Dogs have strong jaws and can cause a great deal of damage when they chew. Stopping unacceptable chewing requires you to find out why they do it and, in most cases, transfer their chewing onto more acceptable items instead.
If you have a puppy under 12 months, go to ‘Puppy Chewing’
If your dog chews only when left alone, please also see ‘Separation Problems’
Chew, chew, chew!
Many dogs chew household items left lying around, or furniture or even the house itself. Dogs may chew items made of a particular substrate, such as wood or plastic, or they may target possessions belonging to one particular owner. They may chew daily, or they may have chewing bouts that occur intermittently.
Why do they do it?
Dogs chew for a number of reasons:
- Adolescence, exploration, boredom and the need to chew. The most common reason for young dogs to chew inappropriately is because they have a strong internal desire to do so and or do not have, or do not know what to do with, appropriate items to chew instead. The internal desire can be driven by the frustrated need to explore, the need to strengthen the jaws and settle adult teeth in the jaw during adolescence (6 months – 18 months), the frustrated need to exercise in young dogs, particularly those of working parentage, or just the need to chew when continually given soft or easily eaten foods.
- To get free from restraint. Some dogs chew to get to freedom, either by chewing through doors, or through a lead or harness that restrains them.
- Frustration. Some dogs chew because they cannot get to something else, for example, a dog that sees another dog that it wants to play with may chew through the lead of a dog close by or may chew clothing or something more solid that it is next to.
- Anxiety. Dogs that are anxious may chew to get out or to make a den to hide in. They may also chew things that smell of owner.
- Diet or hunger. Some dogs chew to relieve a need for nutrients or feel more full if they are hungry. In these cases, such as in the case of a dog that habitually chews stones or tissues, they will also ingest some of the chewed material.
- Pain or discomfort. Some dogs may chew to try to alleviate pain or discomfort. They may chew something that is next to them when lying down or they may lick at and chew the skin on the part of their body that is uncomfortable.
It's natural to be angry when your possessions are destroyed or damaged. However, punishing or telling your dog off won’t help to relieve his desperate need to chew. Instead, you are likely to make him into a secretive chewer, who only chews when you are not around to stop him. This will make it very difficult to teach him what he should chew instead. Worse still, if the punishment is prolonged, your dog may become frightened of you or react defensively when he has something to chew. Scolding and punishment will damage the relationship between you and so it is more sensible to find an intelligent solution that will solve the problem for both you and your dog.
Solving chewing problems relies on sorting out why your dog is chewing and then applying one (or more) of the solutions below:
Adolescence, exploration, boredom and the need to chew
Dogs that chew inappropriately need two things. They need a wide variety of different chews and they need someone to teach them to chew these instead of household objects. Supervision and containment are also necessary to break previously formed habits. They may also need more chances to explore new environments as well as more opportunity to exercise and play games.
To get free from restraint
For dogs that chew to get to freedom, the reason why the dog is so focused on getting free needs to be found, together with some way to make him feel more content about staying put. Go to 'Escaping And Running Away'.
Dogs that chew through frustration need to learn to deal with the feelings they get when they can’t have something they want. This needs to be done on a daily basis, making the dog work and wait for things it wants until it is much better at self-control. Then new calm behaviour can be taught in place of chewing in exciting situations. Go to 'Frustration and Re-Directed Aggression'.
The source of the anxiety needs to be found and the dog desensitized to, and made to feel good about, what it is afraid of. Go to ‘Fear And Anxiety’. If this only happens when the dog is alone, go to ‘Separation Problems’
Diet or hunger
If the dog is chewing because of dietary deficiency or because it is hungry, a new diet is needed that is more fulfilling. Please consult your veterinary surgeon. Remember to make any changes in food gradually to avoid upsetting your dog’s digestion, and continue on the new food for at least 2 weeks to see if beneficial changes occur.
Pain or discomfort
Dogs that chew because of pain and discomfort need to see a veterinary surgeon to determine the underlying cause, or, where the cause is known and is incurable, such as in the case of arthritis, more pain relief medication may be needed. Please consult your veterinary surgeon.
Why not tell everyone how you changed your dog´s behaviour for the better. Click the button below.