My Dog Keeps Chewing Things
Dogs are by nature pack animals and will seek out companions to be with, especially us humans. However, in today’s pace of life, our everyday routines can quickly be turned upside, resulting in time with your family dog either being drastically changed or reduced. This can result in your dog becoming lonely, bored, stressed and anxious and, as chewing is a natural behaviour, can result in your dog becoming destructive to relieve any, or all, of these symptoms. Unfortunately, this is more likely to occur when you are not with your dog, so you are unable to correct them when they start or are in the act.
This article is, therefore, primarily about how you can plan and take action to help your furry friend cope with any sudden routine changes and prevent any dis-harmony between you both.
• As a puppy, you didn’t teach them what to chew and what not to chew?
• Your dog is bored?
• Is your dog suffering from separation anxiety?
• Your dogs’ behaviour may be fear-related?
As a puppy or young dog, you didn’t teach them what to chew and what not to chew.
So it’s all your fault! But your new young friend is so full of energy and fun bouncing around picking up one of your slippers and running off, and you just had to chase after it playfully. Or, did it grab your towel and a tug of war commences with you down on your knees tugging playfully as well. Yes, we have all done it, and it gets you bonding, plus, it is so much FUN.
This is only one of the reason though, all young dogs need and enjoy chewing. Your puppy will also have a strong desire to explore their new environment and one way they do this entails picking things up and chewing them! Chewing may also help them with any discomfort they may experience during teething (between three and seven months of age), help facilitate the removal of the puppy teeth and the eruption of the adult set. Once your dog reaches adolescence, between seven and twelve months of age, they often have an uncontrollable urge to chew, even more than they did when they were a puppy. This could be because it helps the adult teeth settle into the jawbone which is uncomfortable for some and at this age they can quickly become bored, so you must meet their needs by providing the right amount of exercise and mental stimulation.
When your furry friend joins you make sure it has its own toys to play with from day one and don’t let them get confused by allowing this change, always play with them with their toys.
If the fun with your items has already happened, then you will have to wean them off your items onto their own toys gradually.
Buy a good selection of toys, tug ropes, chew balls, squeaky toys, etc.
None of the toys will smell right at first, so rub them in your hands to get some of your scent on them will help.If they still head over to your item to play with try putting these items out of reach.
If they start playing with one of your items don’t scold them, get one of their toys and while talking quietly to them, coach them over to their toy. Follow this up with praise and perhaps a small treat.
Your dog is bored.
Should your dog be left on its own, it can become bored very quickly, resulting in it hunting out exciting things that need exploring. That usually means testing by chewing it to bits. The most exciting things will more than likely be things that smell of you, your possessions.
Ensure the favourite toys are readily at hand, tough chewing ones including Nylabone chews infused with a tasty flavour, soft squeaky ones, play ones like a ball.
Have some stimulating toys, a hollow ball or a sturdy chew toy with a hollow like a Kong toy where you can place a few treats inside. Have a snuffle mat where you can put treats within the mat, in each of these your dog has to work to get to the treats and can keep them occupied for hours.
Have somewhere your dog can happily rest, it can be a mat, dog bed, possibly include an old towel or blanket you have used and smells of you. Your dog will be delighted with that.
Make sure all your dog’s toys are regularly handled by you, so your scent is on them. Use them in all play situation, especially fetch, so it learns these toys are for play and chewing.
Ensure all your possessions are placed out of reach.
Exercising is an excellent way to stop or reduce the possibility of chewing, a good walk combined with ball or frisbee throwing and chasing really helps. With stimulation and a good workout, they will be too tired to go looking for anything to chew.
Is your dog suffering from separation anxiety?
You haven’t brought a dog into your life just to have it sit there. You have brought it into your life because you love your dog’s company and your dog loves your company! Your dog spends a large amount of its time with you, sits with you (on the sofer with you?). Lies there while you eat, walks with you, dare we suggest, maybe sleeps in your bedroom? It’s great, your dog becomes your’s or your families best mate, but this can lead to them suffering from separation anxiety when you or your family are not there. Remember, dogs are by nature pack animals and prefer company.
Make sure all the solutions in “They’re bored” above, chew and stimulating toys are available. Especially good exercise before you go, exercising is a perfect way to stop or reduce the possibility of chewing.
Consider a herbal calming spray or diffuser. We have had good results from using these to calm our pets, cats, dogs, horses and surprisingly on ourselves!
Dogs possess a denning instinct so it can help to provide somewhere it considers its own and feels safe in. This can be a dog crate (for more about dog crates see “Their behaviour is fear-related” below) or a small room. However, if you use a small room, remember there can still be plenty of things for your dog to take an interest in chewing, i.e., carpets and wood. Never use this area for any form of punishment, it is solely to be used as a safe environment for your dog.
Your dogs’ behaviour may be fear-related.
As we have previously mentioned, dogs are pack animals and prefer company, especially our company, and can become fearful when left on their own by suffering from feelings of social isolation. Because the sense of safety in numbers taken away your anxious dog will need a secure and comfortable place to stay when left behind.
Most of the above from “Bored and Separation Anxiety” will help, play toys, interaction toys with treats, etc., to take their mind off their fear.
Once again, exercise, before they are left on their own, will leave them relaxed and less fear minded.
A lovely comfortable, secure place for your dog to lay is needed when left on its own. A small room can be used and is covered under “They suffer from separation anxiety” above. Here we will specifically cover the use of a dog crate.
To use a dog crate as a den for a fearful or anxious dog will take time. Some will accept it quickly, some may never, you may even find you will have to go back a few steps, but be patient, and it should work for your dog.
For the first couple of weeks positively introduce your dog by putting your dog in the crate with some chews and toys. Close the crate door and leave with a cheery comment like “see you later”, no long emotional goodbyes or threats.
At this point do not allow your dog out unsupervised, instead, close the crate door and leave. If you can, do this every day extending the period each time, but this may not be practical for you.
From about the second week put your dog in the crate but leave the door open. Then go in the usual manner with just a cheery “see you later”. If possible start with a short timeout increasing this daily. If you come back to find any destruction, you will have to go back a couple of steps to a shorter period to where you see there is no destruction. This is maintained for at least a week before starting to slowly increase the time you are away again until you reach your time required. For cases of severe fear or separation anxiety, you should employ an animal behaviour consultant. The severe problem will need an individualised behaviour modification program and possibly drug therapy to be resolved.
Never use the dog crate as an area for any form of punishment, it is solely to be used as a safe environment for your dog.
Some of the following you may think are obvious, so please forgive us for trying to cover most things.
Some helpful notes to remember.
Depending on your time away or routine change, ensure your dog has access to sufficient food and water.
Remember your slippers most probably stink, and your dog will love it so don’t give it an old slipper to play with as it will not distinguish old from new. And, try not to provide any toys that may resemble any of your prized possessions.
If when out walking, you find a stick for your dog to play with and chew just be mindful that when your dog gets back home, it may take a liking to a dining chair leg. After all, it was fun chewing the stick you gave it so why not the chair leg?
Be realistic, all dogs like to chew, so at some point, it is highly likely your furry friend will do just that to something of yours. Just take the odd chewing of something of yours on the chin and buy a replacement if you can, least you can do for your best mate.
Some toys are pretty indestructible but soft toys, especially the squeaky one, can become its number one choice. Be prepared to replace these toys reasonably regularly as they tend to be destroyed more frequently.
If your dog does start chewing one of your possessions do not make a grab for it, your dog will react by running off with it expecting you to chase it, after all, it’s fun. Take one of its favourite toys and calmly get it to release your possession and take the toy. Now give it the verbals? NO, praise your dog, possibly followed by a small treat. You can now go into a separate room and scream or cry depending on the damage to your item. Honestly, your furry friend is definitely worth it.
If your routine or time with your furry friend has changed significantly try not to reduce your exercise time with them. Exercising is a perfect way to stop or reduce the possibility of chewing, a good walk combined with ball or frisbee throwing and chasing really helps. With stimulation and a good workout, they will be too tired to go looking for anything to chew. And the PLUS is it also keeps you fit!
Try to think of your dog as a Goldfish (five-second memory span) because research indicates that if you do not catch your dog actually chewing the item, then it is too late to give them a good telling off. Sure, they will look at you with those hang dog eyes and ears downs which we interpret as “Yes, I’m guilty” In fact, this look is apparently because they don’t like being scolded and are trying to work out why you are ranting at them even though the evidence may be all around them. Yes I know, we have also been duped all these years with that look. So basically, the “guilty looks” are actually canine submissive postures they show when they feel threatened. If you are angry and upset, your dog feels intimidated by your body postures, facial expressions and tone of voice resulting in their show submissive postures or hiding. So, punishment after the act will, in fact, not only fail to eliminate undesirable behaviour, but it could also provoke other unwanted reactions.
To get the new plastic smelling toys accepted by your dog, and thus saving your possessions from being chewed, get them smelling of you. Keep rubbing them in your hands, sleep with them, use whatever way you can to get your smell on them. You will find your dog will accept those toys you have transferred your scent to quicker than those that you haven’t. Combine this with regularly playing fetch with these toys, and you will find acceptance will be quick.
Follow the above suggestions, and your dog will become happier and with the chewing almost stopped, you will be too.
Many thanks for reading, if you have any comments or queries, please get in touch, and that just leaves us to wish you and your furry friend many years of happiness.