There’s nothing more annoying than coming home to find your dog chewing the book you were enjoying reading, or the remains of your most comfortable shoes.
That said, there probably is something more annoying, and that’s finding your dog chewing something a lot more expensive like the furniture or carpet or the wood around the door. Admittedly these are more extreme cases of dog chewing problems, but you hear about them quite often and the damage and expense involved in putting it right is enough to try anyones patience – however much you love your dog.
Sometimes it seems that however careful you are, there’s always something your dog can get hold of and destroy.
The trouble is, getting annoyed with your dogs chewing doesn’t seem to make any difference. Shout and they’ll look guilty and slink towards you, head down and tail between their legs. It certainly looks like they know they’re in trouble, but it never seems to stop them the next time, or the next…
So why do they do it and how can you stop it?
The most obvious reason for chewing is teething in puppies. We all know about that and can plan for it by being observant and providing plenty of indestructible chew toys. But did you know that it can take up until a dog is 2 years old for all of their adult teeth to come through. Which means from time to time they might start up the chewing again, even though they seem long past puppy stage.
As dogs get older and their teeth get bigger and jaws get stronger, they can start to do a lot more damage to your house and to themselves with their incessant chewing and it becomes more important to understand what might be driving their urge to chew and what you can do about it.
Apart from a dog enjoying the sensation of chewing, there are two main reasons you’re experiencing some dog chewing problems.
1. Your dog is chewing to get your attention.
If they start chewing something where you can see them, and they know you’ll stop what you’re doing and speak to them or go over to them, they’ll carry on doing it.
My dog used to go and get a shoe and plonk himself down in front of me before he started chewing, all the time trying to catch my eye, knowing I would have to jump up and take if off him. He had my attention, even if I was cross with him and he carried on doing it more and more frequently until I spotted his game and changed my response.
Here’s what I did that stopped this behaviour within a few days:
Whenever he grabbed a shoe and brought it into the room, I would simply get up and without looking at him, or speaking to him, put him in his crate for 10 minutes where he couldn’t see me or anyone else (you could use a separate room if you don’t have a crate).
This meant his behaviour not only didn’t get my attention, but also lost him access to me completely. His chewing problem disappeared very quickly, as dogs don’t tend to carry on doing things that don’t benefit them.
2. Your dogs chewing is caused by dog anxiety
Chewing in dogs (and humans) helps release a natural enzyme that has a calming effect on our systems. (If you’re a nail biter, you’ll understand this).
So if your dog only seems to chew when left alone, anxiety could be the trigger that starts the chewing frenzy. In fact, the anxiety some dogs experience when left alone can be huge and lead to all sorts of other destructive behaviour too.
The trouble is, an anxious dog can also start chewing paws or other areas of themselves and in the process can steadily remove the fur and even goes through the skin at times. Sadly, they don’t seem to be aware of the damage they are doing to themselves.
In this scenario, the only way to stop dog chewing is to deal with the dog anxiety first, which is unfortunately more complicated than an attention seeking problem.
A Chewing Dog Is An Anxious Pack Leader
Recent dog training approaches suggest that a dog that assumes he is leader of his pack (which includes you and the rest of the family at home) will experience anxiety when you leave them alone because they don’t know where you are and cannot fulfil their role as leader to keep you safe.
This makes sense when you see how many dogs will do anything to get out when left alone, scratching, scraping and chewing at furniture, doors, windows – infact anything that stands in their way.
How To Stop Dog Chewing
The solution is essentially quite simple – take the job of pack leader away from the dog. But to do it you will need to learn how to show your dog that you are the pack leader and they can trust you and have nothing to be anxious about. (N.B.You don’t have to be strong, or tough to do this, in fact you can do this without using any domination tactics, punishment or force.)
If the dog anxiety is very severe then you made need to visit your vet and take advice. There are medications and other products that could help while you go through a retraining process with your dog. If you’re looking for an effective dog training programme, check out our Dog Anxiety eBook because it could be the answer to your dog chewing problems.