Dogs use their mouths the same way we use our hands. That means nearly everything goes into a puppy’s mouth as he explores the world. Chewing is more than exploring, though. Teething pups chew to relieve discomfort as their permanent teeth come in. Some dogs never outgrow the gnawing habit, though, and that can get them in trouble.
Many years ago, our first dog loved to hide in my closet and sleep among my shoes. He chewed off the high heel on one out of each pair of my favorite dress shoes. He also destroyed two television remotes. And our most recent dog stole my husband’s socks (the dirty ones) and gnawed them to pieces.
You Smell So Good!
Bored, lonely, and stressed dogs chew more, because it helps to relieve tension and pass the time. When a dog has a strong bond with a person, your soothing scent helps to reduce stress. After all, a dog experiences much of the world through odor, so the pleasant scent of a favorite person brings him a feeling of safety and can be a great comfort.
That’s why our first dog preferred to sleep in our closet where clothes and shoes held strong scent-reminders of me. He also found my husband’s scent-permeated items attractive—the TV remote (heaven knows I never got to handle that!), and repeatedly chewed them up. Dirty laundry, especially socks and underwear, has your personal signature scent all over it, and can prove irresistible to dogs.
Your Favorite Things
Think about the items you handle the most. These likely are important to you, or they wouldn’t be in contact with you so much. Your dog may target items that are accessible and easily fit into his mouth, especially if they give a satisfying CRUNCH when he bites down. Wallets, cell phones, tablets, purses, and laptop bags all come to mind.
Those chew marks are a back handed compliment, though. If your dog didn’t care about you so much, he’d ignore such things. Chewaholics need help, though, and the key to eliminating the problem is reducing your dog’s opportunities to chew illegal items.
Reduce The Risks
Make a list of tempting objects, and make sure they’re out of reach. Canine chewaholics force us to be better housekeepers.
When you can’t supervise, confine chewers in an area where they can’t damage property. I had nobody to blame but myself by allowing our first dog to sleep in the closet among my shoes! A crate, filled with legal chewies with treats inside, can be a wonderful and safe place for dogs to spend alone time.
Offer at least three to five “legal” chew options for your dog, and rotate a couple of times a week. That keeps your pet happy and your favorite property safe from his teeth.
Ask for Help
Stress and anxiety can fuel chewing. A Fear Free Certified Professional can help you find professional assistance to address your dog’s chewing habits.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT. Thanks to author Amy Shojai for helping our patients and their owners.
Originally published 11/8/2017