You walk into the living room on your way to get your morning cup of coffee and do a double take. Did it snow in your living room? Of course not. Fido ripped apart the side of your antique chair and dragged the fluffy insides all over your house. While you probably want to strangle your pooch, he simply looks up at you in awe, having no idea why you don't seem pleased with him. Dogs will chew, it's a natural behavior. You'll just have to work with him to encourage acceptable chewing.
Some breeds of canines may be prone to more chewing than others. Top on the list include Jack Russell terriers, pit bulls, Labs and golden retrievers, beagles, Australian shepherds, Shetland sheepdogs, German shepherds, huskies, and Shiba inus. You'll have to give these natural "power chewers" lots of attention, exercise and plenty of things to chomp on. Talk with a veterinarian before adopting. He can tell you which breeds to avoid if you're concerned about your new pooch tearing up your furniture.
Reasons Dogs Chew
Regardless of breed, all dogs are naturally inclined to chew. They do so for all kinds of reasons, and if you suspect that your dog may be chewing to the point where he's destroying everything in sight, you'll have to get to the bottom of the cause. One thing is for certain: dogs don't chew out of spite. Fido didn't gnaw the legs of your bedroom bureau to get back at you for not giving him an extra treat -- he was probably just bored. Some dogs chew during separation anxiety. If he destroys something new each time you leave the house, he's most likely a little anxious when you leave. Chewing is also relaxing and calming. Think of your habits when you're zoned out trying to clear your head. You might bite your nails or shake your leg. Fido has the same self-soothing needs, except he deals with it by chewing.
Changing the Behavior
Don't ever yell at Fido when you catch him in the act. All you're teaching him is that chewing makes you angry so he'll be less inclined to do it in front of you. He'll start chewing when you leave the room instead -- maybe on his toy, maybe on your pillow. Rather than getting angry, replace the bad behavior with a good behavior. When Fido proudly strolls through your bedroom with a pair of underwear dangling from his mouth, replace it with one of his toys. The next time you see him chewing on that toy, pat him on the head and let him know he's making you happy. He'll eventually start to understand what is and isn't acceptable to have in his mouth.
Optimal Chew Toys
Head to your local pet store and pick up toys designed for chronic chewers. Durable rubber toys and strong plastic toys with compartments are especially helpful. These types of toys hold food, enticing your little buddy to play with them for a while. Instead of pouring his dinner in a bowl, stuff it into one of these toys. He'll have to work for his entree and you'll be encouraging good chewing behavior at the same time. Rawhide and compressed bones are also delightful chew treats, however, they are high in calories and can pose a choking hazard. If you decide to reward Fido with his very own bone, make sure you're in the same room when he's chewing, just in case something goes awry.
You need to give Fido lots of dog toys to play with, not old human chew toys. For example, if he's already made a mess of your expensive running shoes, don't let him keep them as his top-dollar chew toys. You're teaching him to chew on shoes. He doesn't know the difference between your old sneakers and your high-end pumps. Additionally, excessive chewing can be dangerous, especially if your pooch is left alone for a while without supervision. He can break a tooth, choke or cut himself. For his own protection, it might be best to crate train him or confine him to a small area when you're not around. The bottom line is that if you don't want him to chew it, don't leave him alone with it.
By Melodie Anne Coffman
The Humane Society of the United States: Chewing: The Whys and Hows of Stopping a Gnawing Problem
Cesar's Way: Dog Chew Toys and Bones
PetPlace.com: How to Deal with a Chewing, Destructive Dog
U.S. Food & Drug Administration: No Bones About It: Bones Are Unsafe for Your Dog
About the Author
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.