It’s no secret that dogs love to chew. And many dog owners have to deal with a few teeth marks on their belongings at some point. But fortunately, there are several methods to teach a dog what they can and cannot chew. Here are seven tips to train your dog to stop chewing.
1. Understand why they’re chewing
Dogs chew for many reasons, and some indulge in the habit more than others. It’s key to pinpoint the motivations for their chewing — potentially working with a veterinarian or behaviorist — so you can correct the behavior.
Here are some reasons dogs chew, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
- Boredom: When dogs don’t have things to do, they’ll find something. And some might resort to chewing on anything in sight — furniture, clothing, etc. For them, it’s entertainment. But for you, it’s a completely destroyed sofa. Plus, some clever, attention-seeking dogs might know they’ll get your focus if they start chewing on something they shouldn’t.
- Separation anxiety: Some dogs might chew because they’re upset when left alone. “They also display other signs of separation anxiety, such as whining, barking, pacing, restlessness, urination and defecation,” according to the ASPCA.
- Stress: Sometimes, chewing is related to stress or fear. Just like with separation anxiety, dogs might attempt to relieve their frustrations through chewing.
- Sucking: Certain dogs might have the tendency to lick, suck or chew fabrics. “Some experts believe that this behavior results from having been weaned too early (before seven or eight weeks of age),” the ASPCA says. This action can become compulsive and require the help of a professional behaviorist to correct.
- Teething: Teething is an obvious source of chewing in puppies. And fortunately, it usually resolves once the dog grows up (though it still takes some training and positive reinforcement). Some adult dogs also instinctively chew for dental reasons — keeping their teeth clean and jaws strong. Plus, some dental issues might provoke chewing, so it’s important to mention the behavior to your vet.
- Hunger: If your dog is on a diet, there’s a chance they might begin to chew on objects in an attempt to find more calories. “Dogs usually direct this kind of chewing toward objects related to food or that smell like food,” according to the ASPCA. If this is the case, consult your vet on the best way to satisfy your dog’s hunger throughout the day.
- Exploration: Many puppies (and adult dogs) chew as they’re exploring their environments. It’s perfectly normal — though sometimes unwanted — canine behavior, as they use their senses to get a read on their surroundings.
So after you recognize the source, how do you stop your dog from chewing on everything? There are several methods dog experts swear by.
2. Give them their own chew toys
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Chew toys are essential in positively directing a dog’s teeth. “Pay attention to the types of toys that keep him chewing for long periods of time and continue to offer those,” the ASPCA suggests. Consult your vet for appropriate edible items your dog can chew, as well. Toys filled with some of their daily food (or frozen with peanut butter) seem to work well for many dogs, keeping them busy and satisfied for long stretches of time.
3. Be responsible for your belongings
No dog is going to be perfect 100 percent of the time. And if you have a chewer on your hands, you have to take some responsibility, too. “If you don’t want it in your dog’s mouth, don’t make it available,” the Humane Society of the United States says. “Keep clothing, shoes, books, trash, eyeglasses and remote controls out of your dog’s reach.” Chewing on inappropriate items can be dangerous for your dog, so don’t tempt them by making those things accessible. And make sure their chew toys are distinguishable from your belongings — i.e., don’t give them an old shoe to play with and then expect them not to chew on all your shoes.
4. Try deterrents
There are products with an unpleasant taste that you can apply to belongings you don’t want your dog chewing. “Furniture and other items can be coated with a taste deterrent (such as Bitter Apple) to make them unappealing,” according to HSUS. However, this isn’t a foolproof method. Some dogs will continue chewing in spite of the deterrent, and the products must be reapplied to maintain their efficacy. Still, it might be what you need to get the ball rolling as you train your dog what they can and cannot chew.
5. Exercise your dog
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Because boredom can lead to unwanted chewing, make sure your dog is getting enough mental and physical stimulation. If you’ll be leaving your dog for a long period during the day, tire them out beforehand, so they don’t find ways to entertain themselves. Plus, the ASPCA suggests attempting to pinpoint the times of day when your dog seems to want to chew the most. During those times, offer them a puzzle toy, so they can expend some mental and physical energy they would have put toward chewing.
6. Rotate toys
Another way to keep dogs mentally and physically stimulated is by switching up their toys. “It’s ideal to introduce something new or rotate your dog’s chew toys every couple of days so that he doesn’t get bored with the same old toys,” according to the ASPCA. And be wise about their toys, too. It might not be an easy feat, but try to find ones your dog won’t instantly shred to pieces.
7. Use positive reinforcement
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If you come home to chewed furniture or belongings, don’t yell at your dog. You have to catch them in the act of chewing to train them in appropriate behavior, HSUS says. And if you do find them with an object in their mouth you don’t want chewed, never yell or chase them. They might see that as a game or become confused and afraid. Instead, teach them to drop items on command, and reward them with a suitable toy or treat. Consistency direct them to dog-friendly items they can chew, and remember to praise your dog for good behavior.
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