How to Stop a Dog from Chewing on Things

I’ve cared for dogs that never chew. I’ve cared for dogs that will chew whatever they can get their paws on the minute you turn your back. I always say there is no such thing as a ‘bad dog’. When a dog chews- there is a reason for this behavior. The trick is to find what is happening or has happened for the dog that makes him chew.

A dog that chews can be extremely frustrating for a dog owner and really test our patience. Some dogs will chew anything in sight – furniture, walls, doors, cupboards etc. Some dogs are more selective- shoes, clothing, books or personal items that belong to their owner. Before we look at how to stop a dog from chewing on things-let’s look at why a dog chews.

Why a Dog Chews

Dog chewing up a chair.

A dog will chew for many reasons. A dog might chew because of separation anxiety or to release pent-up energy due to lack of exercise. She may chew because she is stressed, frustrated, bored or anxious. Some dogs became destructive due to lack of training or stimulation.

Some dogs will self sooth by licking, sucking or chewing on fabrics. A rescue may chew things due to past abuse or traumatic life experiences.

A puppy will chew because they are teething usually between 3-6 months of age. Puppies explore the world with their mouths. Some dogs can be destructive while searching for food due to a restrictive diet for weight management.

An elderly woman once asked me about her dog chewing after her family visits in her home. It was later discovered that her grandchild was teasing the dog and the dog chewed out of frustration during or after these visits. This dog was chewing out of frustration and this reinforces the need to always supervise children around dogs.

Prevention

My Shepherd who we adopted from the rescue at 11 months old will seek out garbage or anything to do with food when we leave the house. His first year of life he was abused, abandoned and it was suspected that he was left for long periods of time without food. So before leaving the house we dog proof: the garbage is put away, no food is left on the counter and bottom cupboards are left open as he will try to get into them in search of food. We make sure he doesn’t have access to the litter box as he will even eat from there too (makes me gag every time).

How to stop a dog from chewing on things? From my experience making sure your dog gets enough exercise can go a long way to prevent chewing. A lot of dogs chew destructively due to lack of exercise. A good brisk walk or run to get rid of energy and explore is an excellent way to tire your dog out.

Play time with your dog -fetch or tug of war can tire out your dog. Playing with other dogs is another great way to socialize and get rid energy.

Another way to prevent chewing is to make sure anything that can be chewed is put away, close doors to rooms in your home where your dog can do damage. Giving your dog an area that is blocked off from the rest of your home can help. We have used baby gates to block doorways. Make sure this area is not too small- you want your dog to be comfortable. We put on music or the radio when we are gone, not loud -just enough to provide back ground noise.

To keep our dogs busy we always have toys around the house in case they get the urge to chew. For dog balls we use the Chuckit! Ultra Ball . For dog bones we use the Benebone Wishbone Durable Dog Chew. Both are durable for aggressive chewers and are reasonably priced. Another suggestion is to change up your dog’s toys regularly to prevent boredom.

There are food puzzle toys for dogs on the market to keep your dog busy. Make sure they are well-made and don’t pose a choking hazard

Some people choose to kennel their dog when they leave their home to prevent chewing. You need to make sure that her kennel is big enough for movement and comfort. Exercise and play time is especially important if you are going to kennel your dog on a regular basis. And you want to ensure that your dog is not kenneled for too long. For adult dogs 6-7 hours, less for puppies – at most 3-4 hours.

You might want to consider enrolling your dog in a doggie daycare. Most doggie daycares don’t require full time attendance so you have the option of doing 2-3 days a week. There are awesome daycare workers that will assist with exercise, training and socialization of your dog. I always suggest when considering doggie daycares always do the research-ask around, visit the facility, talk to the workers and owners.

A dog walker or training classes can help get rid of energy and provide obedience training. Again-do your research before enrolling your dog.

Remember to praise your dog when you see him making the choice to chew his bone instead of your shoes. A treat would reinforce this good behavior. We use Beggin’ Strips Dog Treats.

A deterrent spray should be your last option. I have never used a dog deterrent spray so I cannot make suggestions.

Caught in the Act

Dog with a shoe in her mouth.

The perfect case scenario is that you catch your dog chewing. Catching your dog in the act is effective because for your dog it is in the here and now.

Make eye contact. A firm and loud ‘No!’ while holding the chewed item so your dog can see it. Give your dog time to process what just happened – leave her alone for a couple of minutes. Don’t continue to bring out the chewed item and continually say no. It’s over.
Should you catch your dog chewing again – repeat the above process.

Relapse

It’s important to mention that your dog will not stop chewing overnight. This takes time. Chewing is a behavior that a dog has leaned over time. It will take time, practice and your patience for your dog to unlearn this behavior.

There can be set backs. For instance if there are big changes in your household such as a new family member or moving to a new residence – you might find that your dog reverts back to chewing behaviors. That’s ok. Go back to the basics- preventative measures-remove anything that can be chewed, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, chewy toys etc. Patience and understanding are key.

Do Not

Do not spank, hit, throws things, scream or use abuse to discipline your dog. Do not tie the damaged item to your dog. Do not leave your dog crated, tied up or confined for long periods of time as punishment. Do not withhold food as punishment. Do not muzzle your dog for long periods of time as punishment. Do not hold your dogs mouth shut or tape it shut.

To some it might seem extreme that I need to mention the above but sometimes people get suggestions on how to ‘discipline’ or ‘mange their dog’s behavior’ in abusive ways. Punishing or abusing your dog increases anxiety and frustration which increases the need to chew. Some individuals consider abuse as punishment to train a dog. Abuse is abuse – period and has no place in caring for an animal.

Years ago when I struggled with my Shepherd’s aggressive and destructive behaviors – the suggestions I received was abusive to my dog. Any good dog trainer or behaviorist will not suggest you punish or abuse your dog in any way. There are many trained, experienced and effective dog trainers and behaviorists that are experts in their field.

Your dog cannot associate the damage she did hours ago to the punishment hours later. When you punish your dog you lose her trust and any work you have done with her is gone.

Bottom Line

A woman and boy with 2 dogs.

When your dog chews it can be very frustrating and costly. If your dog’s chewing is out of control and you have tried everything to stop it – consider contacting a dog trainer or behaviorist.

If you suspect that your dog maybe acting out due to illness contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

It’s important to remember that some chewing is developmental and normal. In my experience when people use the preventative measures outlined above they see their dog become more relaxed and stop chewing.

Your dog loves you unconditionally. In a dog’s eyes – their owner can do no wrong. She wants to please you.

Patience, consistency and kindness. You will never find a more loyal friend to share your life with.

If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.

Thank you.

Kathleen

Not all dogs are perfect dogs, but all dogs are inherently good. Like people, we are affected by environment and circumstance. Some breeds get a bad rap because sometimes humans breed them to be a certain way, like overly macho or protective. In our life on earth we are dependent on humans for everything, including our breeding. We can be bred for aggression or we can be bred for peace. — Kate McGahan

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