How to Keep Your Dog From Chewing What She Shouldn’t

Shoes and furniture are just a few things your new rescue pup might sink her teeth into.

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There are a variety of reasons why dogs engage in inappropriate chewing: separation anxiety, boredom, the endorphin release that comes with gnawing away. The good news is that positive reinforcement training can solve this problem. Put these tips in play if your new rescue dog chews what she shouldn’t.

1. Rule out separation anxiety

If your new dog is destructive only when you’re gone, some of the tips below might help, but it would be best to consult your vet and to get a positive reinforcement trainer involved.

2. Give your dog something to do while you’re gone

Assuming you aren’t dealing with true separation anxiety, your dog just may be bored. When you leave the house, give him something to do, like empty a stuffed Kong. You can fill a Kong with all kinds of stuff (peanut butter without xylitol, treats, even his meal) and then freeze it. This will occupy your dog for a good chunk of time.

3. Crate your dog when you aren’t home

Again, if your dog is destructive when you’re gone, but it’s not separation anxiety according to the pros, consider crate training. Make being in the crate a positive experience, and your dog will see it at a safe space, not a punishment. You can also give her a stuffed Kong to keep her busy while in there.

4. Watch your dog when you are home

Don’t let him sneak into the living room and chew on the couch. If this means keeping your new pup on a leash until he learns the rules, then that’s okay. If he does start chewing on something when you are with him, make a simple interrupter noise (eh, uh-oh, hey), and then give him something better to chew on, like a bully stick, a Kong, or a favorite toy.

5. Eliminate temptation

If your dog chews on shoes, put them in the closet and shut the door. If your dog steals toilet paper, keep that door closed, too. The less she can chew what she shouldn’t, the less she will be interested in it.

Doberman with toilet paper by Shutterstock.
Doberman with toilet paper by Shutterstock.

6. Make sure your dog gets plenty of physical exercise

Dogs often chew from boredom or stress, so if you get him out for a solid walk (20 to 30 minutes or more, depending on your dog’s energy level) a couple of times a day, the chewing will likely decrease. Going for a run or taking your dog to doggy day care is even better!

7. Give your dog mental exercise, too

Dogs like to problem solve, so the more you can work their brains, the better. Whether this is with a puzzle toy, playing hide-n-seek in the house, nose work, or even just practicing basic training skills, mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise for your dog. These are also great ways to bond!

8. Teach your dog to “drop it”

When your dog has something she shouldn’t, don’t chase her. Use a better toy or treat to entice her to come to you for a “trade.” Tell her to “drop it,” put the treat or new toy under her nose, and then praise/reward when she releases the thing she isn’t supposed to have.

9. Give a teething puppy a frozen washcloth to chew on

Wet a washcloth and put it in the freezer, then give it to your puppy if he starts chewing. This will soothe his gums and give him something appropriate to chew on.

10. If you mess up, don’t yell at your dog

If you leave something out and your dog destroys it, don’t yell. The “guilty look” we see so often on dogs is in response to our body language and tone, not because they know they did something wrong. If something happened while you were gone, chalk it up to experience and be better about leaving stuff out.

Top photo: Dachshund chewing on shoelace by Shutterstock.

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Abbie Mood, Dip. CBST

Abbie lives in Colorado with her dogs Daisy, Sadie, and Buster, and can usually be found outside with one of them. She is a dog trainer and freelance writer who loves to explore environmental and animal rights issues. Find out more about her at abbiemood.com and lifediscoveryproject.com. Follow her on Twitter @abbiemood and Instagram @abbiemood.

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