Is chewing a destructive behavior? The simple answer is: Only if they are chewing on the wrong thing. We dog owners have to understand that a lot of the behaviours that we humans consider unwanted are natural behaviours for dogs. Behaviour like chewing and digging, might be considered unwanted by us but it is natural behaviour for dogs.
So the focus of our training should not be on trying to prevent the dog from chewing, but to train the dog to chew on their own toys instead of chewing your shoes or furniture. Bulldogs are known to love to chew on things, with their strong jaws and perseverance they can easily ‘re-decorate’ your living room within the hour.
Reasons for Chewing?
There are four main reasons why dogs start to chew. One is that they are teething (puppies till 6-8 months old) or that the dog is bored and starts chewing as an activity or form of play, Separation Anxiety or medical reasons.
A dog’s deciduous teeth will erupt between three to eight weeks of age and around four to eight months of age these teeth will be gradually replaced with permanent teeth. Teething is a painful process and puppies and the puppy will start to chew more during this period because their gums are irritated and the act of chewing relieves their discomfort. Inappropriate chewing is most likely to occur while the puppy is teething but if not corrected can become a long standing problem even after all the adult teeth emerge and teething ends.
Puppies will not only want to chew because of the teething but it is also a way for them to explore and investigate their surroundings. Puppies, like infants and toddlers, explore their world by putting objects in their mouths. Knowing this, make sure to buy chew toys with different textures, this will keep your puppy busy and curious and it will decrease the changes of your puppy searching your home for new chew toy.
If your dog has too much energy, that energy will be re-directed somewhere else and that may just be your favorite new pair of shoes. Make sure your dog is physically and mentally challenged each day.Two ways to do this are to play interactive games with your dog like fetch or hide and seek or to give them toys that will challenge them mentally like a ball they have to roll around to get the treats out.
Use puzzle and reward toys for your dog, the last few years there are more and more puzzle toys available for your dog that entices your dog and will keep it busy for a while.
A couple examples:
• Snuffle mats: fluffy mats where you hide treats the dog needs to use its nose to get to the treats
• Strategic games: yes there are even gadgets available to throw tennisballs from your phone or where they have to complete certain tasks (like pressing a button) to be rewarded
• Puzzles: the dog has to use it paws to press a button or scroll to be rewarded with a treat. Beware do not buy dog puzzles with loose pieces these can be dangerous, there are many varieties make sure to buy one that is Bulldog proof
If the behavior only occurs when you’re away from home, then it may be a symptom of separation anxiety. To stop chewing when left alone, you’ll need to address this underlying issue. In this case the chewing is more a symptom of the real issue.
Some nutritional deficiencies can lead to pica, which is an eating disorder which results in eating non-food items. Also some dogs suffering from gastrointestinal issues may use chewing to trigger vomiting to feel better. Particularly if the behavior started suddenly, it’s worth ruling out medical causes before addressing it as a behavioral issue.
How to Stop your Dog from Chewing
First of all you need to know Why your dog is chewing. The reasons for chewing named above will each need a different approach:
Training Puppies when Teething
• make sure to have load of different toys around (different textures, shapes and sizes)
• correct every time you see them chewing on something that is not a toy and encourage them when chewing on their toys
• when left alone remove items that they might chew on to prevent any health risks to the puppies and damages to your home
Training when dealing with Boredom
• again get lots of different toys
• use toys as tools and make sure to find toys that both physically and mentally challenge them
• schedule short quality playtime sessions with your dog throughout the day
• increase the amount and distance of walks
Training when dealing with Separation Anxiety
I will address this issue in another blog but a few tips are:
• always go for a walk before leaving the house
• make sure the dog is calm and in it’s place when you leave the house
• leave enough chew toys around for the dog to play with
• remove any items that might trigger the bad behaviour when you are not around to correct,
it is important that you put these items back in place as soon as you get home (removing items to chew on is evading any damages not solving the problem)
Tips and Tricks
• make sure all the toys your dog are safe to play with, a lot of the toys that are sold in pet stores can be a danger to your dog (they can for example swallow it as a whole or pieces of it, they can choke on rawhides (never give rawhides to bulldogs but give dear antlers in stead)
• put the items you do not want your dog to play with, for example shoes, on the floor in the middle of the room. So in stead of hiding the item you are training your dog on what not to chew. Correct each time the dogs tries to chew one of the items (it is ok to smell the item but not to touch or chew) and make sure there are also proper chew toys available
• when they have one favorite spot or item where they like to chew, you can buy an anti chew deterrent and spray that particular spot/item. This can be helpful to protect your items but the method mentioned above is the proper solution this is just a helpful tool
• when a puppy is teething try taking a face cloth, wetting it, stick it in the freezer and give it to the dog to chew on while it’s frozen, as it will both numb the gums a little and also give some play and chew fun
• do not confuse toys with chews. Toys are usually designed to be thrown, chased, squeaked, and tugged during play. Most are not designed to be chewed. Bulldogs have very strong jaws make sure to buy extra strong chew toys. I’ve seen a lot of so called ‘indestructible toys’ destroyed in seconds by Bulldogs
• change toys frequently. Most dogs will get bored with a chew when it is available all the time. Leave the best toys for when you go out and do not have all toys available all the time but switch around
• don’t be played, some dogs are known to start chewing on forbidden items just because they know when they chew that item you will immediately get up and respond as where with the normal toys your dog might get ignored. Break this cycle by encaging the dog when it brings it’s toys to you and to correct the wrong behaviour without using your voice. Do not try to distract the dog when it is chewing the wrong item by waving a toy in front of him. This will again only teach him to do it again, in the dogs mind it means whenever I start chewing the table I get playtime. With chewing do not redirect but consequently address the behaviour in a calm matter
• identify times of the day when your dog is most likely to chew and give him a puzzle toy filled with something delicious treats
• never give your dog the run of the house until reliable behaviour is established, build up from one room and make sure the dog cannot hurt itself by for example chewing on electrical cords
• do not show your dog the damage he did and spank, scold or punish him after the fact. He cannot connect your punishment with some behavior he did hours or even minutes ago. The only right way is to correct the behaviour in a calmly matter at the moment the dog shows the unwanted behaviour
• remember: only remove items when you are away and do not use a bench or kennel as a solution to this problem, the only solution is training your dog. Putting a dog in a bench or kennel is not humane and you are evading and not resolving the problem
I hope this Blog helped you in understanding and addressing this dog behaviour problem. If you are struggling to apply these training techniques and find permanent solution for the destructive chewing behavior of your dog, consider getting a licensed dog trainer to help.
Let’s finish with some laughs of naughty Bulldogs who were caught in the act and on camera ☺