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Stop Chewing and Digging

Updated on December 27, 2007


Dog Problem Behaviors

There are many problems that dogs and puppies succumb to in their lifetimes. Chewing and digging being two of the main problems many pet parents tend to have.

There are many reasons as to why you dog may have a problem with destructive chewing and digging, meaning there are many ways to correct it.

Using a 6 month old lab, as our example, we're going to try to correct your pups problem behaviors. Do take into account, that labs tend to be puppies until they are two years old, and chewing is a common destructive habit for most labs.

Puppy Chewing

Destructive Chewing

Puppies chew for a variety of reasons to include teething. Chewing irritates the gums, relieving the pain and pressure. At six months old, our lab puppy is still teething; his adult canines and back molars are still growing in.

Purchase safe, durable toys and chews for puppies to chew on while they are still teething. You can, also freeze certain fruits and vegetables to help alleviate the pain.

Make sure that the puppy gets enough exercise and social interaction.

Consider using a toy box to store chew toys and bones. This will help the puppy understand which items he is allowed to chew on.

Keep 'off limit' items away from the puppy and off the floor. Consider using a chew deterrent sold at most petstores. (Be careful with some sprays, as they may have the opposite affect that you want. When first bringing the deterrent home, spray a small area where the pup tends to chew, if he chows down, return the spray, and exchange it for a different brand. Sometimes individuals may like the taste of Bitter Apple, but hate Bitter End.)

If the puppy begins to chew on and 'off limit' item, give him something he can have.

Praise the puppy when he picks up and chews on an appropriate item.

Confine the puppy to a crate or puppy-safe room when you can't watch him appropriately.


Puppies and dogs dig for various reasons, to include boredom, mimicry, and to find a cool spot to lay. But, to really decipher why you're dog digs, you need to evaluate a few things.

We can determine why out 6 month old lab, is digging by where he chooses to dig.

  • Flower bed: Our puppy is mimicking our gardening skills.
  • Under a tree or bush: He is trying to find a cool spot to lay.
  • By the fence: The pup is trying to break free, due to his freedom instinct or just plain hormones.
  • All over: Our puppy is either bored or we have a rodent problem.

If our lab is digging in the flower bed, put him away when it's time to garden, so he cannot see you digging up the flowers.

Digging to find a cool spot to lay, is simple to correct. Provide our puppy with a dog house, cool water, or even a kiddy pool with a few inches of water.

Our pup may be getting a whiff of a dog in heat. It would be a good time to consider neutering the puppy.

And, the usual problem, of digging all over the yard... If you have a rodent problem, call an exterminator, to rid your yard of the rodents. Otherwise, provide your dog with plenty of exercise and attention to help aid the boredom. Possibly consider getting another puppy.

Other things to try include:

  • Keep his nails trimmed.
  • Consider using anti-digging outdoor repellents, such as 'Pet Organics No-Dig! Lawn & Yard Spray.'
  • Provide the puppy with a place he can dig. Set aside a corner of the yard and either (1) add a child's sandbox filled with the puppy's favorite toys, bones, and treats, letting him know it's safe to dig there. (2) You can section off the yard with lumbar, filling the section with play sand and again burying his favorite things.

Basic Obedience

Basic obedience training is a great way to start correcting problem behaviors with your dog. Teaching basic commands like, stay, wait, come, and leave it, can all save your dogs life one day.

Training your dog is a great way to build the bond that you truly want to have with man's best friend. It's, also, a great way to make a happier pet out of your dog. The less he's in trouble, the happier he is and the happier you are.

"Leave It" Command

Teaching the 'leave it' command will help our lab puppy with both his chewing and his digging problems. By giving the pup the command, he learns that he must leave that item alone or stop digging in that area.

You can teach you pup the 'leave it' command by taking his favorite 'off limit' item and offering it to him. When he goes after the, let's say, sock, tell him to 'leave it.' Continue saying 'leave it' until the puppy looks at you or away, even for just a brief second. Reward the puppy, telling him 'good leave it' and offer him a treat. Continue this process until your dog recognizes what you're asking of him.

Do not get ugly if the puppy does not respond to the command at first; he doesn't know what it means yet. At first, he will tug and tug trying to get at the 'off limit' item. Don't let him get to it, pull him back just enough. Do not cover the item, as it will teach the puppy that the item disappears, but what you want him to learn is to leave it alone.

Pictures can be found at


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    • profile image

      Louise Rodgers 5 years ago

      I have a lab she is 2years and 3weeks old. She has a crat but we leve it open. She has been left in the house on her own and she will chewing everything in the kichen she stay in the kichen its big for her. I just want to no why she cloud be doing it she is traned . She only seams to do it ones or twies a week when we all go to bed and when we go out. We awake or come in to a mess or she chews her bed when she dunes not have her musel on we had to get one to see if it helps to stop the. WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP THE WE DO NOT WANT HER IN A CRAT OR HAVING TO WHERE A MUSLE .

    • profile image

      Amber 6 years ago

      Me and my boyfriend got our dog last year. She is also just a year and a month old. She is half huskey and half golden retriever. She literally destroys everything. We kept her in a kennel at night and while we weren't home while potty training her and she tore it up completely to where we couldn't use it anymore. My boyfriend built her a little fence outside to were she stays there when we leave. She sleeps in our room with us at night and when we wake up she has done gotten into things i didn't even know she could and the rooms a complete mess! same as the livingroom. She will get into the trash and strow it all over the livingroom and she has torn our couch up to the point of us having to get a new one.. My boyfriend is getting to the point of wanting to get rid of her but i desperatly want to keep her.. Is there anything we can do to stop this behavior?

    • profile image

      Jan McLennan 6 years ago

      We have a dog named Brandy who is now one and a half years old we think. We acquired her at 10 months old. She is a Bull Arab Cross (with a Basenji, we think) and she has wrecked shoes left outside (always my husbands) and chewed up little outside ornaments. She has got pot plants and pulled the plants out, and chewed the roots. She also is a digger and since Good Friday, she has dug two huge holes in a large mound of dirt where a small group of bananas are growing. If Dale fills the holes in, she will dig them again by next morning. For the last 3 days, we haven't filled the holes in. This morning I found one of the little plaster parrots I had in a pot plant, was out on the side of our house with its back chewed out. I was so angry with her too. She has not really got out of this dreadful puppy stage. Can you advise us on any suggestions.

    • profile image

      brebre 6 years ago

      i have a one year old puppy and all he does is dig and chew and is making the family insane so i hope this works out!!!!

    • profile image

      lyn 6 years ago

      i have a 3 month shih tzu cross bichon frise we have her one week apart from the peeing every where he has started pulling his bed apart and snapping i am at work most of the day but he gets out to play with my 2 young children before we go out in the morning, i then come at lunch and bring him for a walk and he then goes again when i come home he also has lots of toys and a kong which was suggested, he is entertained quiet alot so im not sure what else i can do thanks

    • profile image

      Jay 6 years ago

      Have you got any advice for Dogs jumping over walls? I have a neighbor's dog that leaps over a wall and goes to explore, i understand it wants freedom but the owner's yard is quite large and the dog does have many toys to play with, I'm getting fed up of this dog running around as a freelancer though, i'm considering to give the Police a call and notify them that the owner is incompetent, and is unable to safely keep their dog in the property, The owner doesn't give a damn if the dog runs away. What would you suggest i do from your point of view?

    • profile image

      Debbie 55 6 years ago

      We have an 8 month old pitt. She absolutely will not let us answer the door without giving us a horrible bark, bearing teeth and even tries to nip at one of us. Even if I am on the other side of the door or my husband, it seems like we are burglars. It is frightening to answer the door. What to do?

    • profile image

      melindaregner 6 years ago

      Mine is a Labrador/Bernard mix. About 6 months old. We had her trained on a dog chewing sessions on one of the kennel clubs near us but it looks like nothing happened. What should i do?

    • profile image

      Anna-Maree 6 years ago

      I use to bury my dog's faeces in the holes that they dug up always worked for me but kinda disgusting.

    • profile image

      anita 7 years ago

      my puppy is a mix of mastif pit bull and german sheperd he can be agresive and has now started digging very deep holes and my older dog never dug but now digs with the puppy what can i do as not our propity thank you anita

    • cwarden profile image

      cwarden 7 years ago from USA

      I have 2 diggers right now and they are driving me crazy! I find random holes everywhere. My 3 year old never used to dig before I brought my puppy home. The puppy is 8 months old. Both are shepherd mixes.

      I have to stay outside with them now, instead of just watching them from my desk and it often means shorter play times for them.

      I see that my 3 year old now tries to start digging as soon as she gets out the door. I would love to eventually allow them to play in the yard alone again but I can't seem to stop this. They try to sneak around the corner to dig and its almost like a contest or a game.

      Any thoughts?

    • mogwai2000 profile image

      mogwai2000 7 years ago

      Yes, repetition, consistency and especially exercise do wonders to dogs. Besides keeping them healthy, it keeps us healthy too, at least mentally :).

    • climberjames profile image

      climberjames 7 years ago from Steel City

      Thanks for the really great advice! My pup loves to dig!

    • profile image

      loolah 8 years ago

      Hello Whitney. We have a 5 year old Dane/Boxer girl we got from the pound 3 years ago (she's now 5) and adopted a Dane, also from the pound, about 6 weeks ago. There's usually someone home most days and the dogs are inside with us except at night when they sleep on the deck outside (she prefers to and he chews, see below). Could I ask two questions?:

      1. The old dog is very jealous of the new dog, and has started chewing her tail until it bleeds. She's always been a nervous dog because of her past (5 different homes) but had settled beautifully until he came. We give her a lot of affection still, but it's not helping. Any suggestions?

      2. The new boy is 2.5 years old. He is fabulous - chilled, patient, affectionate. Just gorgeous. He's settling in fine, but there are some problems. THe major one is chewing. He has a preference for shoes, but he'll also go for fish food containers etc. I used to think it was separation anxiety and that he only did it when he was denied access to us or shut outside, but today he chewed a boot when we were in another room with the door open and he had full access to us if he wished. He never chews when we're in the room so we can't tell him not to and substitute a toy.

      Thanks for any advice you can offer.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      I'm not sure if you have any leash laws, but you may want to check on that. Some counties have laws where you can fine a neighbor for not confining the dog. I would not recommend digging up the neighbor's yard with a bulldozer, as you can serious be fined and possibly worse for damaging property. Consider calling law enforcement to get rules and regulations.

    • profile image

      Gretchen 8 years ago

      My neighbor's lab constantly digs up my flower bed. They don't spend any time with the poor dog. Also they don't have any respect for other people's property. So, I am now seriously considering digging up their front yard with my boyfriend's bulldozer.

    • profile image

      Amber  8 years ago

      I have a "marley" on my hands here. I love my Pup, he is the best thing to come into my life. But recently he has started chewing. It's a table leg, then the kitchen wall, the railing that runs along my back steps. I've tried everything!! Tabasco sauce, bitter apple sprays, I have even tried habanero hot sauce Nohting will knowck my guy from chewing. He even gets an hour and a half walk which ends in about 30 minutes of play time in the park.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      Try using a kennel. The behavior is self rewarding, so you can't break it unless you catch him in the act. If you punish him when you get him, he'll eventually become scared when you come home because all he's seeing is when mom/dad come home, I get in trouble. He doesn't realize that he's getting in trouble for damaging the doors, even if you shove his face at the door, he's not going to fully understand. He's just going to see that he gets in trouble every time you come home.

    • profile image

      JefflAlley 8 years ago

      We have an 8 week old Boxer puppy. When we go to work every day, we put him in the bathroom. He does great with not going potty inside the bathroom, but he is digging at the door to get out and is destroying our bathroom door. Also, when we let him outside he digs at the back door and is damaging the door. How can we break this behavior?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      Figure out why she's digging the holes and go from there. She could be teething her last few molars, as well as plain boredom. I have tips above. You just have to figure out why she's digging and chewing before you can address how to fix it.

    • profile image

      Sonya 8 years ago

      I also have a new german sheppard / chow pupppy- 7 mths old now. Very active, chews everything, has toy's galore and still chews the lawnmower. Digs holes to China and can't be left alone in the house for a moment. She is smart, but hardheaded. Never stops, needs ridlin, litterally. She gets plenty of exercise and loving, when she will be still long enough. I have a 3 yr old sheppard .chow mix and he never gave me the trouble this one has. Any ideas on how to calm her down, just a bit?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      With a puppy, you never let it out of your sight, even if that means another dog will be aroudn you. Depending on how you're disciplining the dog, it may easily be construed as abuse. Positive training is more effective than hitting and yelling. Hitting/spanking can be considered abuse. (Not saying that's what you're doing.)

      Boredom is a common reason for digging the yard; german shepherd are very intelligent dogs and need a job to do or they get bored easily. Consider more exercise and more training. There shouldn't be any reason why you can't do training constantly at all times as the pup shouldn't be out of your site ever until fully trained and house trained. You can do combined training session with your older dog and the pup, having the older dog sit/stay or down/stay while you work with the pup training sit.

    • profile image

      Jenn 8 years ago

      We recently got a German Shepard pup at 13 weeks old...brought her home and she was a dream pup, calm, no food aggression, never pottied in the house, good with our 20 month old baby, she was just very timid. But now she is almost 20 weeks old and she is digging up my lawn, eating our siding, pooping inside at night (even after she has been outside) she can not be left alone in our yard she is just destructive. We have an older German Shepard also and can never get a private moment with the pup to play around the house or discipline her do you have a suggestion on how to navigate the older dog to allow the shy destructive pup some one on one time and what can I do about her destructive behaviors, every time we discipline her the neighbors think we are abusing our dog she gets so upset??? I am at a loss!!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      The beauty of the dog isn't the reason as to why you should keep a dog. In a way it's your sister's dog, so it's her ultimate decision. If you have the time to train him to not dig and chew,then by all means take him and train him. But if you don't have the experience to do so, then it'll be a lot of trouble for you and he'll continue to do the same thing. You'll need to spend time training him not to chew and dig. Neutering him may help, but he sounds bored seriously bored. German shepherds are very intelligent dogs and without a job to do get bored and destructive, unless you can provide this for him, then it would be better if the dog can get a home experienced with German Shepherds.

    • profile image

      *rina* 8 years ago

      My sister bought a german shephard when he was 8 weeks old. He's now 8 months old, and he's digging holes in her backyard and chewing everything (the other day, he chewed her lawnmower and whipper-snipper). Now she's talking about ringing the breeder to give him back. As I dont want this to happen, because he really is a beautiful dog, I'm considering asking if I can have him. Is he only like this because he never leaves the yard? Will he be a problem dog if I exercise him daily and give him the love and attention I fear he's not getting from them? I know he's good around children as well as they have 2 3 year olds. Any advice on how to train the chewing and digging out of him, and I guess, does anyone think I will be making a mistake by taking a dog that has this problem??? Thanks

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      Labs are notorious chewers, destructively cheing throughout the first 2 years. Try a different chew deterrent spray. Or start training 'leave it' commands.

    • profile image

      ang04 9 years ago

      My about 9 month old lab is chewing our couch. She has destroyed the whole back of it. We have rawhides through the whole house. We have had her almost 4 months and she just now started this. I tried the bitter apple and it hasn't stopped.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      I'm really not sure. There must be something on the floor that's causing it. The only thing I can suggest is to train him 'leave it' and try to put something over the areas. If you can figure out why he's doing it, it'll be easier to train him not to do it.

    • profile image

      Bailey 9 years ago

      We have a 1 year old cat. But she has never had an accident in the house. Our puppy also does it to all corners in the living room not just one of them. and she will sometimes do it by the fireplace as well.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      Remember that just because you can't smell it, doesn't mean the dog can't. A dog's sense of smell is the first thing that develops and it's the strongest of the 5 senses for a dog. Try putting something over the spot. Also catch the pup every time it tries to dig and tell her 'no.' Do you have any other pets?

    • profile image

      Bailey 9 years ago

      Our 10 week old Golden Retriever scratches like crazy in the corner of our living room. We have hardwood floors so it is extremely loud and annoying. I am wondering why she is doing it. The corner has nothing in it and I cant smell any odor from it. How can we get her to stop? Any advice would be amazing!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      Sounds like you need to work on basic obedience. the puppy is digging and playing in his kennel because it's a puppy. they have high energy. as for the snapping, it's probably just playful but you need to consult a trainer in terms of getting basic obedience commands down pat or else you WILL have a problem on your hands.

    • profile image

      SeamusO'Flanigan 9 years ago

      I have a three and a half month old Goldendoodle. I have had him for 6 days now. He gets 2 45 minute walks a day and goes out for pee about 6 other times. I take time to play with him in my home but for the last 2 nights - around 10pm he starts to get really really aggressive in his play. Last night after a long walk and a game of fetch with me and my three Godsons, I took him home to start to settle him down for the night. (It was 9pm and he had just had 30 minutes of constant running and fetching.) When I get him home I always allow him to roam around (I live in an open loft-like apartment) and find his toys. The first 4 nights he found them and placed them in his bed in the living area (he is crated at night in another room) and had a wonderful time chewing and rolling around. The night before last the play started to escalate until he was running from his crate to the other end of the apartment and then chewing and digging into his bed. I tried to distract him with is favorite squeeky toy but he continued to fixate on the bed, chewing and digging into it. Last night when I tried to intervene and get him to settle down he started rolling around like he was possessed and growling and snapping in the air. When I reached over to stop him he lunged toward my hand snapping at it with his teeth. UUUuuuhhhhh I need some help here!! Thanks........Lauren

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      I'd say train him to stop. I know it sounds silly, but it's possible. If you want him to stop talking, train him to hush on command, so that he knows that it isn't the time.

    • profile image

      Martylynn 9 years ago

      Well I am certainly glad to know that my 9 mo old black lab mix is pretty normal about the destructive chewing. I continually bring home toys that if they have a squeaker inside he will tear it to shreads in a few days to get the plastic squeaker out. However, I do have one problem that I haven't heard anyone ask about. My dog just doesn't bark, he talks back. When I tell him to do something that he know he doesn't want to do he argues about it. If I say anything "shhh" him it just gets worse. I want to crack up laughing because it really is funny because he is so obviously defiant, but he gets worse when I do. Seriously, I can't carry on a conversation with another human with this going on. Any suggestions.



    • profile image

      Bryan 9 years ago

      Great info so far!

      I have a new small dog in the house she is 8 months old. (Chihuahua/Terrier Mix)

      She only chews when no one is around or looking and she digs randomly throughout the back yard.

      I have not gone to crate training cause she interacts really well with our 14 year old Australian Shepard and I want both our old lady and the puppy to get the daily excersise when we are not home.

      Any idea's

      P.S. we just started with some Bitter Apples spray to try to help.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      The lab part of your dog is taking over. Labs are notorious chewers... I'm sorry... It can take some labs as long as 2 or more years to stop chewing, but if all your dog is chewing are sheets, then you didn't get the worst of it. Try training your dog the leave it command, and every time she goes to chew on the blanket, say leave it, and eventually she'll learn to leave it alone, but it will take time.

      *Note: You'll want to start small, but it may be a good idea to use a blanket or sheet to help teach the command.

    • kitten998 profile image

      kitten998 9 years ago from Cleveland Ohio

      We have tons of dog toys about the house and lil turd will still be laying in her chair chewing the sheet that covers the chair or sneak into the bedroom and chew on the comforter. One of the worst problems is that she destroys any dog bed or blanket etc that we put in her crate so she's not laying on hard plastic for hours (she has a nylabone and a kong full of pnut butter with her each day too) -- got any good ideas. I think she is just doomed to a hard tray for now - she's a lab/shep mix and will be 1 yr old in nov.... I so hope I don't have another year of this ahead of us. :(

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      You may want to consider a vet or a a behaviorist. I think at this point it may be a little habit, but a little anxiety still built up. Is the dog an inside dog or both. Have you had her skin checked out for an allergy perhaps?

    • profile image

      Emily 9 years ago

      I have adopted a well behaved 4 year old dobermann bitch, though she seems happy in herself and gets plenty of exercise daily (we live on a farm where she's rarely locked up and has lots of fun) she scratches her side raw. She apparently developed this anxiety habit from her previous owners who used to dote on her until their new baby arrived, when the attention came off her she started this self destructive scratching.

      Now she's settled in with us she still does it. Is it habit or still anxiety? She tends to scratch then lick her paw, I wonder if there is any fowl tasting cream we can put on the wound to put her off? Or maybe something else we can do? She only does it if we are talking amoungst ourselves, and not showing her attention. Having said that, at night when she's on her own she won't do it!

      Any advice???!!

    • profile image

      HouseTrainingADog 10 years ago

      I found your website extremely useful and I want to thank you for posting this information. I have a pup digging all over our yard and it's a new habit after 10 years of no digging whatsoever $6. We have other guests that aren't paying rent that she is trying to take care of for us. In the mean time I have been looking up ways to help train both my girls on various topics and I found that house training a dog is a fun and important step to building a relationship between owner and pup, no matter the age. I hope it's useful, too. Thank you again for your informative page.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      bialey, dogs can go on walks after being fixed. Just don't run the dog or allow for strenuous play. Walks are fine.

    • profile image

      bailey 10 years ago

      Hello Help!!!

      My dog has just got fixed and can't go for a walks.. But she is now chewing up my floors.

    • profile image

      Brat 10 years ago

      My dog is chewing on our house siding! It is the most annoying thing ever!! If you have kids, let them run in the yard with the dog. There are squeaky tennis balls that my dog loves. Any thing around the house such as an old shoe is great! There are pig ears that my dog love. Take them on LOTS of walks or else they wiil get very wound up and forget about them.Good luck!!

    • angelb0725 profile image

      angelb0725 10 years ago

      Hi Whitney, I'm new to the hub and I'm a professional dog trainer and behaviorist. I've been reading over your advice and you are clearly extremely well educated in animal behavior. Hope you dont mind a little competition(just kidding). I also volunteer at a shelter and I think the more folks out there giving out educated and useful advice the better. Your doing a great job in educating folks!

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 10 years ago from DC Area

      LOL Whitney,

      Looking at the title I though the hub is about human beings. And since I found it while searching for "safe" on hubpages, I came here thrilled to learn what is unsafe in chewing and digging simultaneously :D

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      Yes. It is proven that exercise is the best key to getting rid of unwanted behaviors. In the wild wolves walk miles a day, so walking our dogs will help eliminate uwanted behaviors.

      Paul, would you like to know why your dog barks are the mailman? Same reason everyone else's dog barks at the poor man, or woman... Because he/she goes away. The dog is instantly rewarded for barking when the mailman leaves. Because the behavior is self rewarding it's a hard one to break.

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 10 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Exercise, exercise, and exercise. If I found one thing with my dog it's that I can run almost all bad behavior out of her. When our dog was a puppy, it was three hard runs a day, now it's one. With the one exception of barking at the mailman. No matter how tired she is, she feels obligated to bark at the mailman.


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