Puppies and dogs interact with their world using their teeth and mouths just like humans use our hands. Chewing on items is a natural activity for almost all dogs to do as they explore their environment. However, destructive chewing can be an incredibly frustrating habit to deal with. Read below to get some tips on how to deal with your dog’s chewing.
Understand puppy teething. Puppies and young dogs are often the main culprits when it comes to destructive chewing. Apart from just being young and inexperienced, there is another good reason for this. Just like human babies, puppies teethe for about six months. This can be a painful and uncomfortable time for a puppy. Chewing not only facilitates teething but also makes sore gums feel better. If your puppy is teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for them to chew on. The cold cloth will help soothe their gums!
Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise. If your dog is bored, they’ll find something to do to amuse themselves - and that can often become destructive. So keep them active! A tired and mentally fulfilled dog won’t feel the need to look for trouble by chewing up your stuff. Spend time with your dog by playing fetch, tug-of-war, or just going on a walk.
Correcting your dog’s behavior. If you catch your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t be, interrupt the behavior as quickly as possible while the action is still taking place. Offer them an acceptable chew toy instead, and praise them when they take the toy. Be mindful with how you punish your dog for chewing. Dogs don’t understand why they are being punished unless you correct the behavior right when it’s happening. Yelling at a dog after the fact only serves to show your dog that you are angry at that particular moment and they may not understand why. Instead, if you find a chewed item after the fact, adjust your own actions to be more vigilant and watchful in the future to correct the behavior while it is happening.
Take responsibility for your own belongings. If you don’t want it in your dog’s mouth, don’t make it available to them. Keep clothing, shoes, books, trash, eyeglasses and remote controls out of your dog’s reach. Pet proof your home by looking around your environment for possible dangers to your inquisitive dog or puppy. Place household cleaners and chemicals out of reach along with potentially toxic plants. Electrical cords should be covered or made inaccessible. Also, block access to rooms that have not been dog proofed or that are full of dangerous or valuable items.
Teach what to chew. Provide your dog with many acceptable chew toy options. Give your dog toys that are clearly distinguishable from household goods. Don’t confuse them by offering shoes and socks as toys and then expect them to distinguish between their chew toy shoes and yours. Build enthusiasm for their appropriate toys by consistently using them when you play with your dog. This is also a good time to encourage chewing on greenies and dental chewsticks since they encourage appropriate chewing while also combating dental disease.
Don’t chase your dog if they grab an object and run. Chasing is a game for dogs of all ages and it shows that you are participating and reinforcing their actions. Instead call your dog over and begin working on the command “give” or “drop” as you gently open their mouths and remove the item. With time and reinforcement, the command can be taught so you don’t need to physically take the item at all.
Understand and accept that some level of chewing is natural for all dogs. It’s a process to teach and correct a dog’s behavior. This means that there are going to be slip-ups along the way. Patience is key!