A schnauzer sits in a pile of stuffing from a damaged couch.

How to Stop Your Dog’s Destructive Chewing

Destructive chewing is a dangerous habit for dogs that can also be frustrating for pet owners.

Causes of Destructive Chewing

Dogs inappropriately chew for a variety of reasons, including:

Chewing, on its own, is a normal behavior for dogs. Puppies typically chew when they’re teething or as a way to convey frustration. Chewing also helps to maintain jaw strength and muscle mass, and can help dogs to self-soothe, relieve stress, and avoid boredom. To deter from inappropriate chewing, It is important for pet parents to provide safe chew toys and keep inappropriate items out of reach.

Ways to Prevent Destructive Chewing

Teething toys, especially those that can be frozen, are a great way to relieve pain and soothe gums for puppies. Adult dogs even like toys specifically designed to strengthen teeth, but be sure to supervise their play, since toys may break into tiny, ingestible pieces. Damaged toys should be thrown away immediately.

Caution should also be taken with chewing bones, which can splinter off and be ingested, resulting in gastrointestinal upset or injury. Bones can also cause dental injuries like tooth fractures or excessive wear.

The best way to prevent destructive chewing is “dog proofing” your home. This involves removing all valuable and dangerous objects from your dog’s space. Crate training helps immensely, as this provides a safe place that a dog can call their own. It also prevents destruction of furniture when your dog is unsupervised.

How Boredom and Anxiety Contribute to Destructive Behavior

If destructive chewing is associated with separation anxiety, addressing the underlying anxiety will help to correct the behavior. In severe cases of anxiety, a professional trainer or anxiety medication may be necessary to address the underlying issues.

Boredom is also a common contributor to destructive chewing. Regular exercise is a great way to minimize boredom and keep your pet healthy. Base your dog’s exercise regimen on their age, agility level, and underlying medical issues. High-energy dogs may love a brisk run or trip to the dog park, while older or ailing dogs may be happy with a walk around the block. Exercise helps to stimulate a dog’s mind and makes them less likely to act out of frustration and damage items around the house. Dog walking and running services can help to break up the monotony of a long day alone. Extroverted dogs may benefit from a housemate or by joining a dog pack for walks. Investigating what options are available in your neighborhood can help add excitement to your dog’s daily routine.

Indoor enrichment toys can help to reduce boredom for pets that are alone during the day. Food puzzles dispense treats when solved, which is both entertaining and intellectually stimulating. Parents who want to check in with their pups during the day can try out a treat dispensing camera. These toys allow you to check in on and chat with your pet during the day, as well as provide them with a treat for good behavior.

The Benefits of Training and Positive Reinforcement

Creating a strong foundation of training for a puppy can be helpful to stop destructive behaviors before they start. Going to training classes can teach your dog basic commands, which can be expanded upon to create boundaries at home. Some dogs respond well to clicker training and this can be used to establish right and wrong behaviors. Physical discipline and yelling should never be used to correct bad behaviors. Redirection to show them appropriate chew toys and positive reinforcement is encouraged to lead dog’s down the right path.

Ultimately, the best ways to avoid destructive chewing are limited access to inappropriate items, regular exercise, and appropriate training. If underlying medical conditions are suspected, follow up with a veterinarian and/or professional trainers.