How to Stop a Dog from Chewing Everything
Chewing is as essential to a dog as talking is to a human. If you're having problems with inappropriate chewing and your pooch keeps destroying your Italian leather shoes, it's not too late! Take a read through the reasons why dogs chew, and how to stop their destructive and inappropriate chewing habits.Contents:
Dogs chew for several reasons, including to explore their world, for entertainment, to relieve teething pain, and alleviate boredom, anxiety or frustration. Dogs may also chew due to hunger or malnutrition. It is also an instinctual way to keep their teeth clean. Chewing becomes problematic when it is destructive and targeted towards inappropriate objects, such as furniture, doors, shoes or their own paws!
Chewing is a very natural behaviour for puppies who are exploring their world and investigating how objects feel and what they taste like. This is also known as 'mouthing' behaviour. When they are first brought into their new home, your puppy will not know the difference between an appropriate chew toy and an inappropriate one, like the corner of the lounge or your favourite pair of shoes. It's up to you to provide appropriate chew toys, supervise your puppy closely and redirect their behaviour to more appropriate objects or toys as the need arises.
While this explorative chewing tends to reduce as puppies approach the end of puppyhood, it can continue in some form throughout your dog's life. It's important to be prepared for this and ensure that you have plenty of chew toys and long-lasting treats suitable for your dog's chewing behaviour. Consider having a set of toys on rotation to keep your dog from getting bored with the same ones every day.
Never give your puppy or dog old shoes or clothing rags to chew. They will struggle to differentiate between which shoes are the right ones to chew and which aren't. Be careful with giving your dog old stuffed toys to chew on, as accessories like buttons or eyes can easily be pulled off and ingested. Tuffy have plenty of dog safe toys in all different sizes to suit every pooch!
Help your dog succeed at the right behaviour! Section off anything likely to be chewed on until they have learnt what is an acceptable chew toy. Put dirty laundry in the laundry hamper, and shoes away in the cupboard. In some cases, it may be easier to section off whole rooms or keep your dog in a contained area. Just make sure they do get adequate exercise and social interaction if they are confined to a room or crate for long periods of time.
If there are items you cannot section off easily, try applying a chewing deterrent like the Rufus and Coco Chew Stopper or Tropiclean Chew Deterrent. It's important to realise that deterrents alone are not sufficient to address your dog's inappropriate chewing - you need to teach them what they are allowed to chew, as well as what is off limits.
Puppy teething is a very common reason behind why dog owners seek advice regarding their dog's inappropriate chewing. Like humans, dogs have two teething cycles, when their puppy teeth come through and when those are replaced with adult teeth. The first set of teeth grow through between 3-6 weeks of age. These 'deciduous' teeth begin to fall out at around 12 weeks of age as the permanent teeth erupt. This process is normally complete by 6 months of age, when all the puppy teeth have been replaced by the permanent teeth.
It is common not to notice that your puppy has lost their deciduous teeth, as they often will swallow them (there is no harm in this). Occasionally you might notice a little bleeding from their gums, however the amount is usually very small and also mostly goes unnoticed.
During this time, your puppy's gums will be swollen and sore. They will naturally take to chewing to try and alleviate some of the discomfort. Some recommend giving your puppy ice cubes to chew but these can be quite hard on their gums. Instead, look at cloth or rope toys like the Kong Bone with Rope which can be submersed in water and frozen. Once frozen, these will provide a safe, numbing effect.
An obvious reason to your dog's compulsive chewing is because they have nothing else to do. If your dog is left alone a lot, try providing them with stimulating, interactive toys like the Kong Wobbler. Ensure that your dog gets plenty of exercise every day, like walking, running, swimming or games of fetch. Physical and mental stimulation will tire them out which can help limit their desire to chew.
Did you know that one out of six dogs may suffer from separation anxiety? This type of anxiety occurs when your dog is separated from you for a period of time, and is largely influenced by how we interact with them. In the COVID era, with more of us spending much more time at home with our dogs, the constant attention and interaction they receive can lead to the development of separation anxiety on the occasions when they are left alone.
The best way to treat separation anxiety depends on the dog. Severe cases may not be able to be left alone without injuring themselves and may require medication from your veterinarian. But for most cases, dealing with separation anxiety is all about training your pet to be desensitised to you leaving and returning to the home. For training tips to help your dog overcome separation anxiety, take a look at Managing Separation Anxiety in dogs.
Our top recommended products for Separation Anxiety in dogs
Our Vet Squad frequently recommend the following products to assist with separation anxiety. These may help during the process of desensitising your dog to you leaving them alone for a period of time. If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety, we recommend speaking to your vet regarding the suitability of prescription medication for them, and consider enlisting the help of a Veterinary Behavioural specialist or positive reinforcement dog trainer.
Stress and Frustration
Along with separation anxiety, dogs can experience stress and frustration through any number of situations and experiences. These will be very individual to the dog, however some common examples include being in close proximity to other dogs or pets and unable to move away, or seeing other dogs playing but being unable to join in (they may be confined behind a fence or being held on the lead for instance). These situations may lead to your dog redirecting their stress or frustration to other objects, for example, chewing the lead or fence.
In these scenarios, pre-empting the situation and having a toy on hand for your dog to chew is the best way to prevent damage to your property and encourage your dog to direct his chewing towards appropriate objects.
Hunger and Malnutrition
If pets are not getting enough good nutrition from their food, they can take to chewing other items to try and satiate their hunger. Usually these items will smell like food or be in some way edible. Low quality, 'budget' brands of food use lower quality ingredients with a reduced digestibility, and the nutrients are therefore less available for your dog. We recommend feeding a premium diet to ensure that your dog will thrive.
Top Recommendations for Premium Dog foods
Our Vets recommend the following premium diets. These foods are designed to be highly digestible and do not change ingredients from batch to batch, which means less tummy upsets. They also tend to contain higher levels of added beneficial nutrients, such as omega fatty acids for joint and skin health, and are backed by testing to ensure they deliver the results they promise. For further information, take a look at Premium Pet Food: Is It Worth It?
So you know why your dog may be chewing on inappropriate things, but you're still having trouble stopping him from grabbing hold of things he shouldn't. Don't worry - with some training and redirection, you'll be on the right track.
Along with ensuring you're addressing the underlying causes discussed above, redirection is a great way to encourage your dog to chew the right things in a positive way.
If your puppy or dog gets hold of an object that they shouldn't chew, immediately replace it with a toy that you are happy for them to chew on. In the beginning, it can help to smear the preferred toy with a little peanut butter or KONG Easy Paste to make it more enticing for your dog instead of the object they've stolen!
If your dog does not want to give up their item, keep some really training treats on hand as an incentive for them to trade with. You can then pair this with the command "Give" as their cue to release their item in exchange for a treat.
If your dog runs off with the object, do not chase them - this will only make the whole experience of stealing the item more rewarding as now it's become a game as well! Instead, call your dog to you with a tasty treat.
Do not punish your dog for their inappropriate chewing through actions such as yelling, smacking or pulling the object out of their mouth. This will teach them nothing apart from a fear of you. Focusing on positive reinforcement of their good behaviour is the best way to strengthen your bond together, and teach them how to behave appropriately.
In the end, it is important to acknowledge that chewing is a very natural behaviour for dogs. Putting in place steps to ensure that you understand the reasons behind that behaviour, and providing plenty of mental and physical stimulation, and appropriate objects for your dog to chew, are solid steps in building a strong and trusting relationship with your dog. Your dog will thank you for it!