Chewing is essential for maintaining the health of your dog’s teeth, jaws, and gums, but what do we do when it becomes destructive?
If you notice (or recall back when) that your puppy chews a lot, it is because they have figured out that chewing helps relieve the irritation and inflammation of teething. As dogs age, they like to chew to relieve anxiety and boredom. Dogs also chew for fun and entertainment. A dog’s jaws are similar to human hands. They use their jaws as tools for carrying objects, to investigate surroundings, and more. The first thing that a dog often thinks about when they approach something new is “hey, can I chew this?”
Chewing Is Normal, Natural, and Necessary
Most dogs sleep at night and take naps during the day. You may notice that your dog starts chewing as a form entertainment during their morning routine, afternoon activity peaks, and at night before bed. We have to focus on the fact that this is their entertainment. Ultimately, there are only so many things your dog can do that are this much fun for them while at home. They can’t just pop open a book, call their friends on the phone, and the like.
In fact, assuming that their bones and teeth are healthy, most of the time chewing is simply a way to pass the time for them. Chewing is perfectly normal, natural, and necessary dog behavior. There are times when they chew to reduce inflammation like when they were puppies. If that is the case, you can supplement their nutrition and relieve inflammation. Preventing destructive chewing requires managing the chewing of inappropriate items and patience.
How To Prevent Destructive Chewing
When you leave home for work, confine your dog to a controlled area that is suitable for long term. Proper size dog crates help dogs with anxiety as well as help you limit what is available for chewing. If you have a spare room, turn it into your dogs haven. Furnish it with a comfortable bed, a bowl of water, wee wee pads (if your dog is not yet house trained), and 6 or so chew toys.
When you return, take them for a good walk, play time, social time and more. Remember, they have been confined all day and need to be rewarded for their patience. If your dog knows that this is what happens everyday, it will allow your dog to happily settle down and “pass the time” when you leave in the morning. It is important to note that your dog may be more inclined to search for things to chew (possibly the wrong things that you may consider as “destructive”) when your dog wakes up in anticipation of your return. Most chewing activity takes place right after you leave
home and right before you return.
When you are home, continue to reinforce their crate or haven as a positive place. While confined, give them proper chew toys to demonstrate what in fact is approved for chewing. If possible, every hour on the hour (at longer intervals with properly house trained dogs), take your puppy out to relieve themselves, and if your puppy does in fact relieve themselves, praise them and play some chew toy games before putting them back in their crate. Remember, the first few years of your dogs life are about training at every possible moment. At one point, they really will just figure it all out and everyone will be happy. The purpose of this practice is to prevent your dog from chewing inappropriate items and to maximize the possibility that your dog will develop a healthy (time passing and entertaining) chew toy habit.
Redirect Chewing to Chew Toys
The prevention and confinement training method above optimizes your dogs ability to train themselves. Ultimately, your dog should train themselves to chew only chew toys and other approved items. With a proper chew toy habit, your puppy should no longer want to destroy shoes, curtains, couches, clothes, electrical cords and the like. As a bonus, your dog may even be less likely to develop a barking issue. Over time, your dog will settle down, be calm and quiet, and will learn to entertain themselves. If further training is needed, there are chewing toys with rewards that you can bury treats into. It allows them to focus on exactly this one approved item and learn that they can sort of work for a tasty treat instead of damaging furniture with no reward.
Do not take chew toy chewing lightly. It is important to let your dog know that you strongly approve of it as an appropriate and acceptable hobby. Interacting with your dog by playing chew toy games such as fetch, search, and tug-of-war is a good way to show them that you approve. It is also important to purchase chew toys that are indestructible and non-consumable. When a dog consumes a non-food item it can be very dangerous to your dog’s health. Always search for natural products. Give them a variety of chew toys that are hollow, solid with small holes and more. As a reminder, our natural dog supplement helps with bones and teeth which can help eliminate the concern if their chewing stems from a health issue.