The Psychology of Your Dog's Chewing Habits
Much like infants, puppies use their mouths to explore their new world. This can lead to them to chew almost anything in sight, from paper and smelly old shoes to furniture, electrical cords, toxic plants...and that new purse you bought.
Although it may be difficult to believe, especially if your dog appears to be chewing on your personal items, dogs do not chew to spite us. They do, however, enjoy scents that remind them of their owners, which is why your shoes and sports equipment can be extremely appealing to your dog. Our canine companions, like us, live in the moment, so they won't associate their destructive behavior from the afternoon with your rage when you get home from work in the evening.
Reasons Your Dog Chews
So, if your dog isn't chewing your things out of spite, or to get at you, why are they chewing? Below are a few common reasons why destructive chewing behaviors may occur:
- Natural instincts to chew
- A way to relieve boredom, anxiety, or fear
- As a way to seek attention
- Teething discomfort
- Lack of training
How to Stop a Dog from Chewing
Below are some of our favorite tips for curbing a dog's destructive chewing:
Exercise and stimulation
A happy dog is a tired dog! Adjust your dog's exercise routine to match its natural energy level. Different breeds, as well as individual dogs within each breed, require vastly different amounts of exercise to feel relaxed and content. Some breeds, such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Great Danes, are less energetic and only require short walks and playtimes, whereas other dogs may require an hour of activity twice a day to remain calm when left alone (such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Dalmations and Jack Russels).
Speak to your primary care vet or breeder to learn more about your dog's exercise needs.
Training and supervision
Puppies need to learn good habits and what not to do, so close supervision at home is key.
Because your dog will not associate their morning actions with your disapproval in the evening, it is critical to catch your pooch in the act and respond immediately with a firm 'no,' then remove the item. When your pup chews on the correct item, you can reward them with a positive 'yes' and lots of pats.
Keep valuables tucked away
When bringing home a new puppy or an adult dog, "dog-proofing" your home will be an important step. This means that your beautiful Manolo pumps or favorite golf shoes should be kept in a dog-proofed closet or other space out of reach of your pup.
Remember, if your pooch can't reach them, they can't chew them.
Do not reward the behavior you don’t want to continue
When your puppy nips your fingers, let out a high-pitched puppy yelp, then pull back and leave the room. When your dog steals something valuable and flees, resist the urge to chase them (yes we know how hard this can be). Instead, call your dog over and offer a treat or toy in exchange for the chewed item. Tell your dog, 'good come,' to emphasize that you are rewarding them for coming when you called, rather than for taking the item.
It is also important to teach the command 'drop it.' Begin teaching 'drop it' when your dog has a ball or a toy of its own in their mouth, when they obey your command and drop it give your dog a treat and lots of praise. There are loads of helpful training videos online to help you teach this skill.
How your vet can help
The good news is that destructive chewing usually fades away around the age of 18 months. However, depending on your dog's breed and other factors, destructive chewing may occur from time to time throughout his or her life. Consult your veterinarian if you notice excessive chewing. They are able to:
- Check for medical reasons your dog might be chewing and provide treatment
- Advise whether you should let certain items pass, when your dog needs to come in for an exam and when you should induce vomiting if he or she has chewed an inappropriate item
- Provide advice and pointers for modifying your dog’s behavior
- Suggest appropriate chew toys, treats, deterrents, or training methods
At Cumberland Animal Clinic we can perform a full health checkup and provide advice on how to solve this frustrating problem.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.