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How to Deal with Destructive Chewing

Dogs don’t have hands, so they experience much of their world through their mouths. You might come home from work to find your dog has gotten curious about your shoes and ended up destroying them.

Destructive chewing is something you can manage though. Here are some tips on how to deal with destructive chewing.

Why Do Dogs Chew?

There are several reasons why a dog might chew. Some of the most common reasons for a mouthy dog include:

  •     They’re bored.
  •     They never learned what’s ok to chew.
  •     They have anxiety or are fearful.
  •     They’re looking for your attention.

Most of the reasons for problem chewing can be dealt with at home. If your dog is chewing out of fear or anxiety, it’s probably a good idea to get your vet involved. Fearful dogs can become a danger to themselves or others.

How to Deal with Destructive Chewing

Teach Your Dog What is OK to Chew

A dog that can’t stop chewing was likely never taught what’s “right” to chew. You can’t really blame a dog for destroying something if you never took the time to show them you don’t want that thing destroyed.

Take the time to show them what’s safe for them to chew and remind them what’s not ok to chew. You can even keep them with you on leash so they don’t sneak away to chew on things. The immediate feedback you give them will help them learn what’s safe and appropriate.

Work Your Dog’s Body and Mind

Sometimes, a destructive dog is just trying to release some of its energy. Chewing might also just be something to do. A bored dog is going to turn destructive. If this describes your dog, the best way to stop their chewing is to give them more exercise. Get them outside more or go for longer walks. Burning their mental and physical energy helps stop their destructive behaviors.

Deal with Teething

A growing puppy can almost be expected to chew as its teeth come in. Since you can expect it, you can be ready. Before your puppy starts chewing on things, be sure you get a bunch of different toys with different textures so your dog can relieve their sore mouth. You can even freeze a wet rag for them to chew on. A frozen cloth helps cool their gums and can help soothe them. Just be sure to keep an eye on them since they can likely tear a cloth to shreds quickly.

Make Your Dog Not Want an Item

If your dog just won’t stop chewing on things, you can try a deterrent. You can buy store-bought products that help curb your dog’s chewing. You can also make a taste deterrent at home using a 2:1 formula of apple cider vinegar and plain, white vinegar.

Spray this formula on the items you want your dog to stay away from. The next time they try biting the item, they should be deterred by how bitter it is. If you do give it a try, be sure to supervise them at first as well. Some dogs aren’t deterred by these products and will continue to chew.

Make a Trade

If your dog has something that you don’t want them to have, try replacing it with something appropriate. You can grab either a treat or another toy and offer it to your dog. The hope is that they will give you the item they shouldn’t be chewing on and you give them a “reward” for them for obedience.

Don’t Chase your Dog

It’s difficult to stop yourself sometimes but be sure not to chase your dog. If you’re running around the home or backyard trying to grab something from your dog, they’re going to think you’re playing. If your dog has taken something from you, chasing is going to be fun for them.

A better bet is to offer them a treat. Rather than chasing after your dog, show them the treat and speak to them in a kind and inviting voice. When your dog comes over to you, you’ll be able to take the item and give them the treat. This also helps reframe the situation as well. You’re teaching your dog that you’re not going to punish them for misdeeds. You’re giving them a treat shows them that you’re going to reward them for listening to you.

A Word on Punishment

Your natural reaction to catching your dog chewing up your favorite shoes might be to get angry. Just remember that the way you react to your dog is going to affect the way they react to you as well.

Yelling at your dog isn’t really going to help the situation. Also, if you catch your dog even a few seconds after they’ve chewed on something, it’s too late for punishment. You need to catch your dog red-handed for any kind of punishment to be associated with what they’re doing.

Remember that when you train your dog, a carrot is much more effective than a stick. Find points where your dog is doing what you want and reward them for that rather than trying to punish them for doing things you don’t like. 

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