Stop the Chomp: How to End Your Dog's Destructive Chewing
by Mr Yellow
Bringing a pooch home is all fun and games until the furniture is suddenly all dented and your living room carpet is not looking so pristine anymore. Truth be told, that little rascal can probably get away with a lot with those adorable puppy eyes, but it wouldn't hurt if your house is not completely wrecked. So, read on if you're looking for ways to control your dog's destructive behaviour once and for all.
What Is Destructive Behaviour in Dogs?
As the term implies, destructive behaviour revolves around the destructive chewing of large and small objects alike. These items can be anything from random socks to your favourite shoes but also carpets, sofas and all types of furniture.
Chewing is a natural habit that all dogs have and it is not something that should be discouraged altogether. Indeed, chewing on hard objects such as bones and sticks is not only a fun thing for your four-legged friend but it is also a habit that helps to relieve boredom and anxiety. Apart from this, chewing helps dogs of all ages to retain toned jaw muscles and it can also contribute to cleaner gums and teeth.
The critical difference is obviously what your dog is chewing and to what extent it is being done. Gnawed chair legs are obviously less than ideal and chewing of dangerous objects can lead to serious risks such as choking, damaged teeth, gum injuries, upset stomachs and intestinal blockages.
Chewing and destroying stuff is a major preoccupation for any puppy. Indeed, chewing, licking, gnawing (together with a fair amount of slobbering if we're being honest) are all natural ways in which a puppy learns more about its surroundings and explores its new environment. A puppy's chewing frenzy usually reaches its peak between 3 and 6 months since it is also the time when a puppy would be teething. So, extra supervision and (more than) a few deep breaths will be the order of the day during this period.
Big Dog Bites
Unfortunately, doggie adulthood is not an automatic guarantee for good behaviour and some dogs will still retain their destructive streak when they grow up. Some dogs are naturally prone to continue chewing until they are over two years while for others the destructive pattern may be related to a source of anxiety. Common sources of apprehension for dogs include:
- Separation - If you leave for work in the morning and come back in the evening to a fully-fledged mess but your dog is relatively peaceful when you are home, then it means that your dog suffering from separation anxiety. A telltale sign can be scratches and chewing of apertures and doors but other items may not necessarily be spared.
- Noises - Fireworks, construction and storms are all relatively unusual situations that can make your dog extremely anxious and it is not uncommon that chewing is used as a form of coping mechanism.
- Boredom - It is common for dogs to feel bored if there isn't much going on and chewing things is a normal way for them to alleviate that boredom and amuse themselves.
- Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour - Although less frequent, repetitive but frantic chewing of household items may be a sign that your dog is suffering from an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Consulting your vet is essential in this case since diagnosis can only be conducted by a professional.
Do All Dogs Do It?
The short answer is yes, all dogs will do it. The extent, however, varies according to your dog's temperament, age and breed. Certain dog breeds are notoriously known for their chewing addiction and if your dog belongs to one of them, well, chewing is more likely to occur. These range from Great Danes at one end of the spectrum to Chihuahuas on the other end but also Bulldogs, Boxers, Dalmatians, German Shepherds and Beagles. Conversely, breeds that are more likely to let your furniture be, include Terriers, Labradors, Spaniels and Shih Tzus.
Top Tips to Stop It Now
While eliminating destructive behaviour may not be the most straightforward of processes, there are some things that you can do to reduce it as quickly as possible:
- Hold the scolding - Confronting your dog with damage done earlier in the day will not result in a positive outcome. Dogs do not have the ability to link a disapproving tone to something that they might have done hours ago and so it is better if scolding is only reserved for those instances when you catch your pooch in the act of destroying something. Having said that, regular supervision and a stern tone when your dog is about to pounce helps to create boundaries about what is permissible and what is not.
- Clear the way - It is a good idea to reduce temptation to a minimum by hiding away items that may be valuable (and that may seem particularly appealing to your canine friend) apart from clearing smaller items (like handbags, scarves, clothes, children's toys and mobile phones) regularly to lessen even more the possibility of unfortunate accidents.
- Focus on deterring - It is obviously not an option to remove larger objects and furniture so this is where a deterrent comes in handy. There are tastes and smells that dogs find unappealing and spraying these substances may discourage them from gnawing your dining table chairs or that heirloom coffee table that your grandmother managed to keep in mint condition for decades. Popular options include citronella oil, Tabasco sauce, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or ready-made deterrent sprays that can be bought from many pet stores. However, don't forget to do a spot test on a small hidden area before spraying any new deterrent on or near any furniture or fabric-covered objects!
- Contain and redirect - While complete elimination may be difficult to achieve, reducing and deflecting your dog's attention from your prized possessions may be the next best thing. So, it's important to provide plenty of dog toys that are fun, attractive, interactive and above all, hard wearing. It is also very important to provide clear guidance as to what is appropriate to chew and what is not - do not confuse your dog by randomly offering discarded personal objects (such as old shoes, clothes, socks and kids' toys). Stick to actual dog toys consistently since your dog is not able to distinguish between a pair of socks that you don't use anymore and a pair that you wear regularly.
- Set-up a pup safe zone - Creating a distraction-free area in your home will come in handy for those times when you cannot supervise your dog. Don't forget to fill up this space with enticing dog toys to emphasise even more what is appropriate chewing material and what is not. A dog crate is also a good option to contain your rowdy pup for a limited amount of time.
- Play around - A dog that has had the opportunity to run around and release energy is less likely to get into mischievous behaviour. So don't forget to take out that pooch for regular walks every day!
Remember that patience is the key when it comes to unruly canines, but if all else fails don't forget that dog behaviour consultants may be able to help you to stop the destruction quickly!
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