How to Prevent a Dog From Chewing on Furniture

By Catherine Holden Robinson

The arm of your sofa has little protection from an enthusiastic pup with a fervor for chewing. Dogs aren't terribly picky when it comes to off-limits chew toys. It's not unlikely that more than a few possessions have been lost to the choppers of the family dog. Incessant chewing can be damaging to all household products, especially furniture, but proper training and conditioning can prolong the life expectancy of your favorite arm chair.

Understanding Chewing

Dogs have an innate need to chew. Dogs chew to improve the strength of their jaw and to clean their teeth. Puppies will chew to alleviate the pain associated with teething. Your dog may chew if he is bored, if he's seeking food because his caloric intake has been reduced and if he's experiencing anxiety. Separation anxiety may cause your dog to seek something to chew while you're away. Your dog won't know what is off limits and what isn't, so make sure you're clear about what he is allowed to chew when you begin training.

A Good Chew

Never offer an old shoe, garment or pillow for your dog to chew. He cannot differentiate between the good stuff and the stuff destined for the curb. Instead, give him his own chew toys, and consider a food-stuffed toy to keep him busy for a long period of time. If he's teething, consider a frozen toy to help sooth the gum pain associated with teething. If your dog has a propensity for chewing, don't allow him out of sight. Spend time with him engaged in play and make sure he gets enough exercise and stimulation to keep him busy. If you catch him in the act, use a vocal command such as "no chewing," or "uh oh," and immediately give him his own toys. Praise him when he's chewing his own toys, and offer him a treat to reinforce the positive act of chewing something other than the couch.

Why Furniture

In the wild, dogs will chew sticks to fulfill the need to chew. In your living room, your dog may chew the leg of a table, the leg of your couch, or the arm of your favorite recliner. The wood legs may fulfill his ancestral need to chew wood found in the wild, and sucking the fabric from an arm chair may mimic the comfort your dog felt nursing as a young pup. This may become a real issue if your dog was weaned too young. Consider talking with your vet about the benefit of seeing a dog behaviorist if your dog begins sucking the fabric parts of your furnishings. Chewing wood may lead to splinters in your dog's gums, and if he's tearing apart the arms or cushions of couches or chairs, he could ingest fabric or batting, which could lead to intestinal distress.

The Bitter End

Liquid deterrents, commonly referred to as "bitters," may cause your dog to pause before he embarks on chewing the couch. Bitters shouldn't be used in place of good training, but can supplement your training efforts. Spray the bitters onto a small piece of cotton and allow your dog to take it into his mouth. He should spit it out immediately. If he doesn't, it's unlikely spraying the furniture will be much of a deterrent. If he does spit out the cotton, spray the furnishings liberally, but you may want to test the bitters first in an area that cannot be seen, such as the back of the couch, to make sure the spray won't damage your fabric.