Destructive Chewing
Is It Bad Dog Behavior?

When we talk about destructive chewing, its important to figure out the why first.

The act of chewing seems to be a matter of individual preference among dogs: some have an innate desire to do it as a pleasurable activity in itself, and some seem to have no need whatsoever unless they’re driven to it out of sheer boredom.

The phrase “destructive chewing” sounds strange, because – all chewing is destructive. Your dog has strong jaws full of sharp, pointy teeth: just about anything gnawed on is probably going to show the effects of it inside of a minute.

So just to clarify, I’m referring to inappropriate destructive chewing: the kind focused on your own possessions and household items, instead of on your dog’s own designated toys.

Three Main Reasons Dogs Do It

  • Most dogs have a natural desire to chew. It’s fun, it passes the time, and it’s a self-rewarding, self-reinforcing activity (for example, gnawing on something that tastes good.)

  • It provides a nervous, bored, or lonely dog with an outlet for emotions. To an anxious dog, the repetitive act is soothing – it’s the doggie equivalent of comfort food.

  • Underexercised dogs often use their destructive chewing as a way of burning up nervous energy and giving themselves something to do.

How To Prevent Destructive Chewing

Dogs are perfectly capable of learning not to destroy your stuff, you just have to put in a little effort first, that’s all.

1. Take control of the situation: manage your own possessions. Your first step should be to dog-proof your home. Even if you have the best-behaved dog in the world – dogs explore the world with their mouths.

  • Dog-proofing your home means removing whatever you don’t want to end up in their mouth, and making it unavailable.

  • Common targets in the home include books, eyewear, clothing, shoes, garbage, and small crunchy appliances like cameras, cell phones, and remote controls.

  • It should go without saying that all food needs to be put securely away: don’t leave snacks on low tables (or even countertops – you’d be surprised how acrobatic they can be when there’s food at stake
2. Prevent them from learning the joys of illegal activity. The more times they manages to snatch a jawful of a forbidden substance – a chair-leg, a pillow, a running shoe – the more readily they’ll target those items in future.

3. Don’t set them up for failure by blurring the boundaries between their stuff (OK) and your stuff (not OK).
  • Don’t offer your dog cast-off clothes, shoes, or towels to play with: realistically, you can’t possibly expect them to be able to tell the difference.

4. Provide them with lots of tasty alternatives to your stuff. Remember, most dogs need to chew; if they’re an adolescent (under three years) or a puppy (under one year), their needs will be even more pronounced

  • Go on a toy shopping spree, read about dog toys here give them two or three to play with at a time. Rotating the available toys every few days will keep things novel and interesting.
5. Spend lots of time in active supervision.
  • Yes, it might be easier for you to just keep them penned up in their crate, run, or the yard – but that’s boring and horrible, and hardly much fun for you either

  • If you wanted a pet that you don’t need to interact with, you’d have got a goldfish, right?
6. When you catch them with something inappropriate, interrupt by making a loud noise: clap your hands or make an “Ah-ah-aaaah!” noise. Then, immediately hand them a tasty and dog-appropriate alternative (a rawhide bone or other toy); as soon as their jaws close around it, praise lavishly.

Maintain A Productive Attitude When Dealing With Problem Dog Behavior

Above all, remember to keep your expectations realistic. You’re not perfect, and neither is your dog.

Remember to give them time to learn the rules, and plenty of ‘you-time’ to help learn faster –

For more information on dog training techniques and how to deal with problem dog behavior (like chewing), check out SitStayFetch. It’s the complete manual for dog ownership and is designed to fast-track your dog’s learning

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