Stop a Dog From Chewing Everything in Sight

The trick is to redirect your dog's chewing onto appropriate items (such as toys). Here's how to do that.
By: littlebiglens

Having a dog that chews on inappropriate things in the house can be frustrating because there doesn’t seem to be a limit on what the dog wants to chew. Anything and everything goes!

Much like other behaviors that we consider problematic, chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, and especially young puppies. It is our job as dog owners to direct the chewing to appropriate items, instead of our couch or cables. The good news is that you can “stop a dog from chewing everything.” Yes, even your own fingers.

It is important to remember when treating this behavior problem that chewing is something that dogs do naturally. They are not chewing on your couch to spite you or because they are angry.

Dogs are very intelligent, inquisitive and curious about their surroundings. Puppies and dogs that have never lived in a house environment are going to want to explore.  Since they don’t have hands, dogs will often use their mouth to gather information. Think about 1- or 2-year-old children, and how they want to touch everything. Puppies are a lot like babies and children in this way.

Dogs also chew on items because they are bored, teething, have an inadequate/inappropriate diet, or because they genuinely enjoy tearing things up.

As with other behavior problems, by implementing a four-part treatment plan, you can treat the problem. When treating inappropriate chewing, we want to redirect the chewing onto appropriate items because eliminating chewing altogether is unrealistic.

1. Reinforcement of Alternate Behaviors

Since all dogs chew, it’s up to you to help the dog decipher between a forbidden item and an appropriate chew toy. Most dogs don’t inherently understand the concept of a chew toy, so you need to help the dog fixate on an appropriate chew item.

To help your dog make the right decision on what to chew, choose four or five toys that you see as acceptable. I don’t suggest choosing toys that resemble forbidden items. For example, Nylabones and KONGs don’t look like common household items, but plush squeaker toys look like stuffed animals and rawhide resembles the leather in shoes and gloves.

You can help your dog fixate on these items by making the approved items more enticing and the forbidden items less desirable. Soak a Nylabone in beef broth for 20 minutes before offering it, or put peanut butter in a KONG. Also, you can make the approved toy the focal point of many interactions with the dog. The dog needs to learn that the chew toy is a good and positive object. Use a combination of praise, petting and play to help the dog make the correct decision.

If you see the dog chewing an inappropriate item, don’t chase him, because this quickly becomes a game. Put the dog on a leash if he often runs away when you take an object from him, and step on the leash as soon as he tries to get up.

Dog chews iPhone
The iPhone: not an approved chew toy. By: KRONC27/YouTube

2. Management and Setting the Dog Up for Success

To manage inappropriate chewing, consider the dog’s environment. Just as you would “child-proof” a house, you need to dog-proof his environment.

If the dog is proven untrustworthy in this manner, don’t leave your shoes, slippers or even underwear around the house or where he can easily get to them. If you are leaving the house for a longer period of time, you probably shouldn’t leave him with free range of his environment. Block off a dog-proofed section of the house, create a puppy playpen or crate the dog while you are gone.

To set the dog up for success, make the inappropriate items less desirable by spraying a chew deterrent on them. I have had the most luck with Bitter Apple Spray when it’s reapplied once every 24 hours. If the dog is fed solely a soft-food diet, he may not being getting enough chewing activity during meal times and will go elsewhere to find it.

3. Consequences

Usually, managing the dog’s environment and fixating on appropriate chew items are enough to deter the dog from chewing forbidden things.

For particularly severe cases, I suggest adding a consequence. When you see the dog chewing a forbidden item, run away very quickly and make a silly noise. This will disrupt the behavior enough to get the dog to stop chewing and to follow you. When he reaches you, offer an approved chew item and praise him for making the correct decision.

Also, set up a situation where the dog does not see you and throw a shaker can (aluminum can with pennies in it), squirt water or use a shriek alarm to interrupt the behavior. Make sure, though, that the dog does not see you when you are applying a punishment, because you want the dog to connect the punishment to the chewing and not you.

4. Consistency

I have heard that a dog that is involved in a “good chew” is comparable to us being involved in a good book. Since this is an enjoyable behavior and is natural for the dog to partake in, staying consistent with the treatment plan is most important if you are looking for a consistent behavioral change.

If a dog is destructively chewing your home — “chewing everything” — then putting in time, effort and consistency with your practices can develop a change in behavior fairly quickly.

Additional Resources

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  1. Robin Reply

    We have a husky mixed breed who is chewing up her crate bottom. We have given her bones, chew toys but she destroys the crate bottoms. She is an indoor pet, she goes out regularily for excersize and running with our other dog. She ‘sings’ when she is in the crate for more than an hour. What do you suggest?

  2. Clarissa Fallis Reply

    Hi Robin, assuming that she is getting adequate excerise, it sounds like your dog is experiencing some separation anxiety when she is crated. Typically, dogs dont enjoy their crate right away, you have to work with them to show them at that the crate isnt so bad. First off, I would put the crate in room where you hang out often, maybe the living room. Leave the crate door open and put something very soft in there and something high value. You can even throw treats in there so she will have to enter to get the treat. Allow her to go into the crate at her free will and if/when she does you can either calmly/quietly verabally reward her or ignore her. It also may help to put a blanket over the sides of the crate to create more of a “den” affect. This way, you can show her that the crate isnt so bad and it doesnt mean that you are leaving when she is crated.

    For the actual anxiety that is causing this chewing, you should try a thundershirt. It calms the dog through tight swaddling. I have had mixed reviews on this item, some people have a alot of luck with it, and for others, it doesnt do a thing. But I certainly think its worth a try and you can always return it if it doesnt work out. I think you can buy them at Petco.

    To deter the actual chewing, you have the right idea with giving her other chew items. Try a black KONG with peanut butter in it or a Nylabone. These are durable items that you dont necessarily have to be present 100% for it to be safe for the dog.

    This can also be an OCD thing. Possibly the chewing is a sign of an obsessive compulsive behavior that is exacerbated with anxiety. The thundershirt would help with the OCD tendancy as well. While the dog is in the crate in the living room, I would verbally correct her when she starts chewing. Putting a little bitter apple spray or tobasco sauce on the bottom of the crate may also work, but make sure you are addressing the problem as well as offering her a chewing substitite. You can put the spay or the tobasco sauce where she chews with a blanket over top so it isnt like you are encouraging her to chew.

    Let me know if this helps! Also, are you using a plastic crate or a metal one?

  3. Liza F Reply

    I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT he chews things A LOT. . So, leaving home is always a challenge for us.
    My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

  4. Jennie Mele Reply

    I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT he barks A LOT. . So, leaving home is always a challenge for us.

    My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Hi Jennie! I pet sit for a dog just like that – he barks CONSTANTLY. The other day he was barking at a helicopter. I was like “really? What do you want me to do, make it land?” LOL

      It’s tough to know what to do in these situations. I always feel like you can’t go wrong starting at your dog’s veterinarian. Because his vet sees him and can evaluate based on medical history and behavior observation the vet is usually a great source of information and ideas.