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If your dog's gnawed one too many shoes, or whittled your chair leg down to a toothpick, it might be time to try a chewing deterrent. There are a variety of homemade chewing sprays to choose from, but it may take a little trial and error to learn what flavors your pup will avoid. Try using positive reinforcement first, however, and only consider deterrent sprays as a last resort.
Know reasons for chewing
Dogs chew for any number of reasons. Pups chew when they are teething to relieve the pressure and discomfort of teeth breaking through the gums. This intensified chewing phase usually dwindles off within 6 months or so.
Still, it's normal for dogs of any age to love to chew. They'll chew when they're bored, to relieve anxiety, or just for enjoyment. Make sure they have appropriate — and safe — items for chewing such as hard rubber toys or non-splintering bones that are appropriate for their size.
Start with tart citrus
Lemons, limes and oranges are popular foods for people because of their flavor and aroma, but dogs aren't keen on citrus. Substituting lemon juice for apple cider vinegar will make a spray that your dog may find offensive but may smell a little less harsh to your nose.
A few drops of citrus oil in a cup of alcohol also may do the trick. If your dog's been chewing on your plants, take a few shavings from your morning orange and sprinkle them around your plants as an additional deterrent to your dog.
Pucker up with vinegar
There are a variety of bitter-tasting dog chewing deterrents on the market, however you easily can make your own version. If your dog turns his nose up at your vinegar-flavored potato chips, chances are good a vinegar-based spray will keep him away from your favorite throw pillows.
Try mixing two parts of apple cider vinegar to one part white vinegar for a tongue-curling experience. Vinegar is a good alternative for keeping your pup from noshing on your shoes, but try something else on your plants—they're averse to vinegar as well.
Know the do's and don't's
Just like people, dogs have specific tastes that repel and attract them, so it's no guarantee that vinegar, citrus or pepper will keep your dog from chewing.
Introduce the flavored deterrent to your dog before you spray with it. Simply put a small amount of it on a piece of cotton wool or tissue and place it in your dog's mouth. When he tastes it, he'll likely spit it out, and if he decides he doesn't like the taste he may gag, shake his head or drool.
The point of the exercise is for him to identify the scent of the spray with the bad taste so he'll avoid anything that smells like the spray. The deterrent should be applied daily for up to a month while your dog learns to stay away from specific objects.
Never apply a homemade deterrent directly to your dog's fur without first consulting his vet. Also, you don't want to punish your dog by tying a chewed item to her or using a muzzle or duct tape to prevent chewing. These are inappropriate measures, according to the ASPCA, and your dog will learn nothing from them.
Secure your dog in a crate or room with a child gate when you will be away. Make sure to remove any objects that your dog might chew up.
Tried and true store-bought sprays
If you really want to put a stop to your dog's chewing, a tried-and-true commercial spray could work better than homemade options. Amazon shoppers swear by Grannicks Bitter Apple, which has 4.2 stars after nearly 6,000 ratings. It contains bitter ingredients that dogs naturally want to avoid, and it can be sprayed on most anything. Rocco & Roxie No Chew Extreme Bitter Spray for Dogs contains no alcohol but is said to be twice as bitter as other brands. Nearly 3,000 people agree and 55 percent of shoppers gave it either 4 or 5 stars.
Out! Bitter Cherry dog chew deterrent spray smells good but tastes bad, and is gentle enough for training puppies not to chew. Anti Chew Spray Deterrent by Petsvv is made in the USA and works so well that 79 percent of purchases gave it a 5-star rating. In keeping with the bitter taste that dogs dislike is the Bodhi Dog Bitter Lemon Spray. Oprah recommended this one in 2018 and it is said to work on dogs, cats, rabbits, and even ferrets.