Puppies and dogs (and cats and kittens too!) most often destroy and chew things out of boredom, frustration or anxiety. There are mild displays of this behavior that are to be expected, especially in kittens, puppies and young or high energy dogs – a puppy chewing a shoe, or a dog ripping apart one of her toys. There are also more extreme levels of this behavior, where the pet will hurt himself or do serious damage to doors or other household items. If that’s the case, please consult with a professional pet behaviorist or trainer. In either case, for safety’s sake, keep them away from anything they can chew on by keeping them contained when unsupervised! Crate training can give pets a safe chew-safe zone, while you work on modifying their behavior. Cats especially can be a big challenge, especially with wires and curtain cords. The best solution for wire and cord chewers is to completely cover all wires with hard plastic tubing, secure cords out of reach, or keep the pet closed out of those rooms. In addition, for mild to moderate chewers, we have these four helpful tips:
1. Physical Exercise. Many dogs and cats chew because they are bored, and have excess energy and/or anxiety. Chewing is fun and a stress relief for them! You can help eliminate this kind of chewing by giving them more daily exercise. Just like you would do, build up the length and difficulty of your pet’s “workout” which can be any kind of athletic activity – walking, running, biking, hiking, playing ball, running around the yard with a dog friend; indoor chase toys and games with your cat friend. Just keep in mind that you will need to maintain the amount of exercise you give them every day pretty much EVERY DAY. Even if its just 10 minutes a day, you’ll need to stick to it. If you take up daily exercise with your pet for a few weeks and then stop, the chewing will very likely return.
2. Mental Exercise. Exercising a pet’s MIND is just as important in warding off chewing boredom as physical exercise. Obedience training, learning new tricks, agility classes, walks in new neighborhoods, visits to friends house, joy rides in the car, window perches, pet TV… many possibilities abound, just use your mind to help your pet use theirs!
3. Provide appropriate chewing items. Many dogs and puppies chew because it is an instinctual desire. Giving them something appropriate and desirable to chew on can eliminate their chewing on things you don’t want them to! There are many commercially produced chew toys to choose from – knowing the strength of your dogs chewing will help you to pick the correct one. Some popular ones include hollow rubber toys which can be stuffed with food and treats and even frozen for many hours of amusement, and fun fill-able balls which the pet must roll around to get the treats out. Another option, with your vet’s approval: big raw fresh uncooked bones (raw so they will not splinter, cooked bones are NOT safe) from the butcher can provide hours of supervised, extremely passionate chewing! Cats often like to chew on cat grass, which you can grow from seed, or buy in pots at many pet supply stores.
4. Redirection. If you catch your pet chewing on something inappropriate, you can say “no” and offer them one of their chew toys. It can help to have 7 different chew toys, and place out a “new” toy each day, taking up and putting away the “old” toy at the end of the day. Pets just love getting something “new” – its more interesting and therefore keeps their attention for longer. It may take some trial and error to find a chew toy that they like more than what they’ve chosen (your table leg for example). You can make your household items less desirable by spraying them with a pet-safe chew deterrent, closing the pet out of the area with those items, or covering them with tin foil or another not fun to chew cover as a temporary solution to get them in the habit of chewing on their chew toys instead.
Staring off with these four tips to stop your pet from chewing should fix many chewing problems, and your chewed up shoes and teeth-marked furniture legs will be a thing of the past!