Causes of Unwanted or Destructive Dog Chewing – And How To Stop It
Ohhhhh the horrors of destructive dog chewing!
I, too, have lost a few items over the years to the jaws of an over exuberant canine partner!
First, Let’s Understand Unwanted Dog Chewing
Dogs don’t have hands, or fingers or thumbs!
Dogs explore their world with their mouths!
If they were raccoons, or monkeys or humans; they could pick your items up with their hands.
After all, you don’t throw your dog’s ball and expect him to catch it with his paw or hand, right?
So how then do you expect your dog to interact with the things in his environment.
He uses his mouth, often inappropriately to do so!
Why Does My Dog Choose My Favorite Things To Chew On?
A question I often get is “Why does he choose my favorite/most expensive things?”.
Your favorite things spend the most time in your hands, and or on your body.
Dogs love socks and underwear because they smell more like us than anything else your dog could get to.
I know it is gross, but your dog doesn’t think in those terms.
He steals your cell phone, your Gameboy, your glasses, your remote control, your lap top; all because they, too, spend a lot of time soaking up your scent.
He loves you, he wants to be with and near the things that smell like you, especially if you leave him alone where he is able to grab things!
What About All the Other Stuff Your Dog Chews On?
Dogs get bored!
Might I again mention that they don’t have hands…
He can’t sit down on the sofa and flick on animal planet and watch TV for hours.
He can’t grab a book off of the book shelf and read a book.
He can’t grab the game control and play video games with his friends into the night.
We let them outside in the morning to go potty and then back inside and we kind of expect them to become these Zombie dogs that just wander the house completely happy to be alive and not need any kind of simulation.
This really isn’t realistic for most dogs.
Most dogs yearn for human interaction, physical touch, physical exercise and mental stimulation. And for a great video series that shows you how to provide mental stimulation, click here.
And, I guarantee you if you are providing all of the aforementioned things you won’t really have to worry about your “things”.
Human interaction and physical touch require a human to be in the environment providing these things. And, if your dog grabs your cell phone with his mouth while you are sitting next to him, you are likely to at the very least take it away.
You see most of the “stealing of things” happens when the dog is not in the room with you.
Although I like my dogs to have some independence, I also expect them to be in the room with me the majority of the time.
I know if I can’t see my dogs for an extended period they are probably getting into trouble somewhere! So I have just never allowed it.
When my dogs are young, they are on a leash until they know first off, not to steal or chew my things, and also so that they get into the habit of following me around the house.
Leashes and tethers in the house can be a fabulous way to ensure the safety of all of your things.
At some level, I think it is important to actually “TEACH” your dog what he can and can’t put in his mouth.
After all, how do I expect him to know that his toys and the kids toys are different, unless I teach him?
The same goes for anything else that is exciting or smells like me!
Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Physical exercise is important!
Again, imagine sitting in your house all day every day and never truly getting any exercise. This is a more tolerant idea as a person ages, but expecting a 5 year old child to sit still all day with no exercise or mental stimulation would be completely cruel.
Your dog needs to run!
Your dog needs to walk!
And, your dog needs to do both of those things like the athlete that he was born to be.
That means a walk around the block or a mile or two stroll isn’t going to do the trick!
THIS is what I mean by exercise; it will show you what kind of stimulation most dogs need to be happy!
Mental stimulation is actually even more important! And for more on that, check out this post here: https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/mental-exercise-tires-dog-physically-physical-exercise/
Yes, his body needs to expel some energy and build muscle and this helps him to be tired.
But stimulating his brain is even more important.
Thankfully mental exercise can come in many forms.
Even though I exercise and train my dogs, my 4 year old Malinois goes through about 3 XL Elk Antlers every couple of months. He doesn’t sit still well for long and he likes to chew, and it is a lot cheaper and easier to provide him with toys and antlers and things to chew on than it is to hope he doesn’t shred something of mine.
But chewing things only lasts for so long.
Training is REAL mental stimulation.
It requires effort to learn and perform a new command!
Plus obedience training helps your dog to listen to you!
So, BONUS, when he grabs an item he shouldn’t have and you tell him to “Leave It” or drop it or whatever his automatic response is to listen!
So work on your basic, advanced or excellent dog obedience skills.
Teach your dog a trick.
Or just teach him a new skill!
He will be tired after a good training session and I might mention again, he will also be better trained!
Put Them Together
Now try putting them together.
Don’t get me wrong, I do all of the above and sometimes I do them all singularly.
But often I mix up the stimulation I am providing.
By throwing his ball (physical exercise) and then asking him to lie down, or sit (mental stimulation) prior to throwing his ball again; I hit two birds with one stone and end up with a tired dog in about a quarter of the time it would take me to wear him out while walking and then training.
A tired dog won’t chew your things.
A tired dog will be too tired to get into trouble!
Aim for a tired dog!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.