“Oh no, not my favourite slippers!” Yes, another shoe’s tragic demise by your chomping and slobbering fiend. To be fair, chewing is a perfectly natural thing for a dog to do. Understanding why dogs chew can help you to address undesirable chewing behaviour.
Why do dogs chew?
Puppies naturally chew objects in their environment as part of the learning process, and while playing. The behaviour often diminishes with age as their urge to investigate also diminishes.
Chewing can become a problem if your dog becomes destructive due to fear or anxiety, or in an attempt to escape. If the destructive chewing behaviour is an attempt to escape from an area, your dog may have separation anxiety, which requires specific behavioural, and sometimes medical, treatment.
How do I encourage chewing toys?
Dogs will have favourite chew toys, so experiment with different ones such as rawhide bones, Kongs, or Nylabones.
You can hide food treats in some toys, or coat them with peanut butter, Vegemite, cheese spread or treat paste.
Apart from toys, dogs need stimulation from play and exercise, and obedience work or they will become bored and possibly destructive. All dogs require interaction with their owners, and possibly other dogs, and an outlet for their energy in order to avoid frustration and boredom.
How do I discourage chewing?
If you’re trying to protect specific things from being chewed, you can prevent access to household objects or areas the dog is chewing unless they are under supervision. You can also protect specific items by applying a bitterant such as Bitter Taste or Wound Gard.
However, these are only temporary measures and will not address the root cause of the behaviour. Your dog may simply switch to chewing something else.
If your dog’s chewing is becoming a serious problem, contact your veterinarian or local animal behaviourist for advice. They will be able to look at your dog’s situation and environment and show you training methods to help change the behaviour.