Recently, I got an email from someone who had just adopted a dog she referred to as “a chewer.” Obviously, all puppies chew, but sometimes chewing can go too far. When the dog chews on a doggie chew toy, it’s fine. When he eats the sofa, it’s a problem
For example, our first dog Leia was a model puppy, except for one thing. She didn’t like being left alone. Like any determined youngster, she decided she’d better leave and find out where we went. Unfortunately, her approach was to chew her way out. We kept her in our basement hallway and she ate part of a post, some carpet on the stairs, and quite a bit of a homemade door that blocked off the upstairs. I patched the carpet, put wood putty on the post, and my husband put metal cladding on the door.
All of these things are now a distant memory, but I remember how upset I was when I found my downstairs hallway destroyed. Fortunately, we figured out what Leia’s problem was and took steps to deal with it.
A dog may chew for various reasons. As I said, chewing in and of itself is not the problem. It’s actually a symptom of something else that’s going on. The key is to figure out what that something else is and deal with the underlying situation. For example, in Leia’s case, it was obvious she was upset about being left alone, a behavioral issue that is often termed “separation anxiety.”
Separation anxiety is a far different thing than just puppy chewing. All puppies chew; it’s part of how they explore their world. Much like human babies, a pup wants to put everything in his mouth. So, your first job is to “puppy proof” your house to remove anything that could hurt him like electrical cords and small ingestible items. The next step is to get a baby gate, so you can block off safe areas for your pup to hang out in when you can’t keep an eagle eye on him. You also want to get your puppy a LOT of approved safe chew toys. A teething puppy is going to chew, so you want to direct that activity to the right place. A dog crate or sky kennel is another good investment, since you can use it as a dog bed at night to avoid any late night chewing sprees.
You should also realize that many adult dogs also like to chew, so you may be buying chew toys for a long time. If your dog is an “aggressive chewer,” make sure you get sturdy toys like Kongs or Nylabones that Rover can’t immediately destroy. You don’t want to end up at the vet for a chew toy-related obstruction.
Anxiety related chewing is unrelated to regular chewing. As with Leia, the dog is upset about something whether it’s you leaving, thunder, fireworks or other loud noises, or stressful situations. The dog then chews at doors or windows to try and get out. Or she attacks items that smell like you, such as clothes or the sofa because the smell is comforting.
If your dog has anxiety-related chewing problems, talk to your vet. He may prescribe anti-anxiety medications along with behavior-modification techniques to help your dog feel less stressed. In our case, the problem never got that bad because we got Leia a dog. We always call Tika “Leia’s dog” because as soon as we got her, Leia was fine. In her case, all she needed was a buddy to make her feel less anxious.