Sooner or later, every dog owner returns home one fine day, to find some unexpected damage inflicted by his or her dog, more specifically, that dog’s teeth. Although dogs make great use of their vision and sense of smell to explore the world, one of their favorite ways to take in new information is to put their mouths to work. Fortunately, chewing can be directed onto appropriate items, so that your dog isn’t destroying things you value.
1. Understand why dogs bite furniture
Puppies, like infants and toddlers, explore their world by putting objects in their mouths. And, like babies, they teethe for about six months, which usually creates some discomfort. Chewing/biting not only facilitates teething but also makes sore gums feel better.
Adult dogs may engage in destructive chewing for any number of reasons. In order to deal with this dog behavior, you must first determine why your dog is chewing—and remember, he’s not doing it to spite you. Possible reasons for destructive chewing include:
- As a puppy, he wasn’t taught what to chew and what not to chew.
- He’s bored.
- He suffers from separation anxiety.
- His behavior is fear-related.
- He wants attention.
2. Teach your dog, what can be chewed and what can’t
The key is to direct the majority of your efforts toward teaching the dog to chew on appropriate items and then reward him accordingly. Dogs do not have an inherent sense of what a chew-toy is, nor can they differentiate between a chew-toy and a family heirloom or a new piece of furniture. Therefore, the owner must teach the dog the difference.
Following steps can help him understand what is ok to be chewed:
- Give your dog toys that are clearly distinguishable from household goods.
- Supervise your dog until he learns the house rules.
- Give your dog plenty of people-time. Your dog won’t know how to behave if you don’t teach him alternatives to inappropriate behavior, and he can’t learn these when he’s in the yard by himself.
- Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise.
- If you catch your dog chewing on something he shouldn’t, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise. Offer him an acceptable chew toy instead.
- If your puppy is teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for him to chew on. The cold cloth will soothe his gums.
- Make items unpleasant to your dog. Furniture and other items can be coated with a taste deterrent to make them unappealing.
3. Never discipline or punish your dog after the fact
If you discover a chewed item even minutes after he’s chewed it, you’re too late. Animals associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they’re being corrected. Some people believe this is what a dog is thinking because he runs and hides or because he “looks guilty.”
In reality, “guilty looks” are actually canine submissive postures that dogs show when they’re threatened. When you’re angry and upset, your dog feels threatened by your tone of voice, body postures and/or facial expressions, so he may hide or show submissive postures. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but it could also provoke other undesirable behaviors.
Your goal, if your dog is chewing on your furniture, isn’t to teach him not to chew, it’s to teach him what to chew on. If you condition your dog to have a really good chew toy habit, he will know what he’s allowed to chew on and what he’s not. Usually, the best chew toys are something that are either edible in part or in hold. So a long lasting chew can act as a perfect chew toy for your dogs with which they can while away their time. Chew toys provide your dog with a dog appropriate activity to engage in and are the perfect thing for your dog when you don’t have the time to play with him.