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Why Do Dogs Chew?
There are a wide number of reasons why your dog may be chewing:
- Their instincts. Chewing is a natural and healthy part of an adult dog’s behavior—it’s how they keep their teeth and jaws strong. When training your dog, it’s important not to try to stop their chewing behavior entirely. Instead, you should help them direct their chewing instincts toward objects they’re supposed to chew, like bones, bully sticks, rubber toys, chew toys, and rawhide.
- They’re teething. If your puppy is chewing nonstop, it’s likely because they’re teething. Chewing is a way for them to alleviate the pain of their adult teeth coming in, and it’s a healthy response to this pain. If your puppy is teething, try giving them ice cubes or a cold chew toy to help numb the pain and redirect their chewing away from inappropriate items.
- They need attention. Many dogs chew because they’re bored, underexercised, or in need of some attention or playtime. Dogs need physical and mental stimulation in order to be on their best behavior—make sure you’re walking them, letting them play with other dogs, teaching them tricks, and giving them lots of love. Consider giving them dog toys during times when you can’t give them any attention to help keep them happy. If the behavior persists, it could be that your dog is struggling with separation anxiety, and their chewing habits have become compulsive when they’re upset you’re not there—if so, seek out a professional dog trainer to help.
How to Train Your Dog to Stop Unwanted Chewing
Dogs of all ages like to chew, but the behavior is more common among puppies and adolescents. This is because their teeth are coming in and moving around, and the process is itchy. Since they can’t scratch that itch, they need to chew to relieve it. You’ll never stop a dog from chewing, you’ll only redirect what it is they’re chewing on. Here a few ways to train your dog to stop unwanted chewing:
- One-on-one training. To curb unwanted chewing, you’ll need three objects your dog can chew—like toys—and three things they can’t—a shoe, the TV remote, a hat. Place the objects on the ground in front of your dog. If they go for a no-chew object, give a quick reprimand (like “Uh-oh”), then redirect them to an object they are allowed to chew. When they chew something that they are allowed to chew, offer heavy praise. Once your dog is focused on a chew-appropriate item, remove the other objects.
- Try taste deterrents—but don’t rely on them. Many trainers will spray lemon or bitter apple on off-limits items to curb inappropriate chewing. While these sprays can be an effective training tool, avoid relying too heavily on a taste deterrent—if you forget to spray something, your dog won’t have the training foundation to resist temptation.
- Don’t give them your old shoes. If a dog chews up a good pair of shoes, some people will offer an old pair of shoes as a substitute. This action will most likely encourage your dog to chew on any pair of shoes they find. Your dog doesn’t understand the difference between shoes that are okay to chew and shoes that should be left alone. To avoid confusion, offer your dog a chew toy or bone as a replacement.
- Keep off-limit items out of reach. Sometimes, even well-trained dogs can’t resist the allure of a fun thing to chew on. One of the best ways to prevent unwanted chewing is to remove tempting items from your dog’s reach. Store off-limit items like shoes and remotes away from your dog, and place appropriate chew toys or bones in places that are accessible to them throughout your home.
- Keep practicing. Dog training can be a lengthy process. Your dog may appear to understand what not to chew, but then suddenly they lapse into old behavior. It’s important that you remain consistent throughout the training process—even when your dog needs lots of repetition to get something right. Otherwise, your dog will learn that if they resist the training long enough, you’ll let them off the hook and they can return to destructive behavior.
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