Dogs are driven by instincts and learned behavior, not by the same complex reasons that humans behave. Chewing is actually perfectly natural for them, so unlike aggression and biting, the problem can be a bit more difficult to stop completely. They don't chew to get even with you, although often the items they chew are ones that we value the most. Shoes and other leather objects are favored for two reasons:
- They smell like you
- They taste good
Wood is also a popular chewing item, and since may chair and table legs are wooden, this also creates a problem for us.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways available to the dog owner to stop your dog chewing. Here's what you need to do:
Preventing the behavior
The key to preventing chewing behavior is to puppy- or dog-proof the environment as much as possible. Removing all shoes, leather items and other items that puppies or dogs might find interesting is important when leaving the dog unsupervised. Crate training or penning the dog in a puppy pen can be a good option. In addition it is important to have a few toys that the dog or puppy can chew on. The Kong or Buster cube toys, filled with a little bit of food inside, can keep your dog busy for hours.
To encourage the dog to chew on the correct items:
- Give your dog a toy specifically for chewing. Then praise and reward the dog with lots of attention when you see him or her chewing and playing with it (as opposed to other items and toys).
- Make sure the dog likes the chew toys and note what kind it naturally picks. Makes sure the size of the chew toy is appropriate for your dog. A very large dog needs a large chew toy, and a small breed needs a small chew toy.
- If you catch your dog or puppy beginning to chew, say "no" and immediately provide them an appropriate toy. When the dog picks the toy up or chews on it, praise him immediately.
- Provide lots of exercise when you are home to allow the dog to get rid of any pent up energy. Walk the dog prior to leaving it alone for extended periods of time.
- Commercially available sprays can be applied to furniture and other items to make them distasteful to the dog or puppy. A weak mixture of one vinegar and 6 parts water can be applied to furniture as well, but should be tested first as it can cause discoloration.
- Keep dogs that chew separate from puppies or dogs that don't chew. Much like keeping kids away from bad influences, so it goes with dogs. Dogs learn by watching other dogs, so don't want expose your non-chewing dog to a rascally chewer.
- If you have more than one dog have several different chew toys. This will prevent one dog from taking the toys and leaving the other with nothing to chew on. It will also ensure that both dogs only chew on the designated chew toy.
- Don't assume that two or more dogs will keep each other entertained and will not chew. While providing another companion to play with is a good distraction, it could also be double the trouble! So make sure both dogs are well-disciplined, and that you have the time to train and care for both.
- Anticipate chewing behaviors to increase when a puppy is between three and six months as this is when it is getting adult teeth. Provide a frozen toy treat to numb the pain and prevent your puppy from chewing more valuable objects.
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Be aware that puppies may engage in an activity known as "mouthing". This is similar to infants that place everything in their mouths to learn more about it. Puppies will mouth, but it will not damage the item. Chewing is more deliberate and will destroy or severely damage the object.