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Training Your Dog to Stop Chewing on Household Items

Training Your Dog to Stop Chewing on Household Items

Dogs chew on household items for a variety of reasons. Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs that starts as puppies when they teethe. Beyond teething, dogs may continue to chew for the following reasons:

  • Teething – Puppies chew on household items when they are teething to relieve sore gums. This usually happens between 3-6 months of age.

  • Boredom – Dogs that are bored or understimulated may chew to occupy themselves. Without enough physical and mental exercise, they find unhealthy chewing outlets.

  • Anxiety/Stress – Chewing helps relieve anxiety or stress in some dogs. Major changes, separations, loud noises, or unfamiliar environments can trigger anxious chewing.

  • Attention Seeking – Some dogs learn that chewing gets them attention from their owner (even if it's negative attention). So they continue the behavior to get noticed.

  • Medical Issues – In some cases, inappropriate chewing may result from medical problems like gastrointestinal issues or neuromuscular disorders.

  • Lack of Training – Dogs that are not properly trained may never learn that chewing household items is unacceptable behavior.

  • Puppy Teething Stage – Puppies that are teething tend to chew on household objects to relieve their sore gums and jaws. This usually passes as they mature.

  • Natural Instinct – Dogs are instinctively drawn to chew as an investigative behavior. Chewing helps them explore their environment and provides mental stimulation.

It's important to identify why your dog is chewing before attempting to curb the behavior. If it stems from anxiety, boredom or lack of training, addressing those root causes will be the most effective approach. Medical issues should also be ruled out by your veterinarian.

Preventing Destructive Chewing

Here are some key ways to dog-proof your home and prevent opportunities for destructive chewing:

  • Use crates when you're away – Dogs won't be able to chew household objects if crated while home alone. Be sure to provide stuffed chew toys inside for distraction.

  • Dog-proof rooms – Block access to rooms with valuables or hazards when your dog is unsupervised with baby gates or closed doors. Keep them confined to dog-friendly areas.

  • Remove temptation – Put away any enticing objects like shoes, remotes, books and children's toys where your dog can't access them.

  • Bitter deterrent sprays – Applying a taste deterrent spray to furniture, baseboards, etc. can curb chewing behaviors. Dogs are repelled by the bitter taste.

  • Interactive puzzle toys – Keep your dog positively engaged by providing challenging puzzle toys stuffed with treats when you're away.

  • Sufficient exercise – Make sure your dog gets adequate physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is less likely to chew destructively.

  • Monitor with cameras – Consider setting up pet cameras to monitor and correct destructive behavior when you're not home. Remote correction can be effective.

  • Crate training – Crate train your dog so being confined doesn't feel like punishment. It should be a safe, relaxing space when you're gone.

  • Obedience training – Reinforce the "leave it" command so your dog knows ignoring household objects is non-negotiable.

Managing the environment is key to avoiding destructive chewing. However, you still need to teach acceptable chewing habits.

Teaching Appropriate Chewing

To curb inappropriate chewing, teach your dog what they should be chewing instead:

  • Chew toys – Provide an ample supply of appealing chew toys. Rotate frequently to keep them interesting and appealing.

  • Praise appropriate chewing – Catch your dog chewing their own toys and reward with praise, petting or a treat. This reinforces good behavior.

  • Discourage unwanted chewing – Use a firm "no" or loud noise to startle your dog when catching inappropriate chewing. Then redirect to a sanctioned chew toy.

  • Treat-stuffed toys – Make their toys more enticing by stuffing with treats or spreading irresistible spreads inside (peanut butter, cream cheese, wet food). Freezing prolongs the treat.

  • Edible chews – Offer edible raw bones, bully sticks, Himalayan chews and dental chews to satisfy natural chewing instincts. Supervise to ensure safety.

  • Obedience training – Formally train the "leave it" and "drop it" commands. This teaches impulse control around tempting objects.

  • Bitter sprays – Lightly spray inappropriate items with a taste deterrent. The bitterness helps teach what isn't for chewing.

  • Crate training – Provide stuffed chew toys for the crate. Dogs are less likely to chew household objects if their needs are met in their "den."

  • Exercise – Make sure your dog gets sufficient physical and mental exercise. Adequate stimulation decreases destructive behaviors.

  • Attention rewards – Ignore bad behavior and reward good. Give attention when your dog chooses appropriate chew toys over household items.

With patience and consistency, you can teach your dog to satisfy their chewing instincts on sanctioned objects. Proper exercise, stimulation and training are key.

Correcting Chewing in Progress

When catching your dog chewing where they shouldn't, follow these steps:

  1. Issue an interruptive sound – Say "no" or "ack" loudly, clap your hands sharply, or shake a can full of coins. This startles them into stopping.

  2. Redirect – Immediately offer an acceptable chew toy once you have their attention. Praise when they take the toy instead. This reinforces what they should be chewing.

  3. Remove access – If the item cannot be supervised at all times, remove it from your dog's environment completely. Out of sight, out of mind.

  4. Discipline calmly – If your dog returns and starts chewing the object again, calmly place them in their crate or confinement area for a brief period to reinforce that chewing is unacceptable.

  5. Increase exercise – Make sure your dog is getting adequate physical and mental stimulation each day. Destructive behaviors can indicate excess energy.

  6. Obedience train – Work on the "leave it" command using treats. First reward them for looking at the item, then reward for looking away.

  7. Remove rewards – Don't give your dog what they want (attention and interaction) when catching them chewing off-limits items. Any response, even scolding, is a reward.

  8. Bitter deterrents – Consider spraying inappropriate objects with bitter apple spray or another taste deterrent if redirection and confinement aren't working.

  9. Anxiety reduction – If chewing stems from stress or anxiety, work on behavioral modification and natural stress relievers like exercise and enrichment. Medication may also help in extreme separation anxiety cases.

  10. Medical causes – Make sure a medical issue isn't causing the destructive chewing before continuing behavior correction. See your vet.

Consistency is key when correcting chewing habits. Always redirect to appropriate toys and prevent access to tempting items.

Using Crates to Prevent Chewing

Crates are highly effective for deterring destructive chewing behaviors when you are away from home or unable to supervise. The key is to make it a positive space, not a place of punishment.

  • Crate comfort – Make sure the crate is large enough for your dog to stand, turn and lie down. Add soft blankets and chew toys.

  • Crate training – Gradually build up positive associations by feeding meals inside and placing treats. Start with brief sessions, building duration.

  • Exercise first – Take your dog on a good walk or play session before crating to tire them out. They're more likely to settle and nap.

  • Stuffed chew toys – Give a long-lasting edible chew toy stuffed with treats to occupy them while crated. Kongs or West Paw toys work well.

  • Location – Place the crate in a high traffic area so your dog doesn't feel isolated. Avoid triggers like windows with activity.

  • Music/TV – Play calming music or leave the TV on for background noise to make your dog feel less alone.

  • Patience – If your dog whines or fusses initially, wait for them to settle before letting them out or you reinforce the behavior.

  • Small areas – If your dog is destructive when loose in a room, crate them instead of gating off a larger area where they can still access objects.

  • Positive associations – Randomly toss treats into the crate throughout the day so they see it as a good place to be. Praise when they enter voluntarily.

  • Adapt slowly – If your dog is not crate-trained, go slowly with short sessions and work up to leaving them crated when you're gone.

With time, patience and positive reinforcement, your dog can learn to view their crate as their safe personal space, not a punitive jail. Proper crate training eliminates opportunities for destructive chewing.

Using Remote Cameras to Catch Chewing in Progress

Pet cameras allow you to monitor your dog's behavior from your smartphone and remotely correct inappropriate chewing as it happens:

  • Placement – Position cameras so you have a view of rooms your dog has access to when home alone. Aim at entrances, transition areas and problem spots.

  • Multi-cameras – For full coverage, consider a multi-camera system or several standalone cams. The more eyes the better to catch misbehavior.

  • Smart notifications – Look for cameras with smart alerts that notify your phone when motion or noise is detected, signaling potential misbehavior.

  • Speaker – Choose a camera with a built-in speaker you can use to remotely scold your dog or deliver commands like "leave it!"

  • Two-way talk – Models with two-way communication allow you to correct your dog just with the sound of your voice through the camera speaker.

  • Night vision – Ensure the camera has night vision so you don't miss any undesirable behavior happening in low light when you're gone.

  • App access – Check that the companion app allows you to directly access the live feed anytime from your smartphone to view what's happening at home.

  • High-quality video – A camera with crisp, high-definition video will better capture details of any chewing or destruction happening out of sight.

  • Recording – Look for cameras that record activity during the day that you can review later for evidence of naughty behavior that needs curbing.

With an arsenal of strategic cameras, you can closely monitor your dog's behavior when separated and correct chewing habits even from afar through two-way communication. This remote reinforcement can be highly effective.

Using Taste Deterrents to Curb Chewing

Topical taste deterrents make objects unappealing and discourage dogs from chewing where they shouldn't:

  • Bitter apple spray – This very bitter anti-chew spray is safe but repels dogs from treated items. Spray furniture, walls, woodwork, etc.

  • Citrus smells – Dogs dislike citrus odors. Wipe peels on objects or rub on a few drops of lemon essential oils to repel chewing.

  • Chili powder – Lightly dust chili powder onto items you want dogs to avoid. The irritation of the capsaicin discourages chewing.

  • Vicks VapoRub – The strong menthol smell of VapoRub repels most dogs. Place a small dab on household objects you don't want chewed.

  • Perfumes – Heavily scented perfumes and colognes are unappealing to dog senses. Spray a little around your belongings.

  • Cayenne pepper – Sprinkle cayenne powder or crushed red pepper flakes on items. The irritation and spice deters dogs from chewing.

  • Vinegar – Spray full-strength white or apple cider vinegar on areas prone to dog chewing. The strong acidity and scent discourages the behavior.

  • Neosporin – Place a thin layer of antibiotic ointment on objects. Dogs find the taste unpleasant and are repelled.

  • Ammonia – Soak cotton balls in ammonia and place them on top of items you want dogs to avoid. The strong odor discourages chewing.

  • Aloe gel – Bitter aloe gel left on household objects leaves a bad taste when dogs lick and chew. They'll learn to avoid.

Use taste deterrents responsibly and reapply regularly. Supervise your dog until the chewing habit is fully curbed. Never use punishments that harm your dog.

Using Interactive Food Puzzles to Reduce Boredom Chewing

Bored dogs tend to channel their energy into destructive chewing. Keep them positively engaged with interactive food puzzle toys:

  • Kongs – The classic Kong can be stuffed with frozen wet food, peanut butter, pumpkin, or kibble to occupy dogs for hours.

  • Treat balls – Food dispensing balls allow dogs to bat them around to release kibble or small treats from inside. Chase and mental exercise.

  • Snuffle mats – These felt mats hide treats in folds and fabric fringe to simulate scent hunting. Dogs "snuffle" through the mat to find rewards.

  • Lick mats – Designed with grooves and patterns, you spread or freeze foods on the mat and dogs lick it clean. Provides soothing licking/chewing.

  • Tug toys – Rope toys and rubber tug bars promote interactive play. The chewing action releases hidden treats you've stuffed inside.

  • Food cubes – Place dry kibble or treats in a food cube or puzzle box. Dogs must slide doors and flip lids to access the food, keeping them busy.

  • Cheese wrappers – Lightly wrap chunks of cheese in old plastic wrappers and twists ties. Unwrapping the treats keeps dogs entertained.

  • Cardboard boxes – Old delivery boxes can be interactive toys. Place small treats inside and let your dog rip, tear and dig through the box to find buried treasure.

  • Ice cubes – Freeze broth, pureed baby food or yogurt inside ice cubes. Dogs gnaw and lick at them until they melt and dispense the food.

Rotate novel edible puzzles frequently to fight boredom. They stimulate dogs mentally and satisfy chewing urges in healthy ways.

Preventing Anxiety-Related Chewing

For dogs that chew destructively due to anxiety or stress, address the root causes:

  • More exercise – Ensure your dog gets at least 30-60 minutes of activity daily. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety.

  • Environmental enrichment – Provide interactive food puzzles, new toys and chews to stimulate your dog mentally and physically.

  • Obedience training – Training helps build confidence and alleviates anxiety. Practice commands and tricks daily.

  • Socialization – Arrange regular play dates with friend dogs. Interaction reduces stress.

  • Calming aids – Try an Anxiety Wrap, calming collar or calming treats with chamomile or hemp to take the edge off.

  • Pheromones – Plug in an Adaptil or Comfort Zone pheromone diffuser. The artificial dog pheromones have a soothing effect.

  • Counterconditioning – Teach your dog to associate stressors like loud noises with positive things, like treats. This changes their emotional response.

  • Crate training – Playing crate games and feeding your dog in an open crate can make it a safe zone.

  • Massage – Gently petting or massaging your dog can lower heart rate and instill calm.

  • Natural supplements – Try anti-anxiety supplements like Solliquin or Zylkene that promote relaxation.

Reducing stress and anxiety can eliminate destructive behaviors stemming from your dog's unstable mental state. A multi-pronged approach works best for anxious chewers.

When to Seek Professional Help

Consult with an animal behaviorist or certified trainer if your efforts to curb destructive chewing haven't succeeded. They can help with:

  • Identifying causes – A professional will uncover the underlying motivation for your dog's chewing through consultations and observation.

  • Customized plan – Experts will develop a tailored training and management plan to address your dog's unique chewing triggers.

  • One-on-one coaching – Trainers work directly with you and your dog to implement effective chewing deterrent techniques.

  • Anxiety reduction – Behaviorists have specialized techniques to reduce separation anxiety, fear, overexcitement and other emotions fueling chewing.

  • Environmental management – They identify changes to your home environment to remove chewing access and temptations.

  • Advanced training – Trainers utilize specialized methods like counterconditioning to change your dog's chewing behaviors.

  • Obedience work – They'll strengthen important commands like "leave it" and "drop it" to prevent chewing objects.

  • Recommending solutions – Trainers may recommend doggie daycare, special toys and chews, crates, bitter deterrents, or calming aids.

  • Medical insight – Behavior experts can determine if a physical or medical condition could be causing your dog's destructive chewing.

Though behavior modification takes time and effort, a professional can provide objective guidance and troubleshooting to help curb destructive chewing for good. They're well worth the investment.

Being Consistent

For any chewing deterrents to work, you must be incredibly consistent in your approach:

  • Set rules – Decide exactly what your dog can and cannot chew and stick to those guidelines each time, with every family member. Mixed messages confuse dogs.

  • Manage environment – Prevent access to tempting items 100% of the time when you're gone. Tucking away a shoe occasionally isn't enough. Dog proof thoroughly.

  • Exercise daily – Make sure your dog gets sufficient physical and mental exercise every single day without fail. Don't skip days that leave them bored.

  • Reinforce training – Practice "leave it" and "drop it" commands daily. Dogs forget quickly without frequent reinforcement.

  • Reward good behavior – Remember to praise and treat your dog every time you catch them making good chewing choices. This motivates them to repeat the behavior.

  • Interrupt bad habits – Be prepared to immediately interrupt improper chewing with a loud sound, taste deterrent or correction command. Quick redirection is key.

  • Confine unsupervised – When you can't actively supervise your dog, place them in their crate or confined area with approved toys. Don't give them run of the house unattended.

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