Think about it from your dog’s perspective. He uses his mouth much like you use your hands. It’s his preferred method for touching his surroundings. When he’s curious about something, he gives it a sniff, then proceeds to lick and gnaw at it to see what it tastes like. Unfortunately, for some dogs, this natural behavior turns into a destructive one.
Why Your Dog is Chewing on Your Stuff
- If he’s a puppy, he might be teething.
- He might simply be bored.
- He could be doing it out of curiosity.
- Some dogs chew when they’re stressed or anxious, such as when there’s a bad storm or if they have separation anxiety.
Identifying the Cause of Your Dog’s Destructive Chewing and Getting it Under Control
The first step to getting destructive chewing under control is figuring out why your dog is doing it in the first place.
- Does your dog chew on your stuff whether you’re home or not? If so, he’s probably bored or curious. In this case, you’ll want to provide more exercise and some mentally stimulating interactive dog toys, such as stuffed Kongs or treat puzzles, to help kick his chewing habit.
- Does your dog chew only chew on things when he’s left home alone? If so, it may be an anxiety or stress response to be left home alone. This is called separation anxiety and treating it will require a lot of hard work on your part. You may need to consult with an animal behaviorist or trainer who specializes in socialization and desensitization techniques. Your vet may also be able to recommend anti-anxiety medications to give your pooch when you have to be away.
- Is your dog a puppy? If so, he is likely chewing on things because he’s teething. Your best bet is to provide him with appropriate chew toys to satisfy that urge and do your best to keep inappropriate items out of his reach. Use the crate training method to keep him out of trouble whenever you aren’t available to supervise him.
Don’t Punish Your Dog After the Fact
It does absolutely no good to punish your dog for chewing something up an hour after the dirty deed is done. If you don’t catch him in the act, he won’t have any idea what your punishing him for. Although he may look guilty when you wave your chewed-up shoe in his face and give him a good scolding, he’s really just being submissive because you’re his pack leader.
If you do catch your dog in the act of chewing on something he shouldn’t, take it away and tell him “No!” in a firm tone. Give him an appropriate chew toy instead. When he starts chewing on the toy, give him pets and praise. Positive reinforcement and corrective guidance are much more effective than inappropriate punishment.
There are tons of chew toys on the market, so try a few different types to see what your pooch likes best. Never provide a toy that looks like something you wouldn’t want him to chew on because he won’t understand the difference. And finally, if your dog is chewing on an object that can’t be put out of his reach, try spraying a deterrent (such as Bitter Apple Spray) on it so that it no longer tastes or smells pleasant to him.