Understanding and Supporting Your Heavy Chewer
Fearful of your dog destroying anything they can get their teeth around? Or perhaps your pup has plenty of toys but chooses to instead turn your work shoe into wet confetti? You are not alone and have joined the ranks of many dog lovers whose shoes suffered the same fate. Not only can this habit be hard on your possessions, but it could be potentially hazardous if they were to swallow inedible bits of whatever it is that they chew. Let’s explore the root causes of heavy chewing and how to make sure it is done in a safe and healthy way.
Why does my dog chew everything?
There are many reasons that dogs crave destructive chewing at all ages. According to the ASPCA, “For young dogs, it’s a way to relieve pain that might be caused by incoming teeth. For older dogs, it’s nature’s way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing also combats boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration”. (ASPCA, n.d) Understanding the source of the chewing helps to make a strong plan to stop chewing of inappropriate items. Are they a teething puppy? When do they chew? If they destroy the pillows when you leave them alone, its likely either boredom, anxiety, or frustration. However, each dog is different and has individual chewing needs. This is where professional training like BFF Canine Obedience is so beneficial, as we can asses them in their natural environment and see what needs we can better understand and support.
How can I stop destructive chewing?
Chewing is an important part of keeping a strong jaw and clean teeth, so its important to give dogs appropriate outlets for chewing that are safe. They need a space free from items that are not safe to chew until they can tell their chewable items from your non-chewable possessions. The Humane Society of the United States has a great list of suggestions that vary depending on the root cause of the chewing. They do note that in that cases of separation anxiety and fear-based behaviors, the use of a professional may be needed. Here are a few of the solutions that the Humane Society listed:
Take responsibility for your own belongings. If you don't want it in your dog's mouth, don't make it available. Keep clothing, shoes, books, trash, eyeglasses and remote controls out of your dog's reach. Give them their own space that is filled with only items they can chew so there is no ability to chew anything that isn’t approved.
Give your dog toys that are clearly distinguishable from household goods. Don't confuse them by offering shoes and socks as toys and then expecting them to distinguish between their shoe and yours. Find toys that offer similar stimulus to the items they love so that have appropriate options to replace inappropriate items. If they love socks, get them a long fabric toy. If they love shoes, get them a thick rubber chew. You can find all of our top toy recommendations on our BFF Toolbox page which will be up soon!
Give your dog plenty of people-time. You are the only one that can teach your pet how to behave in the way you’d like them to behave. They are not able to train themselves what is safe and unsafe to chew, so they need time with you to provide that training.
Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise.
A tired dog is a dog that can’t destroy a couch. A stimulated dog is a happy dog. Switch up the types of toys they have every two weeks by rotating out stashes of different toy types. Get them puzzle toys that make them do work for a treat. Dogs love to be challenged physically and mentally and they need it to lead optimal lives. (Humane Society, n.d.)
What Not to Do About Heavy Chewing
Don't chase your dog if they grab an object and run.
If you chase them, you are only giving your dog what they want. Being chased by their human is fun! Instead call them to you or offer them a treat.
Don’t Expect overnight change or perfection.
Have realistic expectations. At some point your dog will inevitably chew up something you value; this is often part of the transition to a new home. Your dog needs time to learn the house rules and you need to remember to take precautions and keep things out of their reach.
Don’t Punish Your Dog
If you discover a chewed item even minutes after they've chewed it, you're too late. Animals associate punishment with what they're doing at the time they're being corrected. Your dog can't reason that, "I tore up those shoes an hour ago and that's why I'm being scolded now." Some people believe this is what a dog is thinking because they run and hide or because they "looks guilty." In reality, "guilty looks" are actually canine submissive postures that dogs show when they're threatened. When you're angry and upset, your dog feels threatened by your tone of voice, body postures and/or facial expressions, so they may hide or show submissive postures. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but it could also provoke other undesirable behaviors.
Don’t Give Up
Even if you have seemingly tried everything and the issues persist, then please seek out professional help to get you the training needed to keep you and your pet safe, healthy and happy. If you are in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Area, call BFF Canine Obedience at (859) 628-0185
ASPCA, Destructive Chewing. (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/destructive-chewing
Humane Society of the United States, Destructive Chewing. (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/destructive-chewing