Chewing is normal behavior for dogs—and for some cats. You can’t stop dog chewing, and shouldn’t try. Puppies and kittens test their world the same way human infants do. Everything goes into the mouth. Teething youngsters chew objects to relieve the discomfort, but adult dogs rarely outgrow the habit the way (we hope!) people do.
I last wrote about canine chewing when Bravo came to live with us as a new pup. He chewed everything within reach (Oh, my poor coffee table!), including chew toys. We still have Magic-markers on the baseboard and plaster from our last beloved dog. Now we have to re-do flooring in the laundry room, courtesy of Bravo-Dawg.
These days, we THINK we have a handle on Shadow-Pup. We have to really watch him, though, because Shadow likes to chew sticks–yikes!–and has already got one piece caught across the roof of his mouth. When you have a baby-dawg, or even adult canines, it can be a constant struggle to monitor them for safe chewing.
Dog chewing is a fact of life and learning how to stop puppy chewing can save your relationship, and sanity. If you have a new puppy, or even an adult dog with a chew -aholic habit, a primer on chewing basics may be welcome about now!
Puppies begin chewing very early in life. It helps those baby teeth come in, and later, feels good when the permanent teeth erupt. But even adult dogs chew for recreation. It just feels good! Learn more about puppy development here.
What’s the worst thing your dog ever chewed up and destroyed? Some items may seem funny–like stealing socks–until Monster Pup eats it and it takes emergency surgery to get it out. Our first dog chewed my husband’s brand new steel toed work boots that had cost a mint–not funny. And Magic left teeth marks on the windowsills. I call them Magical-Markers! Urk.
How To Stop Puppy & Dog Chewing Behavior
You can’t stop puppy chewing because it’s normal dog behavior. Puppies don’t chew your prized possessions because they’re mad at you. They instinctively use teeth the way human babies reach out with tiny fists. Your puppy chews to explore the world, to manipulate objects, to relieve boredom, and because it feels good.
He also chomped my husband’s favorite property—the TV remote. He targeted items that smelled like us to feel closer to us, and soothe puppy loneliness, but we still didn’t appreciate the compliment!
Dog Chewing Dangers
Chewing gets pups in trouble when they aren’t provided with legal chewing opportunities, and forbidden objects are left within reach. Puppy chewing can break teeth, result in dangerous swallowed objects, or burns and electrocution if Junior bites an electrical cord or eats a poisonous plant. If your dog swallows something he shouldn’t, hopefully, he’ll vomit. Teething increases the urge to gnaw because it relieves sore gums, but dogs usually continue the habit into adulthood.
Don’t try to stop it. Instead, prevent puppy chewing problems by removing temptation, and offering lots of better (legal) opportunities. Refer to these 8 tips to manage your puppy’s gnawing habit.
- Puppy Proof the House: Getting a new puppy forces us to become better housekeepers. Keep tempting objects like shoes, handbags, tissues, and your child’s favorite stuffed toy safely out of reach.
- Confine the Pup: When you can’t supervise, provide a “safe” room that has no dangerous or forbidden temptations. Baby gates work well to control puppy access and can block off a hallway, stair, or room.
- Use Repellants: Products that taste nasty can keep puppy teeth at bay. Bitter Apple applied to electrical cords helps train pups to leave dangerous items alone. Many dogs find the scent of Vicks Vapo-Rub offensive. Paint Vicks on wooden baseboards or apply to cloth draped over other forbidden targets to keep puppy teeth at bay.
- Don’t Confuse Him: Puppies can’t always tell the difference between your new designer sandals and the “legal” old slipper. It’s best to offer chew toys he won’t confuse with forbidden objects. Nylabone makes some popular puppy teething toys.
- Make A Trade: Chasing a pup to retrieve your stolen wallet becomes a great game of keep-away, and can teach your smart-aleck pup to swipe things to invite a tag marathon. Instead, when you catch your pup chewing a forbidden object, tell her “no.” Offer an irresistible legal chew toy (maybe filled with liverwurst?) as a trade. Make the chew good for the teeth, to help with dental health.
- Offer Puzzle Toys: Rubber chew toys with openings stuffed with healthy treats keep puppies interested and on target. Some are mint or peanut butter scented to be more appealing. Fill up puzzle toys like Buster Cube, and Kong products with soft food, peanut butter or commercial treats designed just for puppies.
- Provide Chewies: Healthy chews or edible “dental” chews come in all shapes and sizes, complete with a variety of powerful scents and flavors. Soak rawhide in warm water and zap in the microwave for ten seconds to soften the leather and make it more pungent for tiny puppies. Monitor rawhide fun, though. Larger pups gnaw off and swallow pieces, and eating too much rawhide spoils appetites and may prompt constipation or even blockage. My Shadow-Pup loves dehydrated fish skins–pungent, tasty, and digestible. Bully Sticks are usually a good option.
- Rotate Toys: Puppies get bored with the same-old every day. Provide at least three to five “legal” options for your chew-happy baby and rotate a couple of times a week. That keeps puppy happy, your precious belongings undamaged, and your fur-kid safe despite himself.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!