Maybe you’ve recently decided that you want your outdoor dog to live inside with you,…
March is usually the time for Crufts but this year we will have to wait a bit longer as it will be held in July. For some, the season of Crufts is the best time of year to ready their perfectly preened, obedient canines and show them off to the whole world.
But for others, it’s that time of year where you watch the country’s most composed, attractive and well-behaved dogs on TV, only to be distracted by your own (just as beautiful and beloved!) dog chewing on the leg of the sofa.
We can’t all have the world’s best-trained pup, but some behaviours can (and should) be addressed, whether we’re shooting for Crufts or not. Occasionally causing trouble or running away, some pups will have a mischievous streak which requires careful training early on. The task of training your pooch not to chew dangerous things (or things with sentimental or financial value) doesn’t even need to be that difficult.
You just need to train them to direct their chewing energy towards certain items.
As they explore the world, it’s completely normal for dogs and puppies to chew on things. For them, it’s a worthwhile task that accomplishes a number of things. For example, just like in human babies, it’s a great way for young puppies to relieve the pain of teething.
Why Are They Chewing?
Being a dog and chewing things come hand in paw. Most dogs will want to chew throughout their lives, having begun as puppies as part of their development. Understanding why your dog is chewing is an important part of taking care of them. Some owners come to believe that their dogs are doing this out of spite or to get attention, but this is a myth. A dog needs to chew and if they aren’t given enough toys or treats to do it appropriately and safely, they’ll have to go looking for something else to act as a chew toy.
Dogs don’t have the dexterity to brush their own teeth, so they keep their teeth clean and jaws healthy by chewing. If your dog is frustrated or a little nervous, chewing can also relieve this and is a great boredom buster.
If your dog is chewing excessively, it’s worth speaking to your vet about the possible causes as they will be able to recommend appropriate actions to take. You can help your dog through this problem if you understand the reasons behind the chewing and address these. You can help your dog through separation-anxiety-related chewing by working on their anxiety with an accredited behaviourist, for example. If your dog chews most intensely or exclusively when left alone, this might suggest that separation is at the root of the problem. They may also exhibit other signs of separation anxiety, such as defecation, crying, barking, pacing, restlessness and urination.
It can be helpful to introduce extra walks and playtime if their chewing appears to be caused by boredom. Your vet can help treat any medical or dental issues behind the chewing problem.
Some of the most common reasons a dog chews include…
- Your dog is more likely to chew things they shouldn’t if they aren’t getting enough mental or physical exercise.
- Dietary imbalance. If they’re missing any minerals or vitamins, some dogs on an unbalanced diet will chew things to try and fix that. You can solve this by giving them a more complete diet.
- Frustration or anxiety. As discussed above, dogs that are stressed may chew as a “self-soothing” behaviour. If separation anxiety is to blame, it’s best to avoid leaving your dog alone for more than four hours.
- It’s important to visit your vet to rule out medical conditions if your dog’s chewing habits change, as an underlying medical condition may be to blame.
- This is a learned one. Your dog might see being chased around the room as a fun game, when in fact you’re just trying to retrieve the TV remote from their mouth. It may be their way of getting your attention if they want to play or spend time with you.
- New teeth coming through. As we’ve already discussed, young puppies will ease their sore gums when teething by chewing on things – just like human babies. This is the best time to train them out of chewing your possessions and into chewing pet-safe toys, as puppies learn really quickly at this age.
As well as chewing, some dogs may lick or suck fabric items. It is possible for this behaviour to become compulsive, and you’ll know this is the case if your dog’s fabric-sucking goes on for long periods or it’s very difficult to stop them when they get started. Early weaning (before the age of seven or eight weeks) is often believed to be the cause of this. If this is the case with your dog, it may be necessary to approach a certified animal behaviourist or trainer for more specialised help.
How Do I Stop It?
The urge to chew is natural in dogs. It’s a way for them to keep their teeth clean, their jaws strong and their brains entertained. You can’t stop them from chewing altogether, but training your dog to chew specific items (like their own toys) is often fairly straightforward. It’s best to start this training at an early age, but older dogs can learn too with a little patience and effort.
Don’t punish your dog if you catch them chewing something they shouldn’t. Punishing your dog is nowhere near as effective as positive, reward-based training methods. Rather than stopping, a dog that is punished may just become scared of you and learn to hide their chewing. Heaping on the praise when your dog starts chewing on their own chew toys is a much better technique.
If your dog has plenty of chews – both safe chew toys and treats – why would they bother chewing your furniture? Prevent your dog from getting bored by rotating the available chews regularly, and pay attention to your dog’s preferred chews. Make sure any non-edible chews are pet-sage and won’t get damaged in a way that will hurt your pet.
For more information on rewards-based training, check out our book The Essential Guide to Dog Training!