Head of the Class Dog Training LLC 

Winchester, VA

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You see a $200 pair of designer heels, but your furry best friend sees a chew toy. Uh oh!

Chewing can be an expensive dog habit that can damage both your household items and your relationship with your dog. But chewing is a natural dog behavior. For puppies, it helps relieve the pain of growing new teeth. For older dogs, it helps to keep their jaws strong and clean their teeth. Chewing also helps relieve anxiety or frustration and alleviate boredom. Dogs need to learn what they can and can’t chew so that you and your shoes can breathe easy.

Problems That Cause Chewing

  • Hunger - If your dog is on a calorie-restricted diet, he or she might seek additional nutrition from things around your house. Usually your dog will chew things that smell like or are related to food.
  • Fabric sucking – Some dogs enjoy sucking, licking or chewing fabrics. Some behavior experts says this could be a result of being weaned early in life, between 7 and 8 weeks old. If it’s hard to distract your dog from this behavior and it’s gone on for a long time, it may be a compulsive behavior, and you may want to seek advice from a professional.
  • Separation anxiety – Dogs who only chew when they’re left alone may be chewing due to separation anxiety. If your dog is chewing in conjunction with other signs of stress, like barking, pacing, whining, restlessness, urinating or defecating in the house when he or she is left alone, these are telltale signs of separation anxiety.
  • Lack of mental stimulation or exercise – Dogs get bored just like we do, and if your dog isn’t getting enough exercise or mental stimulation, he or she may resort to chewing for sport.

Tips to Help Your Dog Stop Chewing

  • Set your dog up for success – Remove temptation by putting away items your dog loves to chew. Give your dog plenty of chew toys. Take caution with bones and hard chews such as antlers. While dogs do love to chew bones and deer or elk antlers and the risk of ingesting pieces is less than with rawhides, since antlers came on the market, vets have reported a spike in dental problems, namely painful slab fractures requiring surgical removal of broken molars. There are synthetic chews on the market that look and taste like antler chews and bones that are designed to be safer for teeth. These are not ingestible by most dogs.
  • Observe your dog’s chewing pattern – Keep track of when and what your dog is chewing. Give your dog a puzzle, like a Kong toy, filled with a delicious treat. You can even give your dog one of his or her daily meals in a puzzle. This has the bonus effect of slowing down fast eaters
  • Use chewing deterrent spray – Spray items your dog might like to chew (which can’t be put away, like furniture) with a non-toxic chewing deterrent spray. Sprays come in flavors like sour apple or bitter cherry. However, let your dog sniff and taste the spray first to make sure he or she does not like the taste!
  • Supervise your dog – Whenever possible, keep a close watch on your dog. Give him or her plenty of exercise and mental stimulation and teach your dog what is appropriate to chew and what is inappropriate to chew.

For more tips on redirecting or deterring chewing, contact me. I’d be happy to share some additional ideas with you and help save your shoes!

-Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.

Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.

She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics. 

What to Do When Your Dog Wants to Chew