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Destructive Chewing in Dogs

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Lack of Exercise or Mental Stimulation

Some dogs simply do not get enough physical and mental stimulation. Bored dogs tend look for ways to entertain themselves, and chewing is one option. To prevent destructive chewing, be sure to provide plenty of ways for your dog to exercise his mind and body. Great ways to accomplish this include daily walks and outings, off-leash play with other dogs, tug and fetch games, clicker training classes, dog sports (agility, freestyle, flyball, etc.), and feeding meals in food puzzle toys, like the KONG®, Squirrel Dude, Twist ‘n Treat, TreatStik®, Tricky Treat Ball or Buster® Cube. You can read our article, How to Stuff a KONG Toy, for information about using puzzle toys. Please see our articles, Enriching Your Dog’s Life and Exercise for Dogs, to learn more about giving your dog the mental and physical exercise he needs.

Stress and Frustration

Sometimes a dog will chew when experiencing something that causes stress, such as being crated near another animal he doesn’t get along with or getting teased by children when confined in a car. To reduce this kind of chewing, try to avoid exposing your dog to situations that make him nervous or upset.

Dogs who are prevented from engaging in exciting activities sometimes direct biting, shaking, tearing and chewing at nearby objects. Shelter dogs and puppies sometimes grab and shake blankets or bowls in their kennels whenever people walk by because they’d like attention. When they don’t get it, their frustration is expressed through destructive behavior. A dog who sees a squirrel or cat run by and wants to chase but is behind a fence might grab and chew at the gate. A dog watching another dog in a training class might become so excited by the sight of his canine classmate having fun that he grabs and chews his leash. (Agility and Flyball dogs are especially prone to this behavior because they watch other dogs racing around and having a great time, and they want to join in the action.)

The best intervention for this problem is to anticipate when frustration might happen and give your dog an appropriate toy for shaking and tearing. In a class situation, carry a tug or stuffed toy for your dog to hold and chew. If your dog is frustrated by animals or objects on the other side of a fence or gate at home, tie a rope toy to something sturdy by the gate or barrier. Provide shelter dogs and puppies with toys and chew bones in their kennels. Whenever possible, teach them to approach the front of their kennels and sit quietly to solicit attention from passersby.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not show your dog the damage he did and spank, scold or punish him after the fact. He cannot connect your punishment with some behavior he did hours or even minutes ago.
  • Do not use duct tape to hold your dog’s mouth closed around a chewed object for any length of time. This is inhumane, will teach your dog nothing, and dogs have died from this procedure.
  • Do not tie a damaged object to your dog. This is inhumane and will teach your dog nothing.
  • Do not leave your dog in a crate for lengthy periods of time (more than six hours) to prevent chewing.
  • Do not muzzle your dog to prevent chewing.
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WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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