Chewing is one way a dog learns about his world, and most dogs will chew on just about anything to learn about their environment. Chewing is part of a dog’s normal behavioral repertoire; inappropriate or destructive chewing is just a mismanagement problem. Intervention can be highly successful, but dog parents must commit to teaching the dog what’s an acceptable chew toy and what’s not.
Stow Valuable Items
Keep valuables and personal belongings out of your dog’s reach. If you don’t want your dog chewing on certain items, like the remote control, don’t leave the remote control lying on a coffee table. Socks, shoes, books, magazines, eyeglasses, cell phones, children’s toys, wallets, and underwear all seem to have a magnetic allure to the canine mind. Put everything away in a drawer or basket, plastic bin, or closed cupboard.
Do not offer your dog an old shoe for a toy and then expect him to differentiate between that and your brand-new kicks. Also, be realistic in your expectations. A dog is going to be a dog and chew up something he shouldn’t. When that happens, interrupt the behavior and offer something more acceptable, like one of the safe chew toys Nylabone makes. Never scold a dog for chewing, especially if you haven’t caught him in the act.
Provide Mental Stimulation
Mitigate your dog’s need for inappropriate or destructive chewing by giving him more opportunities for mental stimulation. Set up a mini agility course in the house or yard using large boxes for tunnels and pool “noodles” for jumps. Give him interactive toys that hold treats inside, or give him toys meant for determined, active chewers. Teach him to retrieve a thrown toy, but do this on leash at first so your dog won’t get the idea that he can munch on the item. Reel him back toward you, encouraging him all the way, and then throw the toy again.
Take Preventive Measures
If your dog is determined to chew up the deck rails or fence posts or kitchen table, spray them liberally with a bitter-tasting substance or cover them in aluminum foil or double-sided tape. These tactics might deter some dogs until they grow up, mature, and don’t feel the need to chew.
Teach Puppies Early On
Chewing is a natural behavior for puppies, and they are going to chew especially while teething. Teething stimulates an uncontrollable urge to chew as a means of relieving discomfort and to facilitate the removal of their baby teeth. Few owners escape puppyhood without losing a pair of shoes, a few magazines, or a potted plant.
The key to minimizing destruction and preventing bad habits is management. To foster good habits and minimize destructive behaviors, follow these simple guidelines:
Plan ahead. Have an exercise pen or play pen and a crate ready before you bring him home. Do not wait until you need them.
Keep him contained. When you cannot keep a constant watch on your puppy, keep him confined in an exercise pen, playpen, crate, or puppy-proofed area with his favorite chew toy. This includes when you need to jump in the shower for five minutes, while you are making dinner, or when you dash outside for two seconds to move the sprinkler.
Keep an eye out. Once your puppy arrives at your home, know where he is and what he is doing at all times. You would not dream of taking your eyes off a toddler, and you should never take your eyes off a puppy when he is not safely confined.
Puppy-proof your home. Puppies are ingenious when it comes to finding items on which to chew. Pick up anything and everything your puppy is likely to put in his mouth including shoes, purses, jackets, schoolbooks, candles, rugs, electrical cords, dolls, and so forth.
Make sure he gets exercise. Puppies and adult dogs require daily physical and mental stimulation. Lacking appropriate and adequate exercise, they will frequently release excess energy by chewing.
Don’t give him run of the house. Wait until he’s thoroughly trained and ready. It’s impossible to put an age on when a puppy is reliably trained—some puppies have a stronger desire to chew than others. A general guideline is about one year old. Much will depend on how conscientious and committed you are to managing your puppy’s environment and instilling good behaviors.
Continue good habits. As your puppy grows and matures, his desire to chew will diminish. It is important, however, to continue giving him appropriate chew toys throughout his life to exercise his jaws, keep his teeth clean, satisfy his natural desire to chew, and entertain him for a few hours.
A variety of chew toys available in all sizes and shapes will entertain your puppy or adult dog for an hour or two, satisfying his need to gnaw on something while diverting him from chewing on inappropriate items. Avoid toys or bones that are too hard and may crack your dog’s teeth, as well as ones that are too small or break apart and present choking hazards. Always be sure to match the chew toy to your dog’s size and chewing strength, keep an eye on your dog when he’s chewing to make sure large pieces aren’t being chewed off and swallowed. Take worn or chewed-through bones and toys away from your dog promptly and replace them with new ones.