Chewing is a natural behaviour in dogs, but when it starts to become destructive, it's time to intervene. Learn how to stop destructive dog chewing and replace those habits with safer and healthier behaviours.
Destructive dog chewing can quickly become a nightmare as you watch your furry friend gnaw on all of your furniture, shoes, pillows, and other personal belongings.
In some cases, you may even see abnormal chewing behaviours such as chewing on their leg, nails or paws. If this is the case, you have a behavioural or maybe a medical problem that you’ll need to address.
Destructive chewing in dogs is definitely annoying, and it can be expensive depending on what they like to chew on. But worse, it can be very dangerous for dogs.
Destructive chewing can lead to self-harm, dental damage, choking or intestinal blockages if your dog like to actually eat what he chews.
My Dog is Chewing Everything!
It can be frustrating to find your beautiful pooch has destroyed something valuable. What is it that drives your cute little doggo to be such a menace?
Puppies are notorious for chewing. Just like human babies, they use their mouths to learn about the world around them.
Your pup will chew the most during teething which can last for six months due to the discomfort of the loose baby teeth and newly emerging adult teeth.
The chewing alleviates the young dog’s discomfort to some degree and helps the new teeth work their way through the gums.
Adult dogs may engage in destructive chewing for any number of reasons, including as a coping strategy for stress and boredom. In this article, we will explore dog chewing reasons and how to stop destructive dog chewing.
Destructive Dog Chewing Behaviour
Destructive dog chewing behaviour refers to the habit of a dog chewing or damaging items that are not meant to be chewed on, such as furniture, shoes, books, clothing, socks, other household items, or even themselves.
This behaviour can be a severe problem for pet owners, as it can result in damage to property, harm to the dog, and strain the relationship between the dog and their human family.
Is Destructive Dog Chewing Dangerous?
Chewing on inappropriate items can easily hurt your dog and prove dangerous or even deadly, so it's important to put a stop to destructive dog chewing as quickly as you can.
Here are 4 dangers of destructive dog chewing:
1. Choking and Ingestion of Foreign Objects
When a dog chews on objects that are not meant to be chewed on, such as furniture or household items, it may accidentally ingest small pieces or break off parts of the object, which can cause choking or digestive issues if swallowed.
2. Dental Damage and Problems
Dogs who engage in destructive chewing behaviour may also suffer from dental problems, such as broken or cracked teeth, which can be painful and require veterinary attention. The continuous grinding on hard objects can also wear down a dog’s teeth, causing problems later in life.
3. Intestinal Blockages
If a dog ingests objects or pieces of objects that are not meant to be eaten, it can lead to intestinal blockages, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Your dog may require emergency surgery to remove the item.
4. Accidental Ingestion of Poisons
Some household items, such as cleaning products or plants, can be toxic to dogs if ingested. Destructive chewing behaviour may put dogs at risk of accidental poisoning.
Understanding Why Your Dog Chews
To stop the behaviour, you must first determine why your dog is chewing—and remember, they are not doing it to spite you. Your furry friend is your best buddy even if they chew up your favourite pair of sneakers.
Dogs may engage in destructive chewing behaviour for several reasons, including boredom, anxiety, teething, lack of exercise, or a lack of appropriate chew toys or bones.
Additionally, some breeds are more prone to destructive chewing behaviour than others, such as those bred for hunting or herding, who have a natural urge to chew and destroy objects.
Here are some of the most common reasons that dogs chew:
Puppies may chew to alleviate the discomfort of teething. Chewing helps to reduce pain, loosen baby teeth, and stimulate the gums to prepare for new tooth eruption.
Adult dogs with dental issues may also chew. If your dog's chewing behaviours are accompanied by blood gums, whining or whimpering while chewing, abnormal eating habits or tooth loss, it's time to call your vet.
Check out our Puppy Teething Tips to learn more about how to help comfort your teething pup.
Dogs that are bored or left alone for prolonged periods of time may turn to chewing as a way to relieve their frustration. This could be a way to lash out, or it could just be a fun way to pass the time in lieu of healthier and safer activities.
Teaching your dog appropriate ways to entertain themselves when they are home alone is just as important as providing a rich and stimulating routine when you are home with them.
Find out how to enrich your dog's daily routine with our Top Tips for Preventing Dog Boredom.
Destructive chewing behaviour may be a sign of underlying anxiety. Dogs that suffer from anxiety or stress may chew to self-soothe and calm themselves. A common type of anxiety that leads to destructive chewing in dogs is separation anxiety.
Your dog may not feel safe when they are home alone because they see you as the protector. When you are gone they are vulnerable. Some dogs have a fear of being abandoned.
Chewing on things like furniture, clothing, cardboard and whatever else they can sink their teeth into is a way to act out their anxiety and frustrations. Consider crate training or dog daycare to prevent your dog from injuring themselves when home alone.
This Ultimate Dog Anxiety Guide can help you identify anxiety behaviours in dogs and help you find the best ways to calm your pooch.
Dogs may chew out of hunger, especially if they haven't been fed enough or on a regular schedule. A consistent feeding schedule is important, so if your dog's mealtimes are subject to change frequently, your dog may be getting angry.
Dogs on a new diet may also lash out in "h-anger". Drastic calorie restrictions should be discussed with your vet to ensure your dog is getting sufficient calories and nutrients.
Some dogs have a natural urge to chew, which is a behaviour that can be traced back to their wild ancestors who needed to chew on bones and other objects to survive.
Basically, dogs chew because it feels natural and good. The trick is making sure that they only chew on appropriate things. Dog chew toys and natural chew treats should be a regular part of your dog's day to help them express their natural chewing instincts.
What Makes a Destructive Dog Chewer?
Many things can program a dog to become a destructive chewer. All pups chew, but not all become a chewing hurricane. Usually, a variety of factors lead to the habit of destructive chewing.
There are several factors that can contribute to a dog becoming a destructive chewer. Here are a few:
- Lack of exercise: Dogs that don't get enough exercise or mental stimulation may resort to destructive chewing as a way to relieve their boredom or excess energy.
- Separation anxiety: Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety may chew to cope with their stress and anxiety when left alone.
- Lack of training: Dogs that haven't been taught appropriate chewing behaviours or provided with chew toys may chew on inappropriate items.
- Teething: Puppies that are teething may chew excessively to alleviate the discomfort of new teeth coming in.
- Pain: Some medical conditions, such as dental problems, can cause dogs to chew on objects in an attempt to alleviate pain or discomfort.
- Breed tendencies: Some breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and Pit Bulls, are known for their strong chewing tendencies and may require extra training and supervision to prevent destructive chewing.
How to Stop a Dog from Chewing Everything
Let’s explore a few ways that you can stop a dog from chewing everything in your house, yard, or car.
To prevent destructive chewing behaviour from harming your dog, it is important to:
- Provide appropriate chew toys, treats, and activities
- Supervise them when they are chewing
- Train them not to chew on inappropriate objects
- Teach them to safely self-soothe when home alone
- Provide daily exercise and mental stimulation
Here are 5 steps you can take to reduce destructive dog chewing and train better behaviours:
1. Provide appropriate chew toys
Dog dental toys encourage appropriate chewing behaviour while helping to stimulate the gums and remove plaque and tartar. You can even invest in dog chew toys that hold treats, like the PetSafe Freezable Treat Holding Chilly Penguin Toy.
2. Supervise your dog
When you're not able to supervise your dog, confine them to a safe area, such as a dog crate or a gated room. This prevents them from getting into trouble and chewing on inappropriate items.
Learn more about how to teach your dog to love his crate in How to Crate Train Your Puppy.
3. Train your dog
Teach your dog the "leave it" command and reward them with a high-value dog treat when they stop chewing on inappropriate items. Consistency and positive reinforcement are key to training.
Check out our Force Free Dog Training Guide for tips and tricks to get started.
4. Exercise your dog
Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. A tired dog is less likely to chew out of boredom or anxiety.
Even lazy dogs can benefit from daily exercise and indoor dog games. Gear their routine to their physical abilities, but be consistent.
5. Use deterrents
There are several deterrents, like a stop dog chewing spray, that you can use to discourage chewing. Bitter apple spray, for example, tastes bad and can deter dogs from chewing on furniture or other items.
This isn't a one-size-fits-all fix. Use deterrents in conjunction with training and appropriate playtime to see the best results.
Remember, chewing is a natural behaviour for dogs, so be patient and consistent with your training. With time and effort, you can redirect your dog's chewing behaviour to appropriate items.
If your dog continues to engage in destructive chewing behaviour despite these efforts, it might be necessary to consult with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer for further guidance.
Concerning Dog Chew Behaviours
Sometimes your dog doesn’t just chew on your personal belongings and toys. Instead, the doggo might end up actually chewing on its own body parts. Many dog parents are alarmed when they see the dog chewing or growling and gnawing on paws, legs, and toenails.
If you are wondering about the following questions, let’s explore the answers.
- Why is my dog chewing on a leg?
- Why is my dog chewing paws?
- Why is my dog chewing his toenails?
- Why does my dog chew his foot?
Have you noticed that when your dog lays around starts to chew on its paws, legs, or toenails? If so, you are probably concerned. The sight of a dog chewing paws is very alarming for most pet owners. The behaviour often indicates a medical condition.
Dogs may chew on their paws, legs, and toenails for a variety of reasons, including:
- Allergies: Dogs with allergies may chew on their paws to relieve itching and discomfort. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, and certain types of food.
- Skin irritation or infection: If a dog has a skin infection or other skin condition, they may chew on their paws to relieve itching and pain.
- Anxiety or stress: Dogs may also chew on their paws as a way to cope with stress or anxiety. This behaviour may be triggered by changes in the dog's environment, such as a new home or the absence of a family member.
- Boredom: Dogs that are bored or under-stimulated may resort to chewing on their paws as a way to entertain themselves.
- Overgrown Nails: If your dog's nails are too long, they may become uncomfortable or even painful for your dog to walk on. Chewing on their toenails could be their way of trying to relieve this discomfort.
- Anxiety or Boredom: Dogs may also chew their toenails out of anxiety or boredom. If your dog is not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation, they may resort to destructive behaviours like chewing.
- Skin or Nail Issues: Skin or nail problems, such as infections or allergies, can cause discomfort and itching, which may lead to your dog chewing their nails to alleviate the symptoms.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): In some cases, dogs may develop obsessive-compulsive behaviours, such as compulsive chewing, which can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires veterinary attention.
If your dog is chewing on their paws, legs, or toenails excessively or you notice any signs of inflammation, redness, or bleeding, it's important to take them to the vet to rule out any underlying health issues.
In many cases, the behaviour can be treated with medication, changes in diet, or behaviour modification techniques. Additionally, you can try trimming your dog's nails regularly to prevent overgrowth and discomfort.
Best Dog Toys to Stop Destructive Chewing
There are several things you can give your dog to chew on to prevent destructive chewing:
Provide your dog with appropriate chew toys, such as Kongs, Nylabones, and rubber toys. These are designed to withstand heavy chewing and can keep your dog occupied for long periods.
Check out the Totally Pooched Chew N' Squeak Stick, which not only squeaks when chewed but also has little nubs that help massage a dog’s gums to make chewing even more pleasurable.
The toy is great not only for chewing but also for a game of fetch or tug of war.
Here are a few more fun options to give your dog some variety:
Dog Puzzle Toys
Mental stimulation is one of the most effective ways to put a stop to destructive dog chewing behaviours. Puzzle and mind games for dogs keep your dog's mind active and reduce anxiety and boredom.
These toys combine a unique design with a fun reward like a squeaky toy or tasty treat. A popular option is a treat-dispensing puzzle toy like the West Paw Rumbl.
This rolling, bouncing toy can be filled with a variety of sizes of treats or food to keep your dog busy while he figures out how to rock and roll the toy to dislodge the delicious goodies.
Here are a few more fun dog puzzle toys:
- Zippy Paws Burrow Moon and Stars
- Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Hid N' Slide Puzzle
- Injoya Shark Snuffle Mat
- Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Mazee
Best Dog Treats to Stop Destructive Chewing
A dog chewing bone like a bully stick will provide excellent stimulation.
Deer or elk antlers are natural and long-lasting chew toys that can keep your dog entertained for hours. The Puppy Love Canadian Antler is an odourless, mess-free chew for your pup. It provides hours of entertainment.
Dental chews, such as Greenies or Dentastix, are designed to help clean your dog's teeth while providing a tasty chew. Check out the cute Whimzees Alligator Natural Daily Dental Dog Chews to naturally stimulate your dog’s gums.
The chew is in the shape of a tiny alligator and will easily massage your dog’s gums to help eliminate bad breath and keep your furry friend’s teeth sparkling white.
Dog Chewing Safety
Remember, always supervise your dog while they are chewing and ensure they are chewing on appropriate items to prevent choking or digestive issues.
The right chew toys and natural chews will provide long-lasting entertainment and satisfaction for your pooch.
If your dog continues to exhibit destructive chewing behaviour, it may be a sign of an underlying issue, and you should consult with your veterinarian or a certified dog trainer for further assistance.
Destructive Dog Chewing FAQs
How do you stop compulsive dog chewing?
Dogs who chew compulsively need to start by breaking the habit and replacing it with something safer. Chew toys should be kept close by to redirect your dog every time they engage in destructive chewing.
Do dogs chew when stressed?
Stress and anxiety are one of the most common reasons for destructive dog chewing. Creating a safe and calm environment can be helpful in stopping destructing chewing habits in dogs.
Is chewing mentally stimulating for dogs?
Chewing provides your dog with mental stimulation, which is why dogs that are bored love to chew. Providing safer and appropriate chewing options will reduce destructive chewing habits.
What is the most destructive dog breed?
The smartest dog breeds can be the most destructive if they aren't given proper enrichment and stimulation. This is why Collies are considered one of the most destructive dog breeds.
What age are dogs most destructive?
When puppies are in their teen stage, between 6 and 12 months, they tend to be the most destructive. This is because they are still learning their manners and are more likely to push boundaries and throw tantrums.
Why does my dog chew hard plastic?
Hard plastic materials have a sturdy but satisfying texture for dogs. It's hard but not indestructible. Look for nylon toys with a similar texture to replace this bad chewing habit.
Is dog chewing a phase?
For some dogs, destructive chewing can be a temporary phase, but for most, chewing becomes a default habit and won't go away without proper training.
Why is my dog suddenly destructive?
Dogs who become suddenly destructive are trying to tell you that something is wrong. It could be an illness or injury, or it could be an environment change that is causing them stress or frustration.
Should you punish your dog for chewing?
Punishments are not a very effective way to stop bad dog behaviours like chewing. Instead, try redirecting your dog to more appropriate behaviour, like a chew toy or a game, and reward them for engaging with it.
What to give a dog that destroys everything?
Some dogs are just too strong for their own good. Even the most indestructible toys are not tough enough. This is when natural and edible chews can come in handy. They won't last long, but they will be satisfying. Also, try to incorporate more exercise and games into your dog's routine.
Chew Can Do It!
Yes, all dogs and puppies chew. However, not all are overly destructive.
If you are struggling to deal with destructive dog chewing, then you’ll need to figure out the root cause of the behaviour and then find solutions to overcome the issues, such as hiring a dog trainer.
Also, you can provide a variety of dog chew toys to try to control the chewing to save your personal items.