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How to Stop Your Dog From Chewing Everything

Is your dog bent on destroying everything in sight? (We know the feeling.) Here are the best ways to stop this destructive behavior.

by Vivian Zottola, MSc, CBCC, | March 15, 2024

How to Stop Your Dog From Chewing Everything

Capuski / iStock

Have you ever wondered why, even after providing your pup with the best (and often expensive) chew toys, they still chomp on everything except the toy you gave them? I sure have. 

Early in my career, I would come home excited to see my dogs, only to find pieces of paper all over the rug. I came to realize that understanding their motivations was the fastest path toward fixing any unwanted behavior. It’s also important to consider if the behavior is just normal dog stuff, or something deeper that requires attention and a professional’s help.

Read on for the reasons why dogs love chewing, and how to address this behavior if it’s growing in intensity.

Why do dogs chew so much?

According to some evolutionary biologists, dogs chew not only to break-down food, but also to tone their jaw muscles. This has led to the creation of products that encourage dogs to chew on something, even when they are not eating. The aim is to reduce destructive behaviors and improve their overall well-being. But to simply give a dog a bone without thinking about why their behavior has gotten out of hand could lead to further problems. Here’s why:

Over time, dogs have developed a diet that requires less teeth-grinding. Unlike their ancestral wolf cousins, our dogs no longer need to split bones and grind down marrow to survive. Nowadays, most dogs are fed a prepared meal: be it canned, dehydrated, raw, or processed kibble.

Of the 900 million dogs globally, approximately 80 percent live outside people’s homes (ie, not restricted to small spaces). A study of these so-called roaming dogs found that they only spent 20 minutes chewing on bones and did not chew on things for reasons other than simply eating. 

So, what does that mean for your dog? While chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, if it’s excessive that’s usually a sign of something more going on. With that in mind, here are three types of chewing behaviors in dogs.

Why does a puppy chew everything? 

Puppies tend to chew things, because this provides them with relief from the pain of teething. When they are eight to 24 weeks old, chewing is actually necessary. Young puppies will chew everything in reach as their small teeth fall out to make room for adult canine teeth. Excessive chewing is absolutely expected at this phase of a dog's life. This will probably continue through adolescence. 

Why does my adolescent dog chew everything? 

As dogs grow up, they may continue to chew things to manage their pain. Teen dogs grow molars around eight or nine months of age. These teeth coming up through their gums are uncomfortable for almost all dogs. You’ll notice dogs at this stage seek relief by chewing, to apply pressure to the back area of the mouth. 

If we don’t give these young dogs safe and appropriate items to chew on, they may resort to destroying anything in the house that can help relieve their discomfort, even the corners of your staircase. 

What is destructive chewing? 

Destructive chewing is a sign of discomfort in dogs who have no “good” place to channel it. Their discomfort may be caused by many things, including hunger, and lack of exercise, or they may also gnaw at things as a coping mechanism, when they anticipate distressing or fearful experiences. 

Domestic dogs may have an increased urge to chew inedible objects at certain times in their lives, because doing so provides them temporary relief from pain. That pain may be physical, psychological, or a bit of both. They are not trying to intentionally upset you. Instead, there are physical, neurobiological, or psychological reasons for this behavior. 

If your dog is a rescue, it helps to consider their life’s experience. Additionally, if a dog is new to your home, they may feel anxious when left alone or bored due to the isolation. And if you confine them to a crate for extended periods of time, the lack of exercise or mental stimulation could likewise spur on more chewing tendencies.

How to stop a dog from chewing the wrong things

We have all witnessed our pups chewing things that are not food. This can range in surfaces: the ends of throw rugs, wicker baskets, leather furniture, wooden (or even metal) table and chair legs, and of course, our favorite shoes, slippers, and socks.  Here are some tips to help manage this behavior.

Create a space to minimize frustration 

Dogs may chew due to pain, stress, or boredom. With that in mind, when you’re away from your home, keep your dog in a bubble of comfort, such as in a cozy room or an area that offers natural light. (You can also use baby gates to contain space.) Playing audio that is calming — such as nature sounds or music created for dogs — can also help. 

If your dog is teething, figure out if they prefer something soft, hard, and/or cold to chew on, and provide them with a toy that reflects their preferences. 

Keep in mind that some dogs will chew more than others due to their age or life experiences. In particular, if your dog is between four and 18 months old, they are more likely to chew due to stress or boredom. At this age, they aren’t used to being on their own without supervision, and keeping them enclosed in crates or behind doors where they can’t smell or see, only creates stress.

Provide mental enrichment

Keeping a bored or anxious dog’s mind engaged will distract them from chewing up everything around them. 

Start by setting-up treasure hunts for your dog. You can create “seek and find” games yourself, or buy them. Since they’ll likely be playing these games while you’re not home, keep safety in mind and choose natural, non-choking hazard toys that they can chew on. 

Try a treasure hunt with frozen bone broth or a hide-and-seek game with treats, such as the Earth Animal digestible chews. The Treat & Train (formerly called the Manners Minder) can help keep dogs settled and focused. Adding calming music or nature sounds to this mix has also been shown to reduce destructive behaviors in dogs.

Exercise them more

Regular exercise and social interactions with other dogs are essential to your dog’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Spending time outdoors is proven to reduce boredom, enhance the ability to learn new behaviors, and keep our furry friends in a positive mood. 

The walk can be short or long, and it should include time for dogs to explore different smells, sounds, and sights. Take a break from work, hire a dog walker, or ask a neighbor or friend to help get your dog more fresh air.


Behaviour Patterns and Time Course of Activity in Dogs with Separation Problems

Behavior Problem Solving and Prevention 

Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion: Canine and Feline Behavior

Chewing Behaviour in Dogs – a Survey-Based Exploratory Study

Differences in the Behavior of Landraces and Breeds of Dogs

Let Me Sniff! Nosework Induces Positive Judgment Bias in Pet Dogs

Puppy Behaviours When Left Home Alone: a Pilot Study

Vivian Zottola, MSc, CBCC

Vivian Zottola, MSc, CBCC

Vivian Zottola, MSc, an applied anthrozoologist, dog psychologist, subject matter expert, and research associate with the Center for Canine Behavior Studies, Inc. She runs her own practice in Boston, MA, specializing in the prevention and resolution of behavior challenges between humans and pet companion dogs and produces the podcast Click Therapy for Dogs and the People Who Love Them.