Ultimate Guide: 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.

What causes my dog to chew?

To some extent chewing is a completely natural dog behaviour, dogs often chew to relieve stress and it also calms their nerves. In addition, it helps clean their teeth and they also find it mentally stimulating. In simple terms, the enjoy doing it. 


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.

puppy chewing up sofa

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 repellent 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 repellent can be used to minimise 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.  As well as the chewing, which can be controlled to some extent using a dog anti chew spray, your dog will also display other signs of distress such as constant barking, whining, pacing and may also leave you an unpleasant mess to have to clear up, in the worst of places. Dogs need company, so if you are having to leave your dog alone for long periods then consider getting him or her a companion or arranging for a dog carer whilst you are away.
  • 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.
  • Seeking attention – Puppies and dogs who want attention, particularly those in shelters, sometimes bite or tear nearby objects when humans are passing by to get their attention.
  • Pain – Dogs may use chewing as a way to relieve dental pain, the same way puppies do when they’re teething.

What are the common things they chew?

  • Shoes
  • Furniture, especially wooden furniture
  • Clothes
  • Purses
  • Suitcases
  • Electrical Cables & Small Items (Very Dangerous)

How can chewing be treated?

Typically inappropriate chewing is more about a training or lifestyle issue than a medical issue. Your vet shouldn’t have to get involved unless the chewing is extreme or your dog ends up chewing on something dangerous.

What methods can you use to prevent inappropriate chewing?

The first thing you need to do is acknowledge that you can’t stop your dog from chewing altogether. Chewing is a completely normal and instinctive behaviour for them. It helps them understand the world around them, exercises their jaw, and staves off boredom.

What you can do is prevent your dog from chewing on the wrong things.

dog chewing clothes in washing machine

Start by dog-proofing your home. Get a closed shoe rack, keep all your clothing off the floor, and use an anti chew spray like our Dog Off!  Anti-Chew Spray to keep them away from table legs and other furniture.

Note: Dog Off! Is Featured In The Kennel Club's 2017 Dog Owners Handbook

You should also make sure they can’t reach anything that’s dangerous for them to chew or eat. Puppies and younger sometimes like chewing on old underwear and frequently investigate garbage cans, so get a closing hamper and garbage can. Most dogs do grow out of this; if yours doesn’t, you may want to see a vet.

The other important factor in preventing inappropriate chewing is to keep your dog’s mind active and entertained. Dogs can easily get bored, so invest in an interactive feeder and a variety of puzzle toys for dogs.

Is there anything else to keep in mind?

Of course, it’s also important to make sure your dog is getting enough exercise outdoors. How much exercise your dog needs depends largely on their size, breed, and age, so ask your vet to recommend a daily amount of exercise. Taking them to new parks and wooded areas to play is also a great way to stimulate their minds.

All of this playtime should be enough to stop your dog from chewing out of loneliness, but you should also teach them a better way to ask for your attention; something simple like sitting next to you and resting their head on your lap is ideal.

In short, anything you don’t want chewed should be kept out of your dog’s reach, and you need to schedule regular play time-both inside and outside-with your dog. There are several resources online to help you figure out how much exercise different breeds need and your vet can help you create an exercise program tailored to your dog’s specific needs.

Excessive inappropriate chewing may also be a sign of other, larger issues, such as separation anxiety. If you’ve already taken all the steps listed above and your dog is still chewing on anything he gets close enough to, you may want to speak with a vet or an animal behaviourist about potential causes and solutions.

How can proper chewing be encouraged?

Giving your dog a variety of things they are allowed to chew on is one of the best ways to stop them from chewing on your shoes and furniture.

puppy chewing and biting on shoesIf your dog still seems more interested in your shoes than their toys, teach them to associate the toys with treats. You can do this either by giving them treats every time you see them chewing on one of their toys or by covering the toys in peanut butter.Buy your dog a variety of chew toys with different textures, tastes, and smells. Experiment with squeaky toys and silent toys. Figure out what your dog likes most and make sure he always has it available.

If you need to be out of the house for long periods of time(as most of us working adults do), get a crate or turn one of the rooms in your house into a confinement area for your dog. Dogs are den animals, so the small, restricted space actually comforts them. Make sure they have an appropriate chew toy or two in the confinement area and remove anything you don’t want them chewing on.

You also want to buy some edible chews for your dog. Edible chews double as a treat and a toy, making them incredibly appealing.

All chew toys should be replaced every few months to avoid large pieces breaking off and ending up in your dog’s digestive system.

Quick note about edible chews: Dogs love edible chews and they’re a great way to keep your furniture safe, but dogs can sometimes choke on edible bones. Always supervise your dog when they are playing with an edible chew.

How can you control your dog’s chewing?

  • Minimize your dog’s stress level by creating a safe home environment and keeping them out of stressful situations
  • Schedule regular indoor playtime
  • Create an outdoor exercise schedule for your dog; include at least one short walk and one long walk
  • Buy them a variety of chew toys and non-edible bones
  • Give your dog consistent love and attention
  • Create a confinement area for your dog, including a favourite toy they can chew on, and keep them in the confinement area when you’re out for extended periods of time
  • Train them to ask for attention by sitting beside you instead of biting or tearing something

Frequently Asked Questions

Do they grow out of this, or is it an age thing?

Dogs never grow out of chewing entirely, but puppies and young dogs tend to chew more. The chewing is at its worst when they’re teething—between three and eight months old—because it relieves some of their pain and helps them learn about the world around them.

What can I give my dog to chew on?

There are many different toys you can give your dog to chew on. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Rosewood Chillax Cool Dog Toy - This is simultaneously a toy and an ice pack, soothing the pain of teething puppies
  • Great&Small Toothy Dental - Designed for use with dog toothpastes(yes, they’re a thing), this toy will relieve boredom and clean your dog’s teeth at the same time
  • Bully Sticks - Bully Sticks are dried bull penises. It sounds gross to us, but they’re a healthy alternative to rawhides and dogs love the taste
  • Chewroots - Chewroots are made with sustainably sourced wood harvested from tree roots and processed to reduce the risk of splinters; a limited number are made each year

What about rawhide bones?

Rawhide bones are popular, but they can actually be quite dangerous. A variety of chemicals are used to make rawhide, including formaldehyde, and that’s only the beginning of your worries. Rawhide chunks swell to four times their original size in your dog’s stomach, often causing severe intestinal blockage. Rawhide chunks bitten off during play are also a choking hazard.

Long story short, rawhide bones simply aren’t worth the risk.

What can I put on furniture so my dog won’t chew it?

There are a variety of anti chew products available to prevent dogs from chewing on your furniture. Our Pro Pooch Anti-Chew Spray is made using Bitrex, which is “The bitterest stuff on earth” by the Guinness Book of World Records, to make your furniture taste appalling to your dog.

Why Choose Pro Pooch?

At Pro Pooch we believe it’s important to pay just as much attention to what goes into our dogs’ bodies as we give to what goes into our own bodies. All of our products are designed with your dog’s health and happiness in mind.

Our commitment to your dog’s health is matched only by our commitment to quality. We work with expert manufacturers to make sure every product is the best it can be, every single time. We also offer a Happy Pooch Guarantee—if our products don’t work for you and your dog, you have a full 60 days to request a refund, no questions asked.

Conclusion

It may be irritating when your dog chews on everything in sight, but chewing is one of the main ways dogs to learn about the world around them and to relieve stress or boredom. It can also relieve the pain of teething or other dental issues. Your dog’s chewing is simply part of how they interact with the world.

Chewing is such a fundamental part of your dog’s life that you’ll never be able to curb the behaviour completely, but you can do several things to make sure they only chew appropriate items. Training them to chew on appropriate toys, creating a confinement area for your dog to hang out in while you work, and spraying your furniture with an effective spray, like our Pro Pooch Anti-Chew Spray, which can all dramatically reduce the amount of damage your dog’s chewing does.

Have more questions about how you can stop your dog from chewing? Want to know more about our Pro Pooch Anti-Chew Spray or the Happy Pooch Guarantee? Email lucy@propooch.com or call 44(0)121 562 1734 to speak with a Pro Pooch expert.