Destructive Chewing in Dogs
It’s normal for puppies and dogs to chew on objects as they
explore the world. Chewing accomplishes a number of things for a dog. For young
dogs, it’s a way to relieve pain that might be caused by incoming teeth. For
older dogs, it’s nature’s way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing
also combats boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration.
Rule Out Problems That Can Cause Destructive Chewing
Dogs who chew to relieve the stress of separation anxiety usually only chew
when left alone or chew most intensely when left alone. They also display other
signs of separation anxiety, such as whining, barking, pacing, restlessness,
urination and defecation. To learn more about separation anxiety and how to
treat it, please see our article, Separation
Some dogs lick, suck and chew at fabrics. Some experts believe that this
behavior results from having been weaned too early (before seven or eight weeks
of age). If a dog’s fabric-sucking behavior occurs for lengthy periods of time
and it’s difficult to distract him when he attempts to engage in it, it’s
possible that the behavior has become compulsive. If you think this might be
the case with your dog, please see our article, Finding Professional
Help, for information about finding a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist
(CAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified
Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) with specialized training and experience in
treating compulsive behavior. You can also learn more about compulsive
behaviors by reading our article, Compulsive
Behavior in Dogs.
A dog on a calorie-restricted diet might chew and destroy objects in an
attempt to find additional sources of nutrition. Dogs usually direct this kind
of chewing toward objects related to food or that smell like food.
How to Manage or Reduce Your Dog’s Destructive Chewing
The desire to investigate interesting objects and the discomfort of teething
motivate puppies to chew. Much like human infants, puppies go through a stage
when they lose their baby teeth and experience pain as their adult teeth come
in. This intensified chewing phase usually ends by six months of age. Some
recommend giving puppies ice cubes, special dog toys that can be frozen or
frozen wet washcloths to chew, which might help numb teething pain. Although
puppies do need to chew on things, gentle guidance can teach your puppy to
restrict chewing to appropriate objects, like his own toys. Please see Useful
Tips, under Normal Chewing Behavior, to channel your puppy’s urge to chew in
the right direction.
Normal Chewing Behavior
Chewing is a perfectly normal behavior for dogs of all ages. Both wild and
domestic dogs spend hours chewing bones. This activity keeps their jaws strong
and their teeth clean. Dogs love to chew on bones, sticks and just about
anything else available. They chew for fun, they chew for stimulation, and they
chew to relieve anxiety. While chewing behavior is normal, dogs sometimes
direct their chewing behavior toward inappropriate items. Both puppies and
adult dogs should have a variety of appropriate and attractive chew toys.
However, just providing the right things to chew isn’t enough to prevent
inappropriate chewing. Dogs need to learn what is okay to chew and what is not.
They need to be taught in a gentle, humane manner.