Dog Chewing Problems: How to Direct and Control Chewing Behavior

Most dog owners, at one time or another, have endured . It's a common and also perfectly natural. This is especially true for puppies who use their mouths to learn about the world. If you do have a puppy, understand that they are going to chew and learning to control and manage it is the key to keeping your dog safe, and your sanity and your home intact.

Here are a few suggestions on directing your dog's chewing behavior towards more appropriate items:

  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. This helps to burn off excess energy and gives him a chance to play and relieve boredom. A tired dog is a happy dog!

  • Supervise your dog and immediately stop him if he begins chewing an inappropriate object. Give him a chew toy and watch him: if he begins to grab something that's not "his", sharply say, "No!" Give him his own chew toy and praise him when he accepts it.

    Don't give your puppy an old shoe (or an old anything) to chew, unless you want him chewing both old and new items! He won't be able to tell the difference between an old item and a new item.

    Try giving your dog his very own "toy basket" where he can go get a chew toy whenever he likes. One of our friends has even taught her dog to put away his own toys! Her dog picks out toys whenever he wants them, and at the end of the day she tells him, "Clean up!" and points to each toy. Her dog fetches each toy and puts it back in the box, and she praises and plays with him as a reward.

  • When you go have to go out, do so without fuss to help prevent separation anxiety. Your leaving the house should never be a big deal. Leave quietly. Don't make a big fuss when you return, either.

  • If necessary, confine your dog to a "dog-proof" area until he has learned appropriate chewing behavior. Make sure electrical cords are out of reach, and that there's nothing expensive the dog could destroy. Give him a variety of chew toys so that he doesn't get bored and can learn what's "his".

  • If your dog already has severe separate anxiety and engages in destructive chewing, consider working with a qualified professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

As always, if your dog is showing behavior that is out of character for him (for example, repeatedly and relentlessly chewing his own tail), it's a good idea to get him to the vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Otherwise, behavioral chewing problems are both correctable and manageable with time, persistence, and consistency.