How To Stop A Dog From Chewing
Let’s be honest, here. Dogs love to chew. I mean, they love to chew!
Chewing is part of a dog’s instinct! Dogs exploring the world through their mouths and noses is equal to the way humans explore the world with our hands and eyes. In fact, anyone who’s been around a human infant has witnessed how much we explore the world by putting everything in our mouth during that phase, too!
But, when the target of your dog’s oral infatuation is your very expensive shoes, designer furniture, or heirloom plant…well that’s what brings you here, isn’t it?
As with most of my dog behavior classes, I disappoint readers immediately by admitting that “how to stop a dog from chewing” does not come with a simple answer.
As with most unfavorable dog behaviors, it’s important for us to dig into the causes of chewing behaviors, different symptoms, and types of chewing in order to offer solutions to each.
So, whether your toy poodle is chewing her own tail or your lab has shredded the patio furniture for the third time, we’ll explore the world of frustrating dog chewing behaviors and how to get a dog to stop chewing things you don’t want them to.
Why Do Dogs Chew?
1. Boredom. Bored dogs are destructive dogs. This goes for a lot of animals. In fact, in studies of animal behavior in zoos, it was shown that behaviors like chewing non-food items, obsessive licking, and over-grooming fade by as much as 90% when mental stimulation and enrichment is present. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/zoo.20091)
What does this mean for your dog? If your pooch is roaming the house all day while you’re at work, find ways to create some mental stimulation for him. Treat puzzles and toys are the simplest options.
Or, learn some fun ways to provide Mental Stimulation For Dogs here. (https://www.thelabradorsite.com/mental-stimulation-for-dogs/)
2. Dental issues/teething. During the period from ages 4 weeks to 30 weeks, puppies are teething. This means their teeth are growing rapidly, and it’s uncomfortable. Chewing is a natural way to relieve some of the discomfort of teething.
For that matter, chewing can relieve the pain and discomfort of any kind of dental issues. If you have an adult dog that is no longer teething, it’s important to have a veterinarian check to ensure there are no other medical problems with your dog’s teeth that might be causing discomfort.
3. Anxiety. Dogs that are anxious are very likely to become destructive. If your dog chews furniture, walls, doorframes, or window frames while he’s home alone, it’s very likely that anxiety is the cause.
What could be causing the anxiety? That’s an even deeper investigation, unfortunately.
Picture this: you’re a dog home alone. Your human friend has left you in charge of the house for several hours every day. But every day, a stranger walks by the front window, pauses, then fiddles with the front door.
Is this a bad person? What are they doing at your house? Your human friend will be so upset! So, you bark and scream your head off and chase that stranger away – every day.
And you get so worked up and angry that you can’t reach this horrible stranger that you take your anger out by chewing on the window frame until you get exhausted and take a nap. Phew. Good thing you were there.
Could your dog be dealing with barrier aggression at the postman every day? Could he be transferring his aggression to the window frames and furniture? Very possible.
Another scenario could be separation anxiety. If your dog gets very nervous and upset when left alone, her anxiety could lead her to gnaw on whatever’s lying on the floor. Much like how you chew your fingernails when you’re nervous.
To learn more about separation anxiety and how to resolve your dog’s chewing behavior, click here. (https://thehappypuppysite.com/separation-anxiety-in-dogs/)
4. Not enough physical exercise. Dogs need at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. That includes running, playing, fast walking, etc.
For high energy dogs and larger breeds, it’s more.
So if your dog isn’t getting enough exercise, pent-up energy could be coming out in the form of chewing on whatever happens to be lying around the house.
5. Breed instinct. Some breeds are shaped by behaviors that pair with chewing. Therefore, some breeds are naturally more inclined to love to chew than others.
Examples include retrievers, who have a high instinct to grab things in their mouth and hold (or gnaw) them.
Also, it includes terriers and other hunting dogs that are predisposed to chasing and killing prey. It’s just that sometimes the “prey” is the couch cushion or a towel that Fifi has shredded to bits. These include Jack Russell terriers, schnauzers and dachshunds.
In an article from The Telegraph, it was revealed that Esure Pet Insurance interviewed 3,000 dog owners to find out if there were commonalities among certain breeds for being more destructive than others. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2675410/Great-Danes-and-Chihuahuas-are-the-most-destructive-dogs.html)
The results were compiled into a list of the top 10-20 breeds that caused the most destruction in homes. Looking through the list and reasoning for each, there are a few more generalizations we can come to regarding chewing behaviors.
In addition to the breeds named above, a few high-anxiety breeds were listed, like Great Danes, Chihuahuas, bulldogs, and basset hounds.
Mastiffs are on the list, too, though their motivation may come more from their high energy and drive to dig.
High energy breeds like boxers, Dalmatians, Doberman Pinschers & English setters made the top 10 list for turning to chewing to resolve their boredom and pent-up energy.
Beagles are said to be notoriously food-motivated. Couple that scavenger behavior with high energy and a propensity to dig and you end up with another breed on the top 10 list for destructive chewers.
How to Get a Dog to Stop Chewing: 5 Approaches
1. Prevention. Preventing a bad behavior is easier than fixing it later. Every time a puppy chews on something and gets an adrenaline rush that soothes some urgency, it reinforces the desire to chew again in the future.
Preventing the discovery in the first place is the best way to keep a dog from destroying your home.
How? Dog-proofing your home is a surefire way to end your woes caused by Fido’s chewing habits.
Just as you would baby-proof a home to protect an infant from touching electrical outlets, wires, sharp edges, or slamming doors, dog-proofing your home to make sure all tempting-to-chew items are out of reach is a good idea.
Look, the reality is that a dog can’t chew something that he can’t get in his mouth. Put your shoes away. Put your clothes away. Your dog won’t be tempted to chew them. Right?
What about the furniture and walls, though, Liz? I can’t do anything about those!
True. But you can do something about your dog’s access. If you aren’t able to supervise your chomp-happy chowhound, then restrict his access to the areas he’s been known to chew in the past.
It may mean confining your pooch pal to an exercise pen or a crate while you’re not around. This is not punishment or cruel – crate training is a blessing for pets and their owners. Check out this full-length guide to Crate Training Your Dog. (https://thehappypuppysite.com/crate-training-a-puppy/)
2. Supervision. When not restricted, keep an eye on your dog. Pay attention to the items he is most tempted to chew. Interrupt him before he reaches it and redirect his attention to a toy, activity, or chew treat.
You can also use a training lead, even inside the house. A training lead is a long leash that can drag the ground for you to step on or grab to stop your dog in his tracks before reaching that chew temptation.
3. Dog Chewing Deterrent Spray: Does it Work? There are a few “miracle” solutions designed as a bitter, foul-smelling and tasting spray to keep dogs from chewing on particular surfaces.
I’ve heard of people using everything from rubbing a stick of deodorant on the furniture to spraying hot sauce. I don’t recommend the latter, as it can stain furniture and has the potential to make your dog sick or irritate their eyes/nose.
More often, we hear of trainers using perfume as a chewing deterrent spray. Most dogs don’t like the strong scent of perfume (it can make them sneeze), it won’t harm furniture, and it isn’t as likely to cause a poor medical reaction.
There is even a commercial spray to keep dogs from chewing that are bitter, but safe for the dogs. However, many of these sprays are actually designed to deter pets from chewing or licking their own fur. This is especially helpful for medical treatment sites or healing wounds.
According to the reviews on various websites that sell these products, about 50% of buyers (or at least buyers that take the time to review the product) were happy to say the product worked. “It works! Roxie took one taste test on the recliner and decided she would rather chew her Dingo treat or her Holee Roller ball. Also, for my wife's sake, Grannick's Bitter Apple Spray did not stain the furniture. Roxie spent the rest of the evening either playing with her toys or resting on my wife's lap,” said one customer after using Bitter Apples.
4. Distraction. If your pup is chewing to satisfy that “itch,” provide her with plenty of appropriate chew toys and treats! There is literally an entire section of any pet store specifically for chew toys and treats.
What are the best things for dogs to chew on?
My favorites are toys with re-chargeable flavor options. Such as:
Classic Kong (fill it with any treats or smear peanut butter on the outside) https://www.amazon.com/KONG-Classic-Dog-Toy-Large/dp/B0002AR0I8/ref=sr_1_7?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1537367308&sr=1-7&keywords=dog+chew+toys
Busy Buddy Bristle Bone (edible discs that you replace) https://www.amazon.com/PetSafe-Busy-Buddy-Bristle-Treats/dp/B001F0RRT6/ref=sr_1_13_sspa?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1537367308&sr=1-13-spons&keywords=dog+chew+toys&psc=1
Everlasting Fire Plug (big, long-lasting replaceable treats) https://www.amazon.com/StarMark-SMFPRL-Everlasting-Fire-Large/dp/B000X2TCQ8/ref=sr_1_9?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1537367545&sr=1-9&keywords=everlasting+dog+chew
Antlers (they’re pricey, but they last much longer than typical chew bones. They’re very hard though, so these are NOT for puppies or dogs with sensitive teeth) https://www.amazon.com/Gnawtlers-Naturally-Specially-Selected-Heartland/dp/B01M8O0T4K/ref=sr_1_19?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1537367308&sr=1-19&keywords=dog+chew+toys
Keep in mind that puppy chew toys need to be a bit softer, as their puppy teeth will break easily on hard products.
An additional trick is to use special chew toys in the rooms of the house where the furniture has been especially tempting to your dog. For example, if your dog has chewed the couch frequently, then reserve one or two very special chew treats for use only in the living room.
Throughout the rest of the day, store these special treats out of sight and reach of Fido so that they’re always fresh and exciting (more so than chewing the couch.)
5. Training Incorporate some training to help with ending the Chew Fest on your valuable home goods. Teach your dog to “drop it” or “leave it” on cue. Then, anytime you see him mouthing an inappropriate item (or even giving too long of a glance at one) you can cue him to “leave it” and offer a distraction.
A simple way to start the training is to initiate some fun playtime with a tug toy.
When you’re ready, stop playing suddenly, letting your end of the toy go limp.
Wait silently and still for the moment your dog drops the item and looks at you funny, as if to say, “What’s going on?”
Immediately praise (or *click*) and reward your dog for dropping the toy and resume the game.
Repeat repeat repeat. Add the cue “drop it.”
Practice with other toys, too!
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing Shoes
Shoes are the #1 target of chomping chowhounds. Not only are they usually right in your pooch’s face all day, but they are full of your glorious scent and that of every place you walked that week.
Following any or all 5 aforementioned approaches will do the trick. And consider whether separation anxiety or boredom are the culprits if your dog is a Jimmy Choo Chewer. Double up on the exercise and mental stimulation, or consider working with a professional to ease your pup’s anxiety.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing Carpet
Some puppies find a loose thread in the carpet and set their teething activity on it. Other dogs find a smell they like and become obsessed with a specific spot in the carpet. Or a bored dog might simply be looking for trouble to entertain himself with while you’re gone.
However, licking or chewing carpet is often a symptom of anxiety in dogs. Much like obsessive compulsive behaviors in humans, dogs can obsessively like or gnaw the carpet to ease anxiety. You should consider working with a vet, professional trainer or behaviorist to evaluate your dog for anxiety and find the best course of treatment.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing His Bed
If your dog shreds his bed constantly, you may be in a position in which your dog just simply shouldn’t have a bed when unsupervised.
This means no bed in his crate – instead opt for heavy, rubber type padding if you’re concerned about Fifi not having a soft enough floor during confinement. Honestly, though, all of my pups stay in a bare crate until they are at least a year old and have become reliably potty-trained anyway.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing Furniture
Refer back to the section on separation anxiety. Anxiety and barrier aggression are the most common reasons dogs redirect aggression into chewing furniture.
Double up on daily exercise and mental stimulation, and do some investigation into your dog’s routine when you’re at work. (You could even use cameras or baby monitors to discover what’s going on in his world by day.)
Deterrent sprays alone rarely curb a high-energy chewer from feasting on furniture, so treating the cause and restricting access are your best bets to handle this situation.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing on Wood
If your dog loves to chew wood, like sticks in the yard or outdoor furniture, it’s likely that he/she is dealing with dental issues and seeking comfort. Offer plenty of toothsome chew treats, like knobby bones and ropes.
If you have a puppy, keep the treats soft to prevent baby teeth from breaking.
If your dog is older, take him/her to the vet to see if there are any dental problems causing discomfort in the mouth.
If you have a dog that is chewing you out of house and home, three things you can do on the front end are:
1. Increase daily exercise.
2. Add mental stimulation throughout the day.
3. Check for dental problems.
4. Consider separation anxiety & barrier aggression as the cause.
On the back-end, some ways to curb your pooch’s appetite for chewing are:
1. Restrict free access during unsupervised times.
2. Use dog chewing deterrent spray
3. Interrupt chewing inappropriate items and redirect to an appropriate item.
4. Provide plenty of (rotating) chew treats.
5. Train “drop it.”
i. Meta‐analytic review of the effects of enrichment on stereotypic behavior in zoo mammals. Amanda Shyne. Zoo Biology, 2006.
ii. “Great Danes and Chihuahuas are the most destructive dogs” Aislin Simpson. The Daily Telegraph, 2008. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2675410/Great-Danes-and-Chihuahuas-are-the-most-destructive-dogs.html
Liz London is a certified dog trainer through the Certifying Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA) & the Karen Pryor Academy (Dog Trainer Foundations Certification) with regular continuing education courses from the top animal trainers from all over the world, including Michele Pouliot, director of training for the Guide Dogs for the Blind. She has trained zoo animals, search & rescue canines, gundogs, and helped people raise happy, healthy, and well-behaved canine companions for over ten years.