The Psychology of Your Dog's Chewing Habits
Much like human babies, puppies use their mouths to explore their new world. This can lead them to chew almost anything in sight, from paper and smelly old shoes to furniture, electrical cords, toxic plants...and that new purse you bought.
We know that it can be hard to believe, particularly if your dog seems to target your personal items, but dogs really don’t chew to spite us or to get revenge against us. However, they do love scents that remind them of their owners, which is why your shoes and sports equipment can prove to be overwhelmingly tempting for your dog. Our beloved canine companions also live in the moment, which means that they won’t connect their destructive behavior from the afternoon with your anger when you get home from work in the evening.
Why Dogs Chew
So, if your dog isn't chewing your things out of spite, or to get at you, why are they chewing? Below are a few common reasons why destructive chewing behaviors may occur:
- Natural instincts to chew
- A way to relieve boredom, anxiety, or fear
- As a way to seek attention
- Teething discomfort
- Lack of training
How to Stop a Dog from Chewing
Now that we've looked at some of the reasons why dogs chew, let's consider some ways to help curb this destructive behavior. Below are some of our favorite tips for curbing a dog's destructive chewing:
Exercise & Stimulation
A tired dog is a happy dog! Match your dog's exercise schedule to their natural energy level. Different breeds, and individual dogs within each breed, require vastly different amounts of exercise in order to feel relaxed and contented. Some breeds are less energetic and only require short walks and playtimes (think of Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Great Danes), whereas other dogs may need an hour of activity twice a day to stay calm when left alone (such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Dalmations and Jack Russels).
Speak to your primary care vet or breeder to learn more about your dog's exercise needs.
Training & Supervision
Puppies need to learn good habits and what not to do, so close supervision at home is key.
Because your pooch will not associate their morning actions with your evening disapproval it's important to catch your pooch in the act and react immediately with a firm 'no', then removing the item. You can then give your pup an appropriate chew toy accompanied by a positive 'yes' and lots of pats when they chew on the correct item.
Keep Valuables Safely Hidden Out Of Your Dog's Sight
“Dog-proofing” your home is going to be an essential step when bringing home your new puppy or adopted adult dog. This means that your beautiful Manolo pumps or favorite golf shoes need to be stored in a safely dog-proofed closet or other space well out of your pup's reach.
Remember, if your pooch can't reach them, they can't chew them.
Stop Rewarding Behavior You Don’t Want to Continue
When your puppy nips your fingers, let out a high-pitched puppy-like yelp, pull back, and leave the room. When your dog snatches a valuable item and runs off, quell the urge to chase them (yes we know how hard this can be). Instead, call your pup to you and offer a treat or toy in exchange for the item being chewed. Tell your dog 'good come' to make it clear that you are rewarding the fact that they came when you called, rather than a reward for taking the item.
It is also important to teach the command 'drop it'. Begin teaching 'drop it' when your dog has a ball or a toy of their own in their mouth, when they obey your command and drop it give your dog a treat and lots of praise. There are loads of helpful training videos online to help you teach this skill.
How Your Vet Can Help
The good news is that in most cases chewing problems in dogs will typically fade away once your pup reaches about 18 months of age. That said, destructive chewing may occur from time to time throughout your dog's lifetime, depending on your dog’s breed and other factors. If you see excessive chewing, consult your veterinarian. They can:
- Check for medical reasons your dog might be chewing and provide treatment
- Advise whether you should let certain items pass, when your dog needs to come in for an exam and when you should induce vomiting if he or she has chewed an inappropriate item
- Provide advice and pointers for modifying your dog’s behavior
- Suggest appropriate chew toys, treats, deterrents or training methods
At Northside Animal Clinic we can perform a full health checkup and provide advice on how to solve this frustrating problem.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.