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Even the most adorable and lovable dogs can exhibit behaviors that are downright infuriating for their owners. Destructive chewing — AKA gnawing on everything in sight — is arguably one of the most frustrating. If your top priority is to stop your dog from destructive chewing, it’s important to first understand why your dog is exhibiting this behavior and then address the underlying cause. You’re in luck, because that’s exactly what we’re helping you do below.
Reasons Why Dogs Destructively Chew
Though it may feel like it, your dog isn’t chewing on everything in sight just to make you mad. Understanding why your dog chews can help reduce some of your frustration and ultimately curb the behavior. We’ve outlined some of the most common causes of destructive chewing and provided tips and advice for curbing the behavior.
The Chewing Cause: Teething
Just like human babies need chew rings and other toys to help with the teething process, puppies require the same for their own teething. This process typically begins when puppies about two months old and lasts for about six months. If your puppy doesn’t have a good teething chew toy then they’ll seek out whatever looks good — even if it’s a pair of your new sneakers or worse, dangerous human objects like cords, toxic plants, and choking hazards.
The Fix: Chew Toys and Effective Discipline
It’s very important to provide your puppy with chew toys while they’re teething. Try freezing a wet washcloth and letting your puppy chew on it, which can relieve gum pain caused by incoming teeth. There are also store-bought toys your puppy may love to gnaw on, as well.
In addition to providing your pup with toys, puppy-proofing your home can also remove any temptation your pet might have to chew inappropriate items. Keep all chewable objects out of paw’s reach and remove rugs, electrical cords, and plants.
It’s also imperative to teach your dog that chewing on human objects won’t be tolerated. During puppyhood, bad habits can form and be difficult to undo later, so being stern and deliberate now will save you many headaches in the future.
The best way to curb bad chewing is to scold your puppy when you catch them in the act; scolding them hours later when you’ve found the evidence isn’t effective since they won’t understand why they’re in trouble. Also, be consistent in your scolding so your puppy can make the appropriate connection to bad behavior.
Scolding shouldn’t involve hitting or screaming (which only makes the problem worse), but rather a firm, stern voice and time-outs. Positive reinforcement when they use the appropriate chew toy is also effective. Also, sometimes a yucky-flavored spray designed for pets can deter chewers. Some dogs don’t won’t bat an eye at this, though, so make sure to test this behavior-curbing method before completely relying on a spray.
The Chewing Cause: Anxiety
Adult dogs who exhibit destructive chewing may suffer from anxiety. Separation anxiety, which is anxiety that surfaces anytime you leave the home for a duration of time, is a common cause. When pet parents go to work or kids go to school, many animals don’t understand that the loss of human time isn’t their fault and may think they’re being punished, which can lead to stress chewing. If your dog only chews when you’re not at home, then this is most likely why.
Another cause of anxiety is a change in their environment. For example, if you’ve recently brought another dog, a cat, or a baby home, then your dog may engage in destructive behaviors. This is a way for them to release stress and to also gain your attention.
The Fix: Ease Their Anxiety
Easing your dog’s anxiety may seem like a monumental task, but it can be done. The key is patience, consistency, and drawing positive associations with whatever is causing the stress in their world. For example, if your pet gets stressed and chews once you leave home, giving them a fun toy or treat before you walk out the door can help calm and distract them.
It also helps to give them lots of attention before you leave, whether that means a 20-minute play session, lots of cuddles, or a nice long walk. It may also help to only leave them for short periods of time and then gradually increase to being gone for longer periods. While you’re away, you can play them an audiobook or music, or even install a camera/speaker device that allows you to communicate with your pup while away.
Regarding general stress and environmental changes, one of the best things you can do for your dog is to provide them with lots of love, attention, physical exertion, and stimulating toys. In difficult cases of dog anxiety, speak to your veterinarian about medications and supplements that can help.
The Chewing Cause: Boredom and Compulsive Behaviors
Bored pets can often become destructive. This is a two-fold issue: they’re trying to alleviate their boredom and they may also be trying to communicate their dissatisfaction with you. Also, if your pet is constantly chewing on toys, furniture, and him or herself, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or other compulsory disorders might be the culprit. Missing hair and raw skin on your pet’s limbs or at the base of the tail are major indicators of compulsive disorders.
The Fix: Lots of Attention
As mentioned, dogs require consistent exercise, doting, and mental stimulation in order to live their happiest life. Anything less can result in destructive behaviors such as chewing.
Make sure your dog is being walked several times a day and has the ability to exert all their built-up energy. Toys and games that are mentally engaging — even something as simple as fetch — can help immensely, as well. And of course, showing your pup ample love with scratches, cuddles, words of affection, and simply time spent together can help curb boredom.
If you suspect your dog has OCD or another compulsive behavior issue, it’s important to address the issue right away because it will only worsen with time. The above advice can help, but your veterinarian may also prescribe medications or supplements that effectively eases their symptoms and provides your dog with much-needed peace.
In addition to snuggles and tending to their medical needs, one of the best ways you can show your love is by making sure your pet is covered with pet insurance. If you aren’t already a pet parent with us, you can get a quick and free quote here.