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Coping with Doggie’s Destructive Chewing

"dog"All dogs chew. It’s a normal and necessary part of a dog’s life.

Puppies chew to relieve the discomfort of teething. Young dogs use their mouths to investigate the world around them. Adult dogs chew to relieve boredom and anxiety, or just because it’s fun.

Chewing is actually good for your dog. It stimulates gastric juices that aid in digestion and helps clean your pet’s teeth.

The problem is not that your dog chews, but what he chews. When he starts gnawing on the sofa, electrical cords or your favorite leather shoes, you have a chewing problem.

Preventing destructive chewing
Lack of physical activity, prolonged confinement and loneliness cause many behavior problems, including chewing. Providing your pet with more outlets for physical and social interaction – long walks, visits to the dog park or doggy daycamp, and obedience or agility training classes can help.

Confinement is not a cure for inappropriate chewing, but it can help protect your valuables while you help your pet break the habit. When you are not able to monitor him, confine your dog to an area where he can’t get into trouble.

Provide him with a supply of chew toys. That way he can chew to his heart’s content – but only on acceptable items.

Finding the right chew
Some dogs are particular about what they want to chew. Test a variety of chew toys including rawhides, nylabones, rope and other chews, to see which your pet likes best.

Once you’ve identified his favorite, buy a supply and place them in every room of the house – especially the rooms where he has chewed on valuables.

Don’t give your dog old shoes or other household items to chew, or you may find him raiding closets for similar items that he sees as toys. Dogs cannot distinguish between an old sneaker and a dress shoe.

Reward good habits
If your pet isn’t immediately attracted to chew toys, you may need to teach him that playing with chew toys is fun and makes you very happy.

Incorporate chew toys into play sessions. Make getting the chew toy into a game. Dangle it in front of him. Toss it and encourage him to chase it and pick it up. Praise him when he approaches and picks it up.

Once your dog has discovered the joy of his chew toys, teach him to find one when it is not in sight. Let him watch you hide it, and then tell him to find it. When he discovers it, lavish him with praise.

When Fido makes a mistake
Only correct your dog when you catch him in the act of chewing on something he shouldn’t. Use a short, sharp vocal reprimand, like "Off." Your tone of voice will tell your dog that you are upset.

Show him his chew toy and praise him the minute he picks it up. The most important thing you can do to help your dog learn to chew the right items is to reward him with praise when he makes the correct choice.

Never correct a dog when you discover destructive chewing after the fact. Your dog won’t understand the cause of your anger and will simply become afraid of you. However, if your pet keeps returning to the same spot, you might want to "booby trap" it with Bitter Apple to encourage him to find an alternative.

If none of these methods work, you may want to seek the help of a professional trainer. To locate a trainer near you, check the Our Centers section of the website.