You get home from a long-deserved day out, and your puppy has chewed your brand-new pair of Simone Rocha loafers! Of course, you still love your pup, but why, oh why has he destroyed your new shoes?
It is just a fact of life – puppies chew. Chewing is a way for your puppy to explore their world. It also helps with teething. It’s not just puppies that chew, older dogs can have itchy teeth too. Some dogs chew more than others and some outgrow excessive chewing when the teething stage is over, but most dogs, even adults, enjoy sinking their teeth into something crunchy every now and then.
How do you know when chewing becomes problematic or destructive and not just your dog’s opinion on the latest style of loafers? Bad chewing can be defined as chewing that leads to the destruction of objects around your home including pillows, clothes, table legs, books ... you name it. This kind of destructive chewing behaviour is typically linked to other problems your dog might be experiencing.
Let’s look at the reasons why your pup is chewing and how you can teach your dog to not chew your shoes, the children’s toys or the garden furniture.
What triggers chewing?
Your puppy mainly chews to help with teething and to alleviate sore gums. Just like humans, puppies go through a stage when they lose their baby teeth and experience pain as their adult teeth come in. This phase usually ends by the age of six months. To help alleviate the pain, you can give your puppy ice cubes, special dog toys that can be frozen or frozen wet washcloths to chew.
Chewing in adult dogs is nature's way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean, it combats boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration. Chewing for entertainment is not a bad thing, it can just be plain fun, and yummy, especially when a chew treat is involved.
Other reasons for chewing might be more serious. Let’s take a closer look at these reasons:
1. Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety happens when a dog that’s hyper-attached to its owner gets super-stressed when left alone. Dogs can suffer from separation anxiety when being left alone for the first time or when they are used to being with people. It can also happen with a change of ownership; when a dog moved from a shelter to a home or when there is a change in the family routine or structure. This anxiety is manifesting itself in the form of chewing on anything and everything that is available as a way to relieve the stress of being alone. To resolve this issue, start by leaving your pup alone for shorter periods of time in a room where they cannot access things they should not chew, for example, the kitchen, with their favourite toy or treat. This will help him associate you being gone with a happy place filled with his most prized possessions.
Some dogs simply do not get enough physical and mental stimulation. Bored dogs tend to look for ways to entertain themselves, and chewing is one option.
3. Stress and frustration
Sometimes a dog will chew when experiencing something that causes stress, such as being crated near another animal they don’t get along with or getting teased by children. They can also get frustrated if they see other dogs run around on a leash while being confined to their home or yard. To reduce this kind of chewing, try to avoid exposing your dog to situations that make them nervous or upset.
If your dog is on a calorie-reduced diet they might be chewing because they are hungry. This is not to suggest that a calorie-restricted diet is bad, just be aware that chewing behaviour can change when your dog is on a diet. They might start to think that your throw pillow looks like a giant piece of steak. If your dog is overweight, discuss their diet with your vet. Read: How To Help Your Overweight Dog
Chewing can also be a result of a medical condition. Some dogs chew because they are lacking some vital nutrients from their diet. If your dog chews excessively, make an appointment with your vet to establish if there are medical issues that might be causing the chewing. If not, an experienced dog behaviourist will be able to help.
What To Do If Your Puppy Is Chewing Your Furniture
1. Train your puppy from the start
Teach your pup from a young age what they are allowed to chew and what not.
In the beginning, keep your puppy in a confined space for example the kitchen and provide lots of chewable, fun doggy toys. Keep items you do not want your puppy to chew out of their reach – out of sight is out of mind. Once you know that they know what they’re allowed to chew and what not, you can allow them to roam a bit more freely around the house.
Make sure they have chewable toys that are easily distinguishable from household goods and children’s toys. You need to take responsibility to supervise your puppy and teach them the rules.
One thing to remember is to not give toys that resemble inappropriate items, for example, do not give your dog an old shoe to chew on because he will not know the difference between the old chew shoe and a brand-new one.
2. Provide appropriate “chewables”
Make sure you provide your dog with appropriate fun and delicious chewy options. Although rawhide and beef bones are great for chewing, they can whittle down to smaller pieces that can be swallowed and get lodged in the oesophagus. These treats should be given to your dog under supervision and be sure to take away any small pieces that might be swallowed.
Many dogs love playing and chewing on balls and Kongs also make excellent toys. When selecting a ball, make sure the size is appropriate for your dog. They should be able to pick it up and carry it but it should not be so small that they can swallow it. Make sure the hole in the Kong is big enough that they cannot get their jaw stuck inside it.
Your dog might not immediately take to a new toy. It might not smell nice or familiar. Rub the toy in your hands to get your smell or smear sugar-free peanut butter on the toy to make your dog excited about it.
Food or treat-dispensing toys are excellent options. Instead of feeding your dog treats, let them spend time working, licking and chewing the treat out of a dispensing toy. An excellent example is the KONG Gyro Treat Dispensing Dog Toy.
Pay attention to the types of toys that keep them chewing for long periods of time and continue to offer those. It’s ideal to introduce something new or rotate your pup’s chew toys every couple of days so that they don’t get bored with the same old toys.
Identify times of the day when your pup is most likely to chew and give them a puzzle toy filled with something delicious. You can include some of your dog’s daily ration of food in the toy so as to avoid over-feeding. Obesity is a major problem for dogs in the UK.
Always remember to reinforce good chewing behaviour by praising your pup or giving them a treat. Read: Rewards Based Training Is The Right Thing To Do
3. Don't punish, rather distract
Showing the chewed item and then punishing them makes no sense to your pup. They cannot make the correlation between the two. If you catch your pup chewing on something they shouldn't, interrupt the behaviour with a loud noise, for example clapping your hands. Offer them an acceptable chew toy instead, and praise them when they take the toy in their mouth.
4. Spray furniture with puppy deterrent
Another way to discourage your dog from inappropriate chewing is to make the item unpleasant for your pup. A good, natural and safe way to do this is to mix 150ml vinegar with 60ml lemon juice in a spray bottle and spray the item you do not want your dog to chew. The mixture will not harm your dog but the odours are unpleasant to dogs with their super-sensitive noses.
5. Give them loads of attention
Your pup needs your attention. Spend plenty of time with them. Go for walks in the park. Play games such as chase, tug-of-war and fetch to stimulate him mentally and physically. A bored dog will find something to entertain himself with which might not be what you had in mind. A stimulated dog is a good dog. We all know that dogs love attention!
Bear in mind - chewing is just what dogs like to do. It is instinct and part of their natural and normal behaviour. This does not mean that you have to put up with it. That’s why chew toys, play and stimulating your pup is so important.
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