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Dogs love to chew on everything: toys, shoes, clothes, and even furniture. That’s because canines use their mouths to explore the world, just like what babies do when they reach four to seven months of age. While babies outgrow this reflex, dogs will have it for a lifetime.
Man’s best friend also likes to use their nose to take in different smells, evidenced by how often they like to stick their snoot where it doesn’t belong (e.g., butts and crotches). However, using their mouth and chewing on things can be even more stimulating and enjoyable for them, so they can’t resist doing it.
You can’t completely stop your dog from gnawing on stuff, but training and redirecting their energy can help keep the instinct in control and keep their mouths away from your things. To do that, it’s important to understand why dogs chew in the first place.
Why Do Dogs Chew?
When puppies are 12 weeks old, their milk teeth are gradually being replaced by permanent adult canines. The process can be extremely painful and uncomfortable for the young pups, so they try to alleviate the ache and discomfort by chewing on things.
Dogs are social creatures. They enjoy getting to know people, other animals, and their surroundings. They love to use their eyes, nose, and most importantly, their mouth to understand the world around them.
While people use their hands to feel and touch things, canines utilize their mouth for this purpose. That’s one reason they love to lick and chew on stuff.
Gnawing on toys and things is inherently enjoyable and relaxing for dogs, so they also do it to relieve boredom and soothe their nerves. Chewing because your pup is exploring or teething is tolerable. The real problem begins when the chewing becomes uncontrollably destructive.
When Does Chewing Start Being a Problem?
Puppies’ constant chewing due to teething usually ends at six months old, when the last of their milk teeth are slowly falling out. However, they never stop nibbling and putting things in their mouth.
If your puppy or adult dog continues to gnaw on everything to the point of destruction, then you’ve got a problem in your hands. Chewing on toys and bones is not an issue, but destroying your couch, shoes, and household items is a serious problem.
One thing you should know is that, when a dog misbehaves or acts out, there’s usually an underlying reason for them to be that way. In the case of destructive chewing, it’s often due to three reasons:
You need to address the cause to stop your dog’s destructive chewing. Fortunately, training and counterconditioning, stimulating chews and toys, and physical and mental exercises can reverse the problem and help your dog be the best they can be.
Dogs who suffer from serious anxiety disorder may require medication or natural therapies to help manage their condition. If you suspect your dog suffers from anxiety disorder, consult your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
How Do You Stop Your Dog’s Destructive Chewing?
The first step to solving your dog’s chewing problem is to understand where the behaviors are coming from. Only when you identify the root of the problem can you determine the next steps to take.
Animal behaviorists and dog training experts usually employ a combination of training and counterconditioning, positive reinforcement, and physical and mental stimulation to address common causes of destructive chewing.
Each expert has their own techniques and ways to deal with dog behavioral problems, but every one of them will advise you to do these things:
Set Up Your Dog for Success
When you’re training your dog to stop chewing everything, take responsibility for your possessions by keeping them away from your dog’s reach. Leaving your things lying around will only tempt your buddy to chew on them. You should remove all temptations so they can focus on learning what they need to do.
Establish House Rules
Teach your dog what they can and can’t chew. Give them safe toys and treats to gnaw on, and don’t let them nibble on your shoes, socks, clothes, and household items. You should set boundaries and rules with your pooch and be firm and consistent about following these.
Provide Lots of Toys and Chews
Dogs can’t stop themselves from chewing. If you don’t want them getting into your stuff, you should give them toys and chews to spend their energy on. You can sign up for a doggy toys and treats subscription box to ensure you always have a fresh and new supply to keep your dog interested.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Dogs respond well to praise, toys, and treats. Punishment is not effective with dogs because they can’t always associate it with undesirable behavior. Never use violence with your dog or any dogs. It doesn’t work, and it only teaches them fear and aggression.
Supervise Your Dog, and Confine Them When Necessary
Young pups who haven’t learned the rules and trained should not be left to roam the house unsupervised. They’re almost always guaranteed to get into trouble and gnaw on things they shouldn’t. If you can’t watch over your pup, confine them in a crate or room where there’s nothing to chew on except their toys and treats.
Of course, proper crate training should be done so your dog doesn’t feel like being inside the cage is a punishment. Older puppies can stay in a pen or crate for about four to five hours, but adult dogs shouldn’t be confined in a small crate for long. It isn’t good to cage dogs for a whole day.
Instead of confining them, you can create a safe place in the house for your dog. It can be a small dog house or a cage. The important thing is that they feel secure and comfortable staying in that corner.
Give Your Dog Physical and Mental Stimulation
When they lack exercise and mental stimulation, dogs get bored and start chewing on things. Exercise your dog regularly by taking them out for a walk at least twice a day. Keep them mentally stimulated by playing games, providing interactive toys, and teaching them tricks. High-energy dogs need more stimulation, so you will have to walk them longer and more frequently.
Some breeds, like working and herding dogs, need to have a job around the house to keep themselves from getting bored and destructive. You can train them to do easy chores, teach them complicated commands, and give them lots of interactive toys to keep them engaged and stimulated.
Train Your Dog to Stop Chewing
Use praise and redirection to stop your dog from chewing on things they shouldn’t. If they start nibbling on your shoes, tell them no or “Leave it,” and redirect their attention to their chew toy. Use the toy to engage your pup, and give lots of praise when they chew on it.
When your dog’s chewing problem is too severe for you to manage alone, enlist the help of a training expert, or sign up your pooch for training classes.
Dogs that have serious separation anxiety will need specialized training by certified animal behaviorists or canine training experts. Professional can examine the severity of your dog’s conditions and provide you with the right techniques and tools to deal with your dog’s specific condition.
With proper training, your dog can become a healthier and happier version of themselves.
Dogs don’t become destructive chewers overnight. Their experiences may have caused them to develop anxiety, which resulted in destructive behaviors, or they may lack appropriate outlets for their energy.
Whatever the reason, don’t give up on your dog. Destructive chewing is a reversible behavior. It takes proper training, positive reinforcement, and your time, patience, and commitment.