Destructive Chewing in Dogs

Chewing things in the house is a common behavioural problem in dogs. To be able to correct this, one needs to understand the underlying causes.

There are several factors that could lead to destructive chewing:

  • Puppies, especially of large breeds with a lot of unspent energy exhibit this problem and are known to chew on furniture, doors, shoes, etc. This kind of chewing should not be confused with teething. Owners can inadvertently encourage this behaviour by playing tug of war with their pets.
  • In adult dogs chewing may be associated with stress (e.g. separation anxiety- when the owner is not around, or moving to a new place) or fear (e.g. of loud noises, fire crackers). Boredom, inadequate exercise, or lack of attention can also cause destructive chewing.
  • Medical conditions like liver diseases, mouth disorders, etc can lead to abnormal chewing behaviour.

To successfully control and manage chewing problems, the following can all be tried.

  • Increasing exercise- playing (puppies), walking/ running (adult dogs)
  • Provide toys and chews- encourage the dog to chew his toys and praise/ reward him when he does.
  • Confine the dog to a single room, if left alone.
  • Do not give your dog clothes/ rags/ shoes to play with.  He cannot tell the difference between your old sneaker and your new sandals!
  • One useful technique is to spray an aerosol perfumed spray close to, but away from the dogs nose. Most dogs do not like the hissing sound of a spray close to them. The same perfumed spray can then be sprayed on to the furniture that the dog is chewing, to create a "smell aversion".
  • To create a taste aversion put a small amount of an unpleasant tasting substance in the dog’s mouth - then coat the object being chewed, with it. Pepper powder, mustard, bitter apple spray, citronella oil and other substances have all been used successfully in this way. Be careful not to use any substance that will stain your furniture and more importantly, be toxic to your pet!

With patience, love and perseverance you will be able to correct your pet’s annoying and destructive behaviour.

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