Inappropriate chewing is a common issue among dogs of all ages, and it originates from puppies using their mouths to explore their surroundings at a young age. Although chewing is a normal behavior, it becomes a problem when it's directed at inappropriate objects. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to stop a dog from chewing on unacceptable items.
If You Have a Puppy
Between 3 and 8 weeks of age, a dog's deciduous teeth erupt, and about 4 to 6 months of age, these teeth are gradually replaced with permanent teeth. Similar to with babies, teething is a relatively painful process. Puppies tend to chew more during this time because their gums are sensitive and chewing lessens the pain. Inappropriate chewing is most likely to occur while the puppy is teething, but if not addressed, it can persist even after all of the adult teeth have emerged and teething has ended.
If You Have an Adult Dog
If your dog is an adult, the problem is more difficult to fix, but it can be accomplished with patience and time. Keep in mind, this will take some effort on your part, but as long as you're willing to put in the work, your dog will be well on their way to chewing appropriate items only.
Rule Out Medical Problems Before Going Further
The first step is to ensure that your dog is free of any underlying medical issues. Pica might be misinterpreted as incorrect chewing due to nutritional inadequacies induced by a poor diet or intestinal parasitism. Nausea from gastrointestinal disorders might lead to chewing as a coping method. As a result, it's critical to see your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing or contributing to your dog's chewing.
Discourage Chewing on Inappropriate Objects
If you notice your dog chewing on something inappropriate, take the object away from them and redirect their attention to something more appropriate. praise them when they chew on the appropriate object. Your dog will gradually learn which objects are theirs and which are not.
If a chewing pattern has already been developed, it can be difficult to break. You can add bitter apple or other taste deterrents to the inappropriate object, with the aim that the unpleasant taste will deter the determined chewer and they will learn to leave the object alone. Of course, you don't want to do that with everything, so ensuring there are plenty of desirable, appropriate chew toys around the home is a must.
Encourage Chewing the Desired Objects
Give your dog appropriate chew toys to enjoy. Each dog will have their own preferences for chewing and playing with. Avoid rawhide and cattle bones because dedicated chewers can whittle them down to little bits that can be ingested, not to mention they aren't healthy for your dog. Small objects also have the potential to become trapped in the esophagus or small intestine, so use caution while providing any item that can be broken into small chunks and remove any smaller bits that may be swallowed.
Cooked bones should be avoided since they break readily, resulting in sharp bits that can damage your dog's gastrointestinal tract. Treats that are raw, air-dried, or dehydrated are recommended if you want to provide edible chews, as these will break rather than splinter.
Dog toys such as balls and Kongs may appeal to your dog, but if you choose a Kong, be certain to choose the correct size for your dog. They should be able to pick it up and carry it, but it must be large enough to prevent swallowing. If you buy your dog a Kong toy, be sure the hole in the toy isn't too large for the dog's bottom jaw to get stuck in it.
It's also crucial not to give your dog toys that look like inappropriate objects, such as an old shoe to chew on or a toy that resembles a shoe, because they won't know the difference between those and a new shoe.
Expect Some Bumps Along the Way
To prevent instilling more anxiety or stress in your dog, gently guide them to stop destructive chewing. Positive reinforcement and praise work best with dogs. However, keep in mind that as your dog learns what is acceptable (and what is not) to chew on, there may be some bumps along the way. Remember to be patient and continue moving forward.