How To Get A Dog To Stop Chewing?
[The Training Guide]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

If you have a dog, or a puppy (especially a puppy), you’ve probably experienced this:

You come home—after a long, soul-crushing day at work—you open the door,  step inside and realize something is wrong…

Everything’s quiet, too quiet. You know something bad happened; You’re scared to find out; still, you close your eyes, take a deep breath, gather some courage, and walk into the living room. And there it is…

It’s what you feared the most. Lying in the middle of your living room, you see your brand new, favorite running shoes—the ones you liked so much you were doubting to use for running—now ruined beyond repair. You notice they were victims of a painstaking chewing session. And the culprit’s nowhere to be found.

Shortly after, you pick up on two big, round eyes staring at you from under the dining table—along with a wagging tail. Your furry friend looks at you with that “wasn’t me,” guilty look, and then it hits you, “I can’t be mad at you.” But you realize it’s time to do something about it.

Dealing with inappropriate chewing habits can be challenging. You must figure out the root cause of your dog’s chewing before trying to tackle it. This will help you choose the right approach for your dog. 

Luckily, in this guide, you’ll learn about the main causes of destructive chewing and the different ways to get rid of it. Let’s jump right in.

Understand Your Dog’s Needs

Having dealt with hundreds of dogs over the years, I can tell you one thing. There are only two kinds of chewers: Puppies and everyone else.

Taking a puppy home can be a wonderful, exhilarating experience. But it usually comes with chewing issues. During their teething process, you need to be super understanding and patient.

Puppies teeth for about six months. During this time, they absolutely need to chew on things. Having their teeth coming in makes them feel pain and itchiness in their gums, and chewing can greatly relieve them.

At the same time, just like babies and toddlers, taking things into their mouths is a natural process through which they discover the world and expand their knowledge. That means that fighting against your puppy’s chewing habit with force and punishment could do more harm than good. You want to aim at modifying its behavior, but more on that later.

With older dogs, things are a little different. You must know the root cause of their destructive chewing before you figure out a solution. Among the most common causes, we have: 

  • They are bored
  • They lack mental or physical stimulation
  • They suffer from separation anxiety
  • Their habit is fear-related
  • They weren’t taught what to chew and what not to chew 

Now let’s take a look at the possible solutions for your pup’s chewing issues.

Your Dog is Just Bored

Just like you, I, and anyone else; your dog experiences a fair share of boredom when spending long periods isolated with little to do. And unfortunately, there’s no Netflix for dogs. Poor them, right?

When your dog is bored, they find ways to get distracted and temper their anxiety. That’s why they suddenly start chewing up your couch,  a table leg, a cushion, a left-out book, and even suck on fabric—yeah, some of them do that.

Give your dog plenty of physical exercises, especially before you leave them alone at home. Tired dogs are more likely to focus on recovering their energy than chewing on things. Also, going outside gives them a chance to get some fresh air, enjoy nature, and interact with other dogs (and you). This might do wonders for them anxiety-wise and helps them stay mentally stable.

Lack of physical and mental stimulation is a serious issue for dogs, and it’s one of the main causes of destructive chewing. Sometimes the solution might be as simple as spending more time with your dog and giving them all the petting, love, and attention they deserve.

Separation Anxiety

Dogs are instinctively programmed to stay together with their pack and follow their parents or friends around at all times. When you take a dog into your home, you become their family, so it’s easy to figure out why they always follow you everywhere you go—even the bathroom.

Separation is unnatural to your dog. So if your canine friend displays signs like barking, howling, pacing, digging, chewing, or even urinating and defecating when you leave them aloneor as much as walk into another roomthey might be suffering from separation anxiety.

The best way to deal with it is to teach your dog it’s ok, and even fun to be alone.

What you want to do is teach your dog to ‘stay’ in a particular place (such as a dog training platform) while you leave to another room or simply walk away from them for a while. Start with short distances and periods of separation. When you see that your dog ‘stays’ while controlling their anxiety, immediately reward them. Repeat this process several times, every day.

A great tip for helping your dog feel calm and less anxious while you’re away is to leave your scent on some of its toys. So you can squeeze some of them in your hands for a moment before you go, and that will do the job. You want to avoid affectionate farewells, though, as this might trigger their anxiety.

However, these methods are not always enough to solve your dog’s anxiety issues. And particularly when symptoms tend to be extreme, it’s advisable to get a professional trainer’s help.

Control Your Dogs’ Environment

One of the first things I ask dog owners to do when trying to get rid of destructive chewing is ‘dog proofing’ their homes. That means getting rid of any chewing targets your dog might have access to. 

So books should be on shelves, clothes or dirty laundry in the closet or a closed hamper, and your wallet absolutely out of reach. This also includes plastic children’s toys (like Legos), which they can chew up or chip off and become a hazard to your dog. You get the idea.

If you’re not at home often, and you like to keep your dog indoors, it’s a good idea to put them in a safe, enclosed space such as a bathroom while you’re away. Alternatively,  you could section off a room in your house with a dog fence. 

This works for two reasons: 

First, it’s easier to control what objects your dog has access to—therefore reducing its chewing possibilities.  

And second, it helps your dog stay on track with potty training—especially, if you own a puppy.

It’s essential to provide your dog with some chew toys while you’re away. This will help reduce your dog’s anxiety and stress and give them something fun to do. Variety is key; dogs feel like playing with different toys and experience different textures depending on their mood. So having options will certainly make them happy.

Give Your Dog Proper Chew Toys

Toys are extremely powerful tools. They are the perfect outlet for your dog’s to deal with boredom, anxiety, incoming teeth, or just pass the time and get some good ol’ fun.

As mentioned before, variety is important. You want to provide enough toys to cater to your dog’s mood changes, so offer your dog toys with different textures, tastes, and sizes. That way, they’re more likely to be attracted to them and stay engaged longer.

If you have no idea what toys you should get for your dog, here are my top 3 picks: 

Kong toys: Sturdy and durable, Kong toys are made with rubber that’s pliable enough to keep your dog interested but resistant enough to withstand long nibbling sessions and last plenty of time. Its conical worm shape produces an erratic bouncing when being moved around, which dogs can’t resist.

They’re also great for stuffing; most Kong toys have a hole that allows you to fill it with food, making for a great way to pique your dog’s interest in the toy and keep them busy for a longer time. 

Kong toys come in a variety of sizes, colors, and shapes. So make sure you choose one that’s age, and breed appropriate for your dog. If you have any doubt, consult your veterinarian or knowledgable sales assistant.

Sporn marrow chew toys: I love how innovative these are. They’re made with texturized soft rubber material that feels great to the touch and certainly to your dog’s mouth. 

A great feature of these toys that your dog will absolutely love is their turkey flavor. As your dog chews, the toys release a pleasant turkey flavor that will delight your dog and keep them coming back to it. They’re also very durable, so you don’t have to worry about getting a new one every week. You can’t go wrong with these.

Nina Ottoson food puzzle toys: Feeding your dog with food puzzle toys provides tons of mental stimulation and fun for your dog. These toys can help deal with poor eating habits and destructive chewing. But most importantly, they keep your dog busy for a long time. 

They come in different difficulty levels and dynamics that suit all ages and breeds. They work by having food hidden in them, usually under bone-shaped blocks that your dog needs to lift or move with their paws or snout to discover the hidden treasure.

Genius idea! And it really works.

Teach Your Dog What to Chew

Your dog doesn’t instinctively think, “Ok, chew toys are fine; those are mine. But books, sofas, clothes, and shoes I should leave alone.” Meaning you need to teach them what’s ok to chew and what is not.

Be congruent with the messages you send to your dog. Avoid giving your pup any items that remotely resemble anything they’re not supposed to chew. Old shoes, torn socks, or stained t-shirts are some examples. Your furry friend will not discern old shoes from new ones. So only allow it to chew their toys.

As for the training, you already know keeping your dog in a controlled, enclosed space can come in handy. Now let’s get deeper into it.

Monitoring your dog at home is a critical part of the training process. And if they are enthusiastic chewers, you want to make their ‘reformation’ as quick as possible. 

Following your dog around the house is less than convenient. What I do with all canine clients—while being at home— is put them on a leash and tie it to me. I take monitoring very seriously; I sometimes spend upwards of four hours with the dog tied to me, but it’s worth it.

The process consists of looking out for moments when your dog tries to chew on an inappropriate item, say a book. Your job is to correct their behavior on the spot. 

How do you do it?

Simple, you need to call their attention by either clapping, snaking your fingers, calling their name, or using a disapproving voice marker like “uh-uh.” Avoid using force to pull the object out of your dog’s mouth; sticking to positive reinforcement techniques is much more powerful. 

(Although, there will come a time in which your dog will chew on something valuable or expensive, and you’ll be forced to do it.)

The moment you manage to get their attention off the item they’re chewing, immediately reward them. It’s convenient to carry a bag of treats—such as small kibble or tiny pieces of meat—at all times.

Another powerful technique to use is to redirect your dog’s attention towards their toys. When you see your dog chewing on something they’re not supposed to, call their attention, or distract them for a while, reward them, and replace whatever they were chewing with one of their toys. The moment they start engaging with their toy, reward them again.

Although It can take a little over two months’ training to completely override your pup’s chewing habits, if you’re consistent with their training, you’ll see significant results in a short time.

To Sum Up

No matter if you have a puppy, or an older dog; remember, try to understand their needs. Puppies teeth for the first half year of their lives, so chewing is a need for them. Adult dogs chew things because they are mostly bored; give them the attention, time, and play they deserve— that by itself goes a long way when getting rid of bad chewing habits,

Keep your dog in a controlled, enclosed space when you can’t constantly watch what they’re doing at home. When you can, tie them to you and correct their chewing habits on the spot. Use positive reinforcement techniques, and avoid using force to stop them from chewing. Stay patient, and loving—even though they eat your stuff; when they do, just remember how much you love them.

And if they’re behavior is a little too much for you—or if they are suffering from severe separation anxiety—consult a dog trainer. You will see results in a short time, I guarantee.