How Do You Train a Dog to Stop Destructive Chewing?

Here's some useful information to help you deal with this behavior

The act of chewing seems to be a matter of individual preference among most dogs. Some dogs like to chew out of pleasure, while some seem to chew out of sheer boredom. In either case, when the chewing is destructive, it is definitely a problem that needs an immediate solution.

The phrase “destructive chewing” may sound redundant, simply because the very nature of chewing is to destroy something beyond its normal appearance. Your dog has strong jaws full of sharp, pointy teeth, and just about anything it starts to chew on is probably going to show the effects of your dog’s chewing almost instantly. However, to clarify, when using the phrase “destructive chewing”, we are referring to inappropriate chewing - the kind of chewing that focuses on your own possessions and household items, instead of on your dog’s designated toys and chews.

3 Main Reasons Why Dogs Chew:

  1. Most dogs have a natural desire to chew. It’s fun, it passes the time, and it’s a self-rewarding, self-reinforcing activity (for example, chewing on something that tastes good).
  2. Chewing provides a nervous, bored, or lonely dog with an outlet for its emotions. To an anxious dog, the repetitive act of chewing is soothing – it’s the doggie equivalent of comfort food.
  3. Dogs that do not get enough exercise often use chewing as a way of burning up nervous energy and giving themselves something to do.
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6 Ways to Prevent Destructive Chewing:

Dogs are perfectly capable of learning not to chew your stuff – you just have to put in a little effort first:

  1. Doggy-Proofing - Take control of the situation by managing your own possessions. Your first step should be to dog-proof your home. Even if you have the best-behaved dog in the world, there’s still no reason to test its self-control; after all, dogs explore the world with their mouths.
    Dog-proofing your home means taking whatever you don’t want to end up in your dog's mouth, and making it unavailable. Considering your dog’s size and agility when deciding whether something’s out of reach, ask yourself these questions:
    • Can my dog jump?
    • Can my dog climb, or leap onto something else to reach the desired object?
    • How tall is my dog when standing on its back legs?

    Common targets in the home include books, eyewear, clothing, shoes, garbage, and small, crunchy appliances like cameras, cell phones, and remote controls.

    It should go without saying that all food needs to be put securely away, so don’t leave snacks on low tables (or even countertops – you’d be surprised how acrobatic a dog can be when there’s food at stake!). Put all food into containers or in the pantry. Rinse and clean your dirty plates of any food scraps before leaving them to sit on the sink.

  2. Prevention - Prevent your dog from learning the joys of inappropriate chewing. The more times your dog manages to snatch a jaw full of a forbidden substance – a chair-leg, a pillow, a running shoe – the more readily it’ll target those items in the future. If you can prevent your dog from chewing your stuff in the first place, it’s a lot easier for it to understand your expectations. Practically speaking, this means confining your dog in a dog-proofed area until you’re confident of his understanding of the house rules.
  3. Rule Setting - Don’t set your dog up for failure by blurring the boundaries between your dog’s stuff (things that are okay to chew) and your stuff (things absolutely forbidden to chew). Don’t offer your dog cast-off clothes, shoes, or towels to chew on and play with, and then expect it to realistically distinguish what is and what isn't garbage.
  4. Provision - Provide your dog with lots of tasty alternatives to your stuff. If its environment is relatively barren of attractive, appropriate chewing objects, you can hardly blame your dog for targeting your possessions. Remember, most dogs need to chew. If your dog is an adolescent (under three years old) or a puppy (less than one year), its needs will be even more pronounced. Go on a chew toy shopping spree, and then give your dog two or three items to play with at one time. Rotating the available toys every few days will help keep things fresh and interesting for your dog.
  5. Supervision - Spend lots of time in active supervision. Yes, it may be easier for you to just keep your dog penned up in a dog crate, or the yard – but that’s boring and horrible for your dog, and hardly much fun for you either. If you wanted a pet that you don’t need to interact with, you’d have got a goldfish, right? Your dog can’t learn what you expect if it’s spending all its time boxed up in the dog-proof zone; your dog needs the opportunity to explore the boundaries of your expectations, so it can understand what’s appropriate and what’s not.
  6. Switching Up - When you catch your dog chewing something inappropriate, interrupt the act immediately by making a loud noise by clapping your hands or making a loud “Ah-ah-aaaah!” noise. Immediately hand your dog a tasty, dog-appropriate alternative (a rawhide bone or other chew toy), and as soon as its jaws close around it, praise your dog lavishly. There is no better way to get a dog to understand that chewing “their own” toys equals praise from you, and that everything else equals trouble.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Above all, remember to keep your expectations realistic. You’re not perfect, and neither is your dog. There is likely to be at least one incident where a cherished item may be damaged by your dog’s curiosity or it trying to test which items are acceptable for chewing.

Particularly in the early stages of your relationship, your dog is still learning the ropes; it’ll take awhile before it’s completely reliable. Even then, if left by itself for too long or it feels neglected, your dog may choose your stuff anyway to occupy its time and jaws. Remember to give your dog time to learn the rules, and plenty of ‘you-time’ to help it learn faster. Don’t forget to take precautions and keep things out of reach until your dog’s got the hang of the chewing rules!

If you REALLY want to end your dog's excessive chewing problem, you NEED to establish yourself as the “alpha dog” of the house.

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