"Adopt an Animal       

                 Gain a Friend"



About Us
Animals to Adopt
How You Can Help
Spay & Neuter
Pet Health
Pet Behavior
Feral Cats
Animal-Friendly Housing
Your Pet's Future
Allergies to Pets
Did You Know
Speaker's Podium
Web Master
Make A Donation


Be sure to check our current pictures of animals awaiting adoption!.


Destructive Chewing in Puppies and Adult Dogs


Destructive Chewing by Puppies and Adult Dogs

Chewing is a normal part of being a dog – especially of being a puppy.  Puppies, just like infants, explore their new world by putting things in their mouths. Also, puppies are teething until they’re about 6 months old and chewing makes the puppies gums feel better. 

However, puppies and older dogs, just like children, need to be taught what is OK to chew on and what is not.  Puppies cannot be expected to know what is OK to chew or what their humans do not want them to chew.  Puppies are not born knowing that chewing on chew toys is fine, but chewing on the $100 new shoes is not OK.  Dogs depend on their humans to kindly teach them what they can chew on and what they cannot.

It is almost inevitable that a new puppy will chew up something that you value.  Accept that this will happen.  However, with appropriate training, you can minimize the damage by teaching your dog what is off limits for chewing and what he can chew on to his little heart’s content.

Training a dog what he can and cannot chew on is best accomplished by using behavioral modification.  The basic steps for behavioral modification can be reviewed under the General Guidelines of the Pet Training section of this website.  The primary components of behavioral modification include:

(1) providing immediate positive reinforcement

(2) providing alternatives to the undesired behavior

(3) helping your dog avoid situations where he has an opportunity to do what you do not what him to do

(4) giving verbal reprimands only when the dog is in the process of doing what you do not want him to do

(5) never using physical punishment and never punishing after-the-fact

The Denver Dumb Friends league (http://www.ddfl.org/behavior/pupchew.htm) offers the following specific steps that you can take to use behavioral modification to teach your dog what he can and cannot chew on. The following tips are adapted from their suggestions.

Providing immediate positive reinforcement    While your puppy is chewing on a chew toy that he can chew on you should praise him.

Providing alternatives to the undesired behavior    Provide your puppy with lots of appropriate toys.  You can rotate the toys that your puppy has in order to spark interest in them.  Consider providing the various types of toys that can be stuffed with food.  Also, for puppies that are teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for him to chew on.

Helping your dog avoid situations where he has an opportunity to do what you do not want him to do    Puppy-proof  your house by; (1) putting the trash out of reach or inside a container with a locking lid, (2) keeping socks, clothes, shoes, eyeglasses, briefcases, children’s toys and TV remotes off the floor and put away in a puppy-safe place, (3) not giving your puppy old socks, old shoes or old children’s toys that resemble items that are off-limits, (4) closely supervising your dog at all times while he is learning, and (5) confining your puppy to a small, safe area such as a laundry room while you are away.  Also, you can make unacceptable chew items unpleasant to your puppy by coating them with “Bitter Apple” or covering them with aluminum foil or hot pepper sauce.

Giving verbal reprimands only when the dog is in the process of doing what you do not want him to do    If, and only if, you catch your puppy chewing on something he shouldn’t, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise, then offer him an acceptable chew toy instead and praise him lavishly when he takes the toy in his mouth.

Never use physical punishment and never punish after-the-fact    If you discover a chewed item even minutes after he’s chewed it, you’re too late to administer a correction.  Animals associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they’re being punished.  Punishment after-the-fact, as well as all forms of physical punishment, will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but will produce other bad behaviors such as aggression or fear.

Also, remember to give your puppy lots of exercise.  Be sure that your puppy gets lots of time around people.  He will not learn appropriate behavior while alone in the house or yard.  He can only learn the rules of your house when he is with you.

Finally, although destructive chewing by puppies is nothing more than normal puppy behavior, adult dogs can exhibit destructive chewing behaviors for a variety of reasons, which can occasionally be the cause of chewing problems in puppies, as well.  Examples include separation anxiety, fear-related behaviors and attention-getting behaviors.  For help with these problems, you can contact a professional animal behaviorist or you can contact Denver Dumb Friends League behavioral experts by phone (1-877-738-0217) or by e-mail (behavior@ddfl.org).  

I hope that we have given you some information to chew on.



Copyright © [2003]  [Little Buddies Adoption and Humane Society].