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Why Does My Dog Chew and How Can I Stop It?
It can be quite frustrating as a dog owner to come home to find any number of items chewed up beyond recognition. Not only can a dog chew up and destroy small things like shoes, television remotes or children’s toys, they can certainly tackle larger “prey”. I have encountered some photos on the Internet of chairs completely chewed up by dogs, couches chewed up by dogs and even walls and doors chewed up by dogs. The intent of this article is to explain this chewing behavior and help find solutions to the problem.
Understanding why your dog chews
The first thing that you need to know is that chewing is a perfectly normal behavior for a dog – especially a puppy under a year old. There are two reasons for normal chewing behavior. The first reason is that dogs use their mouths the way that humans use their hands. Dogs pick up items with their mouths, move their puppies with their mouths and most importantly open things with their mouths. When a dog wants to test if something is good to eat or has something good to eat inside of it, they chew it up. The second reason for normal chewing behavior is that puppies use chewing to help their adult teeth come in. Just like humans, puppies lose their baby teeth and they are replaced by adult teeth. This can be quite painful and chewing is one way to relieve the pain.
Have you ever noticed that your dog seems to chew on your personal items more than anything else? The reason for this is simple: Your dog likes your scent and is drawn to items that have your scent on them. The more time a dog spends near an object the more likely he is to chew it.
Chewing like other undesirable behaviors can also be a sign of boredom or loneliness. The old saying “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is certainly true for dogs are well (except the whole hand thing). If you notice that your dog seems to chew more when you are gone or when you are not paying attention to him, boredom could very well be the cause.
How to stop undesired chewing
Now that we have covered some of the basic causes of undesired chewing, now we can talk about how to stop this behavior. The first thing to do to accomplish this task is to determine which of the explanations for chewing seems to apply to your dog.
If your dog is chewing because he is teething then it is important to supply your dog with chewing toys to satisfy his teething needs. In reality all dogs should have chew toys around, but it is vitally important for teething puppies. Never give your puppy an old shoe (or any other household item you wouldn’t want him to chew up if it were brand new). Your puppy cannot distinguish between the 15 year old sneaker and your new designer shoes. Make sure and praise your puppy for chewing on the appropriate items. If you ever catch your puppy chewing on an inappropriate item, don’t scold them. Instead take away the inappropriate item and replace it with a chew toy.
If your dog seems to be chewing out of boredom then there are two things that need to be done. You need to provide appropriate chew toys. As I mentioned above, chew toys are vitally important for a teething puppy but all dogs need to have something appropriate to chew on. Just as important is that your dog needs to have regular exercise. Just being let out into the backyard is not enough. He needs to be walked on leash every day and also have other fun exercise activities such as fetch, agility training or field exercises.
If your dog seems to chew items more when you are gone from the house, this is a sign of loneliness. Being pack animals, dogs can suffer separation anxiety when separated from the rest of the “pack”. One of the ways dogs relieve this anxiety is to chew on things. More often than not these are items that belong to members of the “pack”. You can add your scent to chew toys by tossing them into the clothing hamper for a few days with some of your clothes. This will provide your dog with an appropriate chew toy with your scent on it. Also, never make a big deal out of leaving your dog home alone. This will only add to his anxiety.