How to Stop a Puppy (or Adult Dog) From Chewing Everything
When adding a new pup to your family, one thing that most new pet parents aren’t always prepared for is when the puppy is chewing everything. The same goes for those who have adopted an adult dog who is chewing nonstop.
And it can get super frustrating when your new furry family member decides to target your shoes, furniture or miscellaneous household items as their own personal chew toys.
So when it comes to figuring out how to stop a puppy from chewing or how to stop an adult dog from chewing, it can be difficult to figure out the best strategies without getting frustrated.
By focusing your attention on eliminating inappropriate chewing opportunities, being consistent and providing appropriate dog toys, you can help your dog or puppy find appropriate outlets for their chewing.
Sooner or later every dog lover returns home to find some unexpected damage inflicted by their or their dog; or, more specifically, that dog’s teeth. Although dogs make great use of their vision and sense of smell to explore the world, one of their favourite ways to take in new information is to put their mouths to work.
Fortunately, chewing can be directed onto appropriate items so your dog isn’t destroying things you value or jeopardizing their own safety.
Until they’ve learned what they can and can’t chew, however, it’s your responsibility to manage the situation as much as possible, so they don’t have the opportunity to chew on unacceptable objects.
Here are eight things pet parents can do to deal with dog or puppy chewing habits that are out of control and other information, tips and tricks to help guide you:
- BE ATTENTIVE.
Much like you would with a human baby, always keep an eye on your puppy or dog to protect him from his own curiosity and desire to put everything in his mouth and chew on it.
- CONTAIN THE SITUATION.
If you have to leave your dog alone, it is best to keep him confined. Whether for a longer portion of the day or only a little while (like a trip to the grocery store), use a dog crate or, if your puppy is unable to be crated, section off a small room in your home using dog gates. This will limit his access to undesired chewing targets and help him stay on track with potty training.
Keep in mind that puppies have limited “hold times.” Your puppy’s age in months roughly translates to how many hours he can be crated, so a three-month-old puppy can hold it for about three hours.
Puppies often begin chewing on things because they are alone and bored. And because they do not discriminate in terms of what they chew, an uncontained puppy can get into a lot of trouble, or even injure himself.
The area where you confine your puppy must be free of objects that he can chew on, except for those puppy chew toys that have been specifically chosen for their age appropriateness.
- LEAVE YOUR SCENT BEHIND.
If you are leaving your dog for a longer duration, rolling your dog’s favourite toy or nylon bone between your hands will transfer your scent to help soothe him.
It is also important to avoid making an emotional farewell so that your puppy does not respond with anxiety (i.e., separation anxiety), which can lead to whining, barking and other destructive behaviours.
Many puppy owners have also found that leaving the radio on at a low volume (with calm, soothing music playing in the background) will help to calm an anxious puppy.
- PUT AWAY ANYTHING THAT A DOG CAN CHEW ON.
You must put away all of the things your dog can get into his mouth. Even things that appear to be out of reach may be reached by a diligent dog.
This includes shoes, children’s toys (especially small toys that your puppy can choke on), articles of clothing (particularly socks and undergarments), plastic bags, trash bins, containers of medicine, wallets and purses, supplements, plants—just about everything.
Do not ever allow a dog to go into the bathroom unsupervised, since there are a lot of hazardous things he could get into, like cleaning products. There are also objects there that you do not want to have chewed and scattered through the house. This includes items commonly found in the wastebasket, but also rolls of toilet paper.
You must also take care to store valuable objects such as jewellery in a safe place that a dog cannot reach; a closed closet, dresser drawer or cabinet is best.
- CHOOSE DOG TOYS WISELY.
Only buy dog chew toys that have been designed with a dog’s safety in mind.
Many dog plush toys have pieces that can fall off or be chewed off and become a choking hazard. A dog can easily chew open many squeaker toys and swallow the squeaker, which will require a trip to the emergency vet.
Nylon bones are great because they are durable, safe and non-damaging to the teeth.
For rubber toys, make sure they cannot be shredded into pieces that your dog can swallow. These can become choking hazards or cause intestinal upset.
Make sure that you choose an age-appropriate and durable toy for your enthusiastic chewer. And you should always replace a toy once it begins to fall apart or reaches a size where it can be swallowed.
- INTERRUPT, THEN DIVERT.
When you do find your dog chewing on an inappropriate object, interrupt him and then divert his attention to an object that is appropriate for him to chew on. Praise your dog for chewing on the appropriate object.
- DO NOT GIVE YOUR DOG AN OLD SHOE OR OLD SOCKS TO CHEW ON.
You are unintentionally teaching him that it is acceptable to chew on shoes and socks, and there will come a day when one of your very favourite or very expensive shoes ends up as a dog chew toy.
Your dog cannot be expected to distinguish which chewable items are off limits and which ones are meant for him.
- EXERCISE DAILY.
Engaging in age- and breed-appropriate exercise every day helps prevent your dog from getting bored. It also helps to keep burn off some of his energy.
Boredom and high energy levels are some of the most common reasons for destructive puppy chewing behaviour.
More information on understanding your dog and its behaviour around chewing things:
Understand your dog
Puppies, like infants and toddlers, explore their world by putting objects in their mouths. And, like babies, they teethe for about six months, which usually creates some discomfort. Chewing not only facilitates teething but also makes sore gums feel better.
Adult dogs may engage in destructive chewing for any number of reasons. In order to deal with the behaviour, you must first determine why your dog is chewing—and remember, they are not doing it to spite you. Possible reasons for destructive chewing include:
- As a puppy, they weren’t taught what to chew and what not to chew.
- They’re bored.
- They suffer from separation anxiety.
- Their behaviour is fear-related.
- They want attention.
Be aware: You may need to consult a behaviour professional for help with both separation anxiety and fear-related behaviours.
Teach what to chew
Take responsibility for your own belongings. If you don’t want it in your dog’s mouth, don’t make it available. Keep clothing, shoes, books, trash, eyeglasses and remote controls out of your dog’s reach.
Give your dog toys that are clearly distinguishable from household goods. Don’t confuse them by offering shoes and socks as toys and then expecting them to distinguish between their shoe and yours.
Supervise your dog until they learn the house rules. Keep them with you on their leash in the house so they can’t make a mistake out of your sight. Confine them when you’re unable to keep an eye on them. Choose a “safe place” that’s dog-proof, and provide fresh water and “safe” toys. If your dog is crate trained, you may also place them in their crate for short periods of time.
Give your dog plenty of people-time. Your dog won’t know how to behave if you don’t teach them alternatives to inappropriate behaviour, and they can’t learn these when they are in the yard by themselves.
Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise. If your dog is bored, they’ll find something to do to amuse themselves and you probably won’t like the choices they make. On the other hand, a tired dog is a good dog, so make sure they get lots of physical and mental activity. The amount of exercise should be based on their age, health and breed characteristics.
If you catch your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t, interrupt the behaviour with a loud noise. Offer them an acceptable chew toy instead and praise them lavishly when they take the toy in their mouth.
Build a toy obsession in your dog. Use their toys to feed them. At mealtimes, fill a Kong-type toy with their kibble.
If your puppy is teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for them to chew on. The cold cloth will soothe their gums. Supervise your puppy so they don’t chew and swallow any pieces of the washcloth.
Make items unpleasant to your dog. Furniture and other items can be coated with a taste deterrent (such as Bitter Apple®) to make them unappealing.
Caution: Supervise your dog when you first try one of these deterrents. Some dogs will chew an object even if it’s coated with a taste deterrent. Also be aware that you must reapply some of these deterrents to maintain their effectiveness.
Offer your dog a treat in exchange for the item in their mouth. As your dog catches on to this idea, you can add the command “Give” as their cue to release the object in exchange for the yummy treat.
Don’t chase your dog if they grab an object and run. If you chase them, you are only giving your dog what they want. Being chased by their human is fun! Instead call them to you or offer them a treat.
Have realistic expectations. At some point your dog will inevitably chew up something you value; this is often part of the transition to a new home. Your dog needs time to learn the house rules and you need to remember to take precautions and keep things out of their reach.
Take care with punishment
If you discover a chewed item even minutes after they’ve chewed it, you’re too late.
Animals associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they’re being corrected. Your dog can’t reason that, “I tore up those shoes an hour ago and that’s why I’m being scolded now.” Some people believe this is what a dog is thinking because they run and hide or because they “looks guilty.”
In reality, “guilty looks” are actually canine submissive postures that dogs show when they’re threatened. When you’re angry and upset, your dog feels threatened by your tone of voice, body postures and/or facial expressions, so they may hide or show submissive postures. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behaviour, but it could also provoke other undesirable behaviours.