Why Does Your Dog Chew?

Buster chomps on your favorite shoes while his favorite toy bone is just a foot away. Is he crazy? Lazy? Here's the scoop:

Most dogs who chew-whether on shoes, facial tissues or table legs-are just looking for a diversion, says Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, director of Animal Behaviour Consultations in Westwood, Kansas. "Dogs chew to entertain themselves," Dr. Hunthausen says. "Destructive chewing typically occurs between 4 and 18 months, when dogs are the most curious. Thankfully, most dogs grow out of it."

Crunch and Munch

A variety of chew toys can help reduce inappropriate chewing, though some dogs will gnaw no matter what. "A puppy may tire of rawhide and want to explore new textures," Dr.Hunthausen says. "Shoes and socks have an organic odor many dogs can't resist."

Separation anxiety can also provoke destructive dog chewing. Rebekah and Patrick Repper of Sanford, North Carolina, were surprised when Annie, their 4-year-old Dalmatian/Bull Terrier mix, started snacking on furniture as soon as they left the house. "We used a video camera," recalls Rebekah. "Later we saw her gleefully ripping the stuffing out of our couch, like she was punishing us." The Reppers saved their belongings from further damage by placing Annie in a crate whenever they left.

Inappropriate dog chewing can also be dangerous, since many household items are harmful to dogs.

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Stop Naughty Gnawing

Save your shoes for walking. These tips can help your dog stop chewing:

  • Offer a variety of chew toys.
  • Don't leave young dogs unsupervised. Crating is OK for a brief period, but a special room or exercise pen is recommended if you'll be gone for a long time.
  • Never physically punish your dog for inappropriate dog chewing. Clap your hands when you catch him, then redirect him to a more appropriate object.
  • Exercise your dog often.