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Destructive Chewing

Chewing is a natural thing with some dogs. Yes, some desire to chew on just about anything, deeming it a pleasurable activity in its own right. Other dogs seem to have no desire to chew at all, unless they are just plain bored!

Destructive chewing sounds redundant, since, by its very nature, all chewing is destructive. Your dog has strong jaws, filled with sharp, pointy teeth. Anything she decides to tear into will show signs within a minute! So, let’s define the term.

Destructive Chewing - inappropriate chewing focused on your own possessions (like your shoes) or household items (such as the table leg).

Why Destructive Chewing Happens

There are 3 reasons a dog will chew:

  • Most dogs just naturally like to chew! It's fun, passes the time, and in some cases is self-rewarding (like chewing on something that just tastes good)
  • The dog is nervous or bored. The repetitive act of chewing can be soothing to an anxious dog - just like people and their comfort food.
  • The dog is not exercised enough. Chewing can be a means to burn off nervous energy, and provide an activity for the dog to do (relates greatly with the second reason)

How to Stop Destructive Chewing

Any dog can learn not to chew on your stuff. But you must put the effort in to help her learn!

1. Manage your own possessions

First things must dog-proof your home. This is always true, since even if your dog was the best behaved dog in the world, why would you test her self control? Remember, all dogs explore their world with their nose and mouth!

To dog-proof your house, you have to take anything you do not want to wind up in her mouth and put it where it is not even available to her. Common items include books, glasses, clothes, shoes, and garbage. Don't forget those shiny crunchy things, like cameras, remote controls, and cell phones!

I don’t think I need to tell you that all food items must be securely put away! Don’t leave snacks on low-lying tables (counter tops might be off limits also - it’s surprising how acrobatic your dog can be when food is at stake!) Food should be in containers or in the pantry. Rinse all food scraps from your plates before putting them in the sink.

When dog-proofing your home, consider your dogs abilities. How tall is she when standing on her back legs? How agile is she? How high can she jump? Is she a climber, or is there something that can assist her leap in reaching her desired object?

2. Keep your dog from learning the joys of destructive chewing

Every time your dog manages to grab and chew on a forbidden substance (pillow, shoe, chair leg), it becomes that much easier and desired to repeat. So, if you can keep her from chewing on your stuff in the first place, she will be easier to teach what you expect. Quite frankly, this means initially having to confine her in a dog-proofed area, but only until you can be confident she understands the house rules.

3. Actively supervise

It may seem easier to just keep your dog confined to a dog-proof area forever, but that would be boring for her, and hardly much fun for you either (If you wanted a pet that did not require much interaction, you should have got a gold fish!) The only way for your dog to learn her boundaries, what you expect, is to be given the opportunity to explore the boundaries of your expectations, and from that understand what is OK and what is not.

4. Give lots of tasty alternatives to your stuff

If she has no toys to chew on, your dog will quite naturally target your stuff! Remember that most dogs need to chew, and if she is a puppy or adolescent (less than 3 years old) that need is even more pronounced. If you don’t have several toys and chews, get them! Give her two or three at a time, and rotate the available toys every few days. Rotating will keep everything new and interesting for her.

5. When you catch your dog chewing something inappropriate...

Interrupt her by making a loud noise (clapping your hands sharply or making an Uh-Uuuh noise. Immediately give her a tasty and appropriate alternative and as soon as her jaws close around it, praise her lavishly. Soon she will understand that chewing “her” toys equals your praise, while chewing anything else means trouble.

6. Do not set your dog up for failure

Don’t blur the boundaries between her stuff, that she can chew on, with your stuff, which she can NOT. Don't give her cast off clothes, towels, socks, or shoes to play with. Can you really expect her to know the difference between the shoes you currently wear, but she now has in her mouth, with the one you gave her five minutes ago?


Above all, keep your expectations realistic. You know you are not perfect, so why would you expect her to be? There is bound to be at least one transgression where a loved item is damaged by your dogs curiosity. Especially in the early stages, where she is still learning your rules. It will take some time, some “you-time”, before she becomes more reliable alone. And she can revert back to destructive chewing if she finds herself alone for too long or feeling neglected. So don’t forget to take the precautions discussed earlier in dog-proofing your home!

Many years ago, when I started doing my research on dogs in general, and behavior specifically, I ran across a site selling a book titled SitStayFetch. I ordered it, and there were absolutely no regrets! Now called "Secrets to Dog Training", it continues to be improved... now 260 pages covering 25 different behavior issues, including 6 full pages on this topic (dog destructive chewing) alone! All of this, including some great bonuses, can be downloaded instantly, so get your copy now!

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If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.
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