Dogs are natural chewers and love to have something to gnaw on. However, wood is potentially dangerous as a chew item, especially if your dog breaks off splinters and swallows them. There are several reasons your dog may chew on wood, including boredom, stress, anxiety, or nutritional deficiencies. Regardless of why your dog is chewing on wood, it's important to prevent the behavior.
Why Dogs Chew on Wood
Dogs like to chew because it helps them keep teeth clean, strengthens their jaw, and gives them something new to do with their mouths. Chewing also helps dogs relieve stress and anxiety while providing them with an outlet for their energy. Wood is often just a convenient - and soft - item to chew on.
Dog chewing behavior is likely instinctual, so keep this in mind as you try to prevent them from chomping on wood.
1. Your Dog Might Chew Out of Boredom
If your dog isn't getting enough stimulation and enrichment, they may pick up a stick and go to work just to have something to do. Being bored is a powerful motivator for dogs, and because chewing is an instinctual behavior, they might chew compulsively to find relief.
2. Your Dog's Letting You Know They're Stressed
Dogs get anxious and stressed out, just like humans do. Figuring out why your dog is stressed isn't always so easy, however. You'll need to learn to read your dog's behavior to understand what's going on.
How to stop it: Redirection is your best bet if your dog is stress-chewing wood. Give them another safe chew toy to gnaw on, and take the stick away.
3. They Might Have Nutritional Deficiences
Your dog may also chew on wood if they have a gap in their nutrition. This is most commonly found in kibble-fed dogs due to the lack of variety in their diet. There are a number of tests on the market to determine if your dog is suffering from a nutritional deficiency. AnimalBiome and Parsley Pet both provide a snapshot of your dog's health and can be helpful in determining which nutrient they're deficient in.
How to stop it: Once you know what nutrient your dog is deficient in, you can then add a supplement or alter their diet to encourage variety to fill nutritional gaps.
4. Your Dog Might Just Enjoy It
Chewing is a natural behavior for your dog, and they might just like the taste. Or your dog might think of sticks and wood as interactive play toys. It's hard to say what specifically might drive any individual dog to chew wood, so your best best is to keep them busy.
How to stop it: If your dog keeps chewing on wood and no amount of exercise or redirection makes a difference, you can try using a chewing deterrent, such as bitter sprays or a mix of 1 part vinegar to 6 parts water, and putting it on pieces of wood to discourage your dog.
Why Chewing Wood is Bad for Your Dog
Dogs can suffer injuries from chewing wood, such as cuts and punctures to the mouth and tongue. These wounds can become infected by bacteria found in the wood or dirt near where the dog chews. If left untreated, these infections can become serious.
The wood itself could also be poisonous if it contains harmful chemicals that get into your dog's system. Treated wood, for example, often contains compounds that are toxic to dogs if ingested.
Chewing on wood can also damage your dog's teeth by wearing them down. This type of wear can also cause loose teeth, which can cause dental issues for your dog in the future.
Worst of all, if your dog swallows chunks or even smaller pieces of wood, these can cause serious digestive issues. Wood doesn't break down in your dog's stomach, and can perforate intestines or lead to impacted bowels. In a worst-case scenario, swallowing wood might trigger bloat or another life-threatening intestinal issue.
If you suspect your dog has swallowed even a small amount of wood, don't take any chances and contact your veterinarian.
More Tips to Prevent Your Dog's Wood Chewing Behavior
Redirecting your dog, offering them exercise, and giving them alternative - and safe - chew toys can help a lot. But sometimes, it isn't enough to stop persistent dogs. Luckily, you have other options.
- Remove all wood. The most important thing you can do is restrict your dog's access to wood items. Clear your yard of sticks and wood as best you can. This way, the wood is out of sight and out of mind.
- Keep an eye on them. When your dog is playing outside, make sure you monitor what they're playing with and take any sticks away.
- It's OK to say "No." Training is essential. If you see your dog picking up a stick, calmly tell them "No," or "Uh oh," and remove the stick, then give them an alternative.
- Reward positive chewing. When your dog sticks to their chew toys, and avoids wood, reward them with treats and lots of praise.
To get rid of the urge to chew your furniture, using a chewing deterrent is your best bet. You can't just get rid of your furniture like you would a stick, after all. Your wood furniture, on the other hand, is stationary, and a bitter spray or do-it-yourself option can work very well.
Remember to Stay Patient
Most importantly, do not punish your dog for chewing. They won't get it, and it might even make the behavior worse. Preventing your dog from chewing wood may take some time and patience on your part. You will need to narrow down the specific cause of your dog's wood chewing behavior to know how to address it effectively. Until then, preventing access to wood as much as possible is necessary. If your dog continues to chew on wood despite your efforts, a canine behaviorist or nutritionist may have some answers for you.