Have you ever returned after a long day’s work, only to discover that the contents of your home have been destroyed beyond imagination? Picture this: wooden splinters are all that are left of your furniture. Your favourite pair of shoes, reduced to a slobbery mess. The cushions have been torn apart, with their stuffing pulled out and scattered across the floor… the list goes on.
If the abovementioned scenarios sound all too familiar, you are not alone. There are countless canine owners who have gone through the frustration of having to deal with the havoc that their pets’ jaws have wreaked. From ‘normal’ puppy- or play-related behaviour to hyperactivity, anxiety or simply boredom among adult dogs, there are several reasons as to why destructive chewing occurs.
Here are some simple steps to curb your dog’s instinctive chewing habits, as well as to keep your household items – and sanity – intact.
Choosing the Right Toys
The first and easiest step is to dog-proof your home by stowing away all garments, decorative items, and other items you don’t want chewed up… or at least keep them beyond your dog’s reach. Do not give your dog objects such as old shoes or socks to play with, as it will learn to associate these with playtime.
Instead, invest in dog toys such as rubber bones, plushies or balls, which will allow your canine to expend its energy and at the same time, distinguish playthings from ‘human’ items that are off-limits. Stuffing KONG toys with your pet’s favourite treats will also encourage it to gnaw on them, and not your beloved belongings. Whenever you catch your dog in the act of chewing on something it shouldn’t, tell it “No!” loudly, followed by the “Give” command while holding out its chew toy in exchange for the item. Should the exchange be successful, remember to offer it praise and treats as positive reinforcement.
Another effective way to teach a dog not to chew up your furniture, rugs and cushions would be to make them taste ‘bad’. Spray the surfaces of these items with some homemade bitter apple spray or a mixture of vanilla and water, which canines tend to strongly dislike the flavour of. Alternatively, products like Tropiclean Stay Away Chew Deterrent & Animal Repellent is safe to use on plants and furniture both indoors and outdoors – and even on humans to discourage the dog from licking or biting them!
Keep Rover Busy
Bored dogs are more likely to chew on almost anything and everything that come their way for the sake of amusement. Provide plenty of mental stimulation and physical exercise to keep your canine occupied and physically spent. That way, it is less likely to engage in restless behaviour such as destructive chewing. Put its intelligence to the test with toys like the Seek-A-Treat Shuffle Bone Dog IQ Puzzle, which comprises holes and sliding disks that have to be maneuvered in order for the dog to retrieve hidden treats as a ‘reward’. Or, simply be sure to take it out on regular walks or runs, which all dog owners should be doing on a daily basis as part of their pets’ basic health regimen.
Make sure not to confuse inappropriate chewing tendencies with pica, an eating disorder where the dog persistently ingests non-food items. If your dog’s destructive chewing habit does not seem to be alleviated by behaviour modification or a training plan, underlying medical problems are a highly possible cause. Inappropriate chewing can also develop as a coping mechanism for discomfort from gastrointestinal problems and nutritional deficiencies, and it is important to take your dog to the veterinarian as possible in this case.