At some point in our lives we’ve all used the excuse “my dog ate my homework” in order to extend a deadline or get out of a difficult assignment. While this was usually nothing more than a harmless excuse, for some people it can be a horrible reality with their dog. A dog that chews everything in sight can put a huge dent in your wallet and can be unsafe for the dog’s health as well. While there is no magical dog chewing deterrent, there are ways that you can stop your dog from destroying your home.
The Reasons That a Dog Chews
There are a number of reasons why a dog may chew, and while each dog varies there are also a few consistent reasons to explain your dog’s persistent chewing.
Puppies go through a teething phase, just as human babies do. Puppies will typically teeth around 3-4 weeks of age, and then again at 4-5 months when their baby teeth are exchanged for their adult ones. Teething can be very painful for your pup, and they are more inclined to relieve that pain by chewing. When your puppy is 6 months old all of the baby teeth should have fallen out, to be replaced with 42 adult teeth.
When a dog becomes anxious it often doesn’t know what to do with that nervous energy. In many cases, they will channel that energy into chewing, in an attempt to relieve the anxiety. This is called a displacement behavior, and it’s common for all dogs when they are feeling anxious. Your dog may be chewing because he’s feeling anxious and doesn’t know what to do with himself.
If your dog is chewing on things while you’re out of the house, your dog may be suffering from a case of separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is the fear of being left alone, and it can cause dogs to do anything from chewing on furniture to barking excessively while you’re away.
When a dog is bored they can’t open a book or turn on the TV as we humans do, so they find other ways to entertain themselves. In many cases that means chewing. A dog may begin to chew on items around the house because they are bored and trying to fill the time.
Chewing Can Cause Serious Harm
While chewing is a completely natural behavior for a dog, it can still be unsafe for him, and less than desirable for owners, who usually have to pay for those chewing habits.
A dog can injure itself from chewing. It may swallow an object which can become lodged in the esophagus, or cease to disintegrate in the digestive system. In many of these cases, a dog can die from the foreign object, or they will need to undergo expensive surgery to remove it.
Dog’s typically don’t like to chew the things that we want them to chew, like their own toys. In many cases, a dog would much prefer to chew on objects around the house that are more exciting for them. This can result in expensive property damage costs, a price that typically comes out of your own pocket.
How to Decrease the Chance of Your Dog Chewing
For many dogs, chewing is something that can be remedied by altering a few things in their lives. If your pup is young and in the process of teething, they will likely grow out of their chewing phase. Regardless of the reason for chewing, applying these tips will help to decrease the chances of your dog chewing, which will greatly help you to keep your sanity.
Take away all temptation
This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people don’t do this. If you have a dog that likes to chew, keep anything that you want to remain intact up high and out of reach. Don’t give your dog the opportunity to get his mouth around it. Take away all temptation.
2. Baby-gate or crate when you’re away
If your dog is a chewer the last thing you want to do is give them free reign of the house while you’re away. This just increases the chance that they’re going to chew on something or other. While you’re away, put your dog in a crate, or baby-gate a section of your home, and give them something that they’re allowed to chew on. In this area, you should make sure that there’s nothing that they can possibly chew while you’re away. Taking away the temptation is key.
NOTE: If your dog has never been in a crate before you will need to crate-train him so that he can be acclimatized to spending short amounts of time in a small space.
3. Have things they CAN chew
Giving your dog something that they’re actually allowed to chew on is very important. Chewing is a natural behavior for a dog, especially while they’re teething, so you need to allow them to have an outlet for that chewing. Raw marrow bones are a great option because they are tasty and take some time for the dog to finish chewing. Avoid using smoked bones because they can splinter easily and can become lodged in the dog’s throat. Never leave your dog alone with stuffed toys, as they are very easy to break apart and pieces can become stuck inside the dog.
4. Make sure they’re getting enough exercise
Many dogs will chew simply because they are bored. Increase the amount of exercise that your dog get’s in the day, both mentally and physically, and your dog will be less likely to chew inside the home because he will instead be using that time to rest.
Mental Games that Will Leave Your Dog Tired
A scavenger hunt will keep a dog busy just as well as it does a human child. In order to play, hide pieces of your dog’s favorite treat, or a favorite toy, around the home. If you’re using a treat it’s best to use a product that has a strong scent. Then sit back, and enjoy watching your dog use their nose. If you’re using your dog’s toy, make sure to play with your dog when he does find it, so that he can learn to love the search and the reward of finding it.
Treat Dispensing Toy
There are many toys that require a dog to use its brain, and these are perfect for tiring your dog out mentally. If you have a dog that is treat motivated, as many are, I recommend using a treat dispensing toy, such as a Kong.
This product is great because it’s made out of rubber, so it is extremely durable and you don’t need to worry about your dog ripping it apart and swallowing pieces. Inside the Kong, you can place your dog’s favorite treat, which they then have to find a way to get the treat out. This is a fabulous toy to give your dog when you need them to be occupied and tired.
Django’s Story: The Chewing Monster
I don’t think that Django ever lived in a home before I adopted him. He was seriously lacking in a lot of basic manners that dogs who have lived in homes would have. He also was a little bit confused by the leadership hierarchy going on within the house. On the one hand my partner is male and sterner, but on the other hand, I’m the one who walks, feeds, and trains which is typically the role of the leader.
So, for quite some time after arriving, Django would chew on things in order to place himself within the hierarchy. He would chew on things that had my partners scent, like socks or headphones, but would never touch my things. I can’t prove this, but I’m convinced that he did this because he was trying to place himself above my partner in the hierarchy.
He has since stopped chewing completely, but every once in a while he’ll get his mouth around an old sock, and then it’s game over for that sock.
Remember, chewing is normal in dog-world, so we can’t get mad at our dog for doing it. All we can do is try to discourage it by taking away the option of chewing our old socks or table legs.