Why Do Dogs Chew?
Dogs might be man's best friend but they still have plenty of behaviours we humans find bizarre or downright annoying. One of the most common—and most annoying—of these behaviours is chewing, which usually begins when puppies are teething and carries on throughout most dogs' adult lives. We all know the consequences of this chewing: destroyed shoes and damaged furniture. But what about the causes?
When they're puppies
Puppies have a few important reasons for chewing on all your stuff. First and foremost, puppies from three to eight months old are teething. Chewing relieves some of the pressure on their gums and helps their new teeth grow in better. You should make sure your puppy has several appropriate chew toys to keep them away from your furniture.
The other reason puppies chew is to learn more about their surroundings. Dogs' strongest senses are their smell, hearing and taste, and chewing on something is a great way for a dog to figure out what it is, at least in their head. You can use a dog repellant spray to keep your puppy away from any particularly valuable furniture. This is also when you should be focused on training the puppy to chew only their toys.
When they're adults
Most dogs continue chewing well past the teething stage. This is because dogs investigate the world with their mouths in much the same way we humans use our hands. A combination of training, chew toys and dog repellant can be used to minimize the damage in this case.
Some chewing is normal, but there is also problematic chewing—when a dog chews on literally everything you own—which is usually a compulsive behaviour resulting from one of the following issues:
- Boredom – This happens when you're out and about for a long time without your furry friend. A dog has the same level of intelligence as a small child and if they're not mentally stimulated they will get bored and start chewing on anything they can find.
- Separation anxiety – A common problem among rescue dogs, separation anxiety is created when a dog believes they have been left permanently alone. Dogs are pack animals and long periods of time by themselves can be incredibly stressful, especially if they've been abandoned before.
- Stress – Dogs are also more likely to chew in stressful situations such as being teased by kids while stuck in a car. Other stressful situations for dogs include seeing other dogs but being unable to play, being in close proximity to an animal they don't like or seeing a squirrel they can't chase. All of these things might seem silly to you, but they're incredibly important to your canine friend.
So what can you do about it?
It's pretty much impossible to stop a dog from chewing altogether but there are several things you can do to stop their chewing habits from destroying everything you own. You should start by making sure your dog has access to several appropriate chew toys. They should have toys that are safe for them to play with alone as well as toys you play with together.
Kennel training your dog is also an excellent way to curb destructive chewing. Dogs are den animals and they love small, comfortable spaces. To make the kennel more comfortable for them you can line the bottom with blankets. You can find several sizing charts online to help you buy the right crate. But remember that you can't just stick them in a crate and expect them to be happy. Your dog still needs something to do, so make sure you put two or three safe chew toys in there with them. This will keep their minds and mouths occupied so they don't hurt themselves chewing on the crate itself.
Of course, since some chewing is unavoidable, you also want to dog proof your home. Moving unsafe items out of your dog's reach and spraying your most valuable furniture with a dog repellant is the best way to be absolutely sure they won't damage your stuff.
The bottom line
All dogs chew for a wide variety of reasons. If you're really concerned about your dog's chewing you can see an animal behaviourist or speak to your vet about potential ways to curb this behaviour.