It’s not just a common cartoon trope that dogs love bones—there’s a reason dogs and bones are such a well-known pair. Bones may have become more commonly replaced by modern chew toys or healthy rawhide alternatives, but the canine chewing habit is here to stay.
Like barking, panting, and digging, chewing is typical canine behavior. From puppyhood to senior golden years, dogs will always want access to something chewable. If a chew toy isn’t readily available, your pup may opt for your nice new shoes instead!
So, why do dogs chew? How can you put a stop to destructive chewing? The fact is that there could be several reasons behind the chewing, and more than one possible solution. Fido’s chewing habits may be purely instinctual, harmless dental care, or the result of anxiety.
Anxiety, Stress, or Frustration
Some dogs chew as a way to comfort themselves in stressful or tense situations.
If your dog exhibits destructive chewing habits when left home alone, he’s likely experiencing separation anxiety. Other signs of separation anxiety include whining, pacing, digging, and bathroom issues for an otherwise house-broken pup. Some dogs with separation anxiety will attempt to escape the area they are confined to, which is evidenced by scratch and chew marks near doors or other exit areas.
If the chewing seems to be limited to stressful situations or times when your pooch is home alone, you’ll want to try to ease the anxiety first. Once the separation anxiety calms down, the chewing will likely become less destructive.
PetHonesty’s Premium Hemp Calming Chews are an all-natural way to ease your dog’s anxiety during stressful times. You can also put your name on the waitlist for the upcoming chewable Hemp Calming Fresh Sticks.
Boredom and Excess Energy
Stress isn’t the only culprit causing dogs to chew. If your furry friend isn’t getting enough attention, or if he’s lacking physical and mental stimulation, he’ll try to find his own entertainment… much to the chagrin of your household items.
Some dogs chew as a form of entertainment, so make sure your pup has a proper chew toy in those moments when a walk or play session simply isn’t an option. Keeping a variety of toys in rotation is never a bad idea, to make sure the novelty doesn’t wear off too quickly.
Dogs who are constantly being stimulated and given proper outlets are less likely to be bored. After all, a tired dog is a good dog! In addition to regular exercise and social time, consider investing in a puzzle feeder so that meal times are also engaging.
Like humans, puppies go through a teething phase where their baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth. The discomfort of teething, along with the general curiosity and desire to explore, may cause intensified chewing in puppies. Gently guide your pup to chew on appropriate objects; some recommend chew toys specific for teething such as toys that can be frozen, or ice cubes and frozen washcloths.
Chewing is also good for dogs, as it keeps their jaws strong and helps keep teeth clean by scraping plaque off the teeth.
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Managing Your Dog’s Chewing Habits
Chewing perfectly fine, normal behavior for all dogs. That being said, inappropriate chewing is still a problem.
If your dog is already a destructive chewer, don’t worry: those bad habits are reversible as long as you’re patient and use plenty of positive reinforcement. In the meantime, consider “dog-proofing” your house so that your valuable objects are out of reach until you can trust Fido to keep them out of his mouth.
Crate training is a good option for many dogs, especially those struggling with separation anxiety. While some pet owners think of crate training as cruel confinement, it’s actually quite the opposite—your dog’s crate, if done right, can be used as a safe, comforting, calming space that he can retreat to during times of stress. If your pooch knows exactly what to do when he’s feeling stressed, he’s less likely to lash out and chew on various objects around the house.
Simply having access to the right chew toys isn’t necessarily enough; dogs need to be trained on which items are fine for them to chew on, and which ones are off-limits. Don’t punish your dog for chewing on the wrong item; instead, redirect him to the appropriate toys and reward him with some treats or extra affection so he creates a positive association with that chew toy.
Learn which times of day your dog is most likely to get stirred up and start chewing, and plan to throw him a (raw) bone or other safe item to chew so he’ll have something to keep him busy.
Provide appropriate outlets, as well. Give your dog plenty of exercise and outdoor time. Keep in mind that what he really craves is quality time with you, so going for walks and playing fetch is a good way to get rid of that stir-crazy energy while also providing good bonding opportunities for you and your furry best friend.