deal With Your Dog's Distructive Chewing?

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    • SallyCin profile image

      SallyCin 5 years ago

      @anonymous: If your beagle has separation anxiety, you may want to check out my other lens:

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have tried all of the above mentioned suggestions to no avail, molly my seven month old beagle continues to chew up my sofa when we are away, we tried keeping her in our kitchen, but she actually chewed her way through the gate, to get out . We have a twelve year old German Shepherd, who gives us no trouble at all. I need suggestions, I know Molly hates to be left alone

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 8 years ago

      Great list, I don't have a job, but this is helpful!