Dogs and Chewing: Why it's Necessary and What You Can Do About it

If you've ever lived with a dog before, you have probably also had something destroyed by your furry friend. A deck of cards, a book, a pair of headphones, a couch, electrical cords, a door, a rug, your best shoes, toilet paper rolls--you name it, a dog's definitely chewed on it. Ever wonder why, though? It's actually really important for them to chew!


Give a Hank a box, and he'll chew for 5 minutes.

Why Dogs Chew:

So why do dogs chew so much in the first place? Well, it's actually good and healthy for a dog to chew! Puppies chew a lot to relieve the pain of teething, much like human babies. We give little rubbery rings to babies to safely chew on, so you can see how puppies would need something similar. Their teeth are a little different, so a chew toy for a puppy might look a little different than a chew toy for a human baby.

Dogs older than puppies chew to keep their jaws strong and their gums and teeth healthy. It's a natural way for them to keep up their dental hygiene and chompin' power. It's also just fun for dogs to chew sometimes, and that's okay!

Hank enjoys carrying around the odd water bottle.

Chewing is also an important coping mechanism for many dogs. They might not otherwise know how to deal with tough emotions like frustration, anxiety (especially separation anxiety), and boredom. Your dog might even be hungry if they're chewing food-related items.

Dogs don't understand why you get mad when they chew up your nice shoes or your couch--they just know that you're upset with them, and dogs know how to put on a good guilty face. Most dogs don't seem to like upsetting their humans. So when Indiana Bones is masticating away at your furniture, she doesn't know that what she's doing is seen as rude to humans. It's okay, though, because there are plenty of things you can do to make sure Andy Warhowl still chews, just not on your stuff.

What do to about it:

One of the easiest things you can do? Hide the problem items (if applicable). If your pup loves chewing on cords, those are simpler to hide than the whole couch. You can lay cords and chargers behind furniture and run cables and wires around doorways, securing with electrical tape if desired. Cable management boxes are a decent investment if Fuzz Aldrin is really into cord chompin'. You can store all sorts of goodies in those. Another option is using cable ties and hooks to keep cords out of paw's or jaw's reach. If it's shoes that are the problem, storing them in a closet might be the way to go.

If hiding cords or shoes isn't exactly an option, you can always try to stealthily block access to problem areas. You can keep the doors to certain rooms closed or put up pet/baby gates that are too high for your pooch to jump over.

Hank and Theo both enjoy the texture of water bottles, and steal them from each other frequently.

But if Lick Jagger just isn't fooled, or if the chewing problem isn't with something that you can move or hide, then you might want to experiment with deterrents. Some dogs really aren't fond of bitter or spicy-flavored things, and there are pet-safe sprays out there. Although, some dogs love the taste, so make sure to test it out somewhere safe first before spraying it all over your stuff! Deterrents also aren't a great long-term solution and need to be reapplied every 2-4 weeks. They can be a good start or supplement to other modes of action, though.

If you don't want your couch to smell like spicy peppers but you want Beowoof to leave it alone, darn it, then it might be a good time to teach an old dog a new trick (yes, it's possible): The miraculous "leave it" command! According to Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Shoshi Parks, the "leave it" command is an incredibly useful and powerful tool for all dog caretakers to have in their vocabulary. Definitely look her and her method up when you get the chance!

If that command just doesn't sound feasible, you can also use the mystical power of redirection. When Arfer Fonzarelli starts nipping at the electrical cord, step in and say "Hey boy! Who wants to play?" and spend some time with your pup. This won't always work, especially not by itself, but it can be a good band-aid while you work on other methods. And heck, maybe Jude Paw was just lonely and wanted to play anyhow. You can also gently remove the offending item from Travis Barker's mouth and replace it with a chew-approved toy. Playing with your dogs and exercising them will give them plenty of stimulation and attention and can also help to discourage unwanted chewing.

Hank's mouth is very stretchy.

If you aren't always around to catch your dog red-pawed, providing more chewing options might be the way to go! A toy with peanut butter or treats in it may prove a bit more appealing to Chewbarka than your smelly old shoes or the table leg. Interactive toys are especially good for this, and they double in purpose as they stimulate the chewing instinct as well as provide mental stimulation for your pooch. It's good to provide some edible (make sure you supervise in case of choking) and some inedible objects for your dog to chew, and some dogs like their toys to be cycled out every few days. If you find a toy that your dog really loves to chew, make sure you've got more on hand! Some dogs also chew more at certain times of day, so you can be on the look out for those times and interact with your pup then to deter the chewing of possessions.

If it's your Dog Palace that Mutt Damon is chewing, ASL Solutions does sell chew-guards made of galvanized steel that are available under the "Replacement Parts" section of the "Products" tab, and they come with hardware for installation.

Just remember: Keep trying! Don't give up on your companion. They chew because it's natural to them, just like it's natural for cats to scratch (we actually have a post about that, too, which you can read here). Training your dog is a lot more productive than punishing them for behavior that they can't control. Dogs don't connect punishment with behavior--their brains just don't quite work that way. It's totally natural to get frustrated when Winnie the Pooch destroys a beloved stuffed animal--just take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you love your dog, your dog loves you, and they didn't mean it as a personal attack.

Finley loves chewing a good stick!


Sources:

  • Brown, Jackie. “Best Punny Dog Names.” The Spruce Pets, 27 Apr. 2020, www.thesprucepets.com/punny-names-for-dogs-4842364.

  • “Destructive Chewing.” ASPCA, www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/destructive-chewing.

  • Kurtz, Tes. “How to Prevent a Dog from Chewing Electrical Cords.” The Dog People, Rover.com, 20 Feb. 2020, www.rover.com/blog/how-to-prevent-a-dog-from-chewing-electrical-cords/.

  • Parks, Shoshi. “8 Steps to Teaching Your Dog a Super-Strength ‘Leave It’ Command.” The Dog People, Rover.com, 1 Aug. 2019, www.rover.com/blog/teaching-your-dog-a-super-strength-leave-it-command/.



Photo credit: Pamela and Lyndsey Mulvey (Hank and Theo); Erik Streck (Finley)

Written by: Skye Isabella Rose Iwanski

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