Destructive chewing is one of the most frustrating problems new dog owners face. If you’ve ever had your furniture, carpeting, or your favorite shoes destroyed by your canine buddy, you know how upsetting this problem can be! Chewing is most common in puppies and dogs less than a year old, but it can be an issue for some older dogs as well.
Regardless of your dog’s age, read on for some helpful tips on dealing with this problem.
Puppy-proof your house
It may come as a surprise to many new dog owners that you need to prepare your home for a puppy or a new dog, just like you would for a human toddler. Dogs (especially puppies!) naturally want to chew and put their mouths on everything in their environment – this is a normal behavior for them, since it’s how they explore the world. So, expect that they will definitely try to chew on anything in reach!
This means that it’s up to you to keep dangerous or forbidden items put away. Make sure that shoes, gloves, and other articles of clothing are kept in closets or drawers that your dog can’t get to. Books, notepads, and other types of paper are also common targets. Purses and book bags may be nosed through and items removed for chewing or eating, so keep these up on tables out of reach as well.
Confine your dog when you’re not home
One of the most common mistakes that new dog owners make is giving their new buddy too much freedom in the house, too soon. Remember that your dog doesn’t know the rules – if it looks tasty, it’s very likely to be chewed unless you’re there to supervise.
This means that a young puppy or new dog should never be left loose in the house to roam at will when you’re not home – there are far too many temptations! Instead, confine your dog to a crate or a single puppy-proofed room such as a kitchen or laundry room while you’re gone. Once you’re no longer having any problems with inappropriate chewing, you can start to allow your pup more freedom.
Provide appropriate things to chew
Remember that chewing is a normal behavior for dogs, especially when they’re young. So if you don’t want your dog to chew on your things, you’ll need to keep a variety of items on hand to provide an appropriate outlet for this behavior. Many dogs enjoy long-lasting chew items like bully sticks, cow or pig ears, or large rawhide chews. Other good options may include puzzle toys like a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, or a refillable treat dispenser like a Kibble Nibble or Everlasting Treat Ball.
Give your dog plenty of exercise
There’s a saying among dog trainers that “a tired dog is a good dog,” and this is definitely true! Many dogs who chew excessively on furniture, walls, or other inappropriate things do this because they are bored and restless. It often helps to increase the amount of exercise and mental stimulation that your dog is getting each day – this makes it more likely that it will choose to nap when things are quiet at home, rather than looking for something to chew on.
A 30-minute game of fetch, a walk around the neighborhood, a hike through the woods, or a brisk run at the park are all great ways of burning off excess energy for a tired, well-behaved dog. Mental stimulation is important too, so you could also sign up for a weekly obedience or agility class, or do a short training session every day to teach some new tricks.
Redirect to something else
If you see your dog starting to chew on your coffee table or living room rug, give it a toy or long-lasting treat to chew on instead. Over time, this will help to develop the habit of choosing appropriate things to chew on, rather than furniture or your belongings. You could also redirect your dog to some other activity instead, such as a game of tug or a quick training session.
Use Bitter Apple to discourage chewing
There are a number of products available that are designed to help discourage inappropriate chewing by making rugs or furniture taste bad – Bitter Apple is the most well-known, but there are a number of other variations including Bitter Orange and Bitter Cherry. This can be a very effective way of deterring your dog from chewing your things without having to scold or punish, especially if you are also providing tasty, dog-approved alternatives like rawhides or bully sticks to chew on. Just be sure to test the spray on a small area first to make sure that no staining or discoloration occurs, and follow label instructions about any fabrics or surfaces to avoid.