It can be demoralizing to come home to a coffee table that used to have four legs, a sofa that is now inside out and your kid’s favorite teddy bear who is now an amputee. Destructive chewing is a common reason for relinquishment to shelters. If this grisly scene is a regular part of your reality, there are things you can do to put an end to the madness.
Destructive chewing is usually a symptom of boredom. I’ve put together a list of things you can do to limit boredom even while you’re away.
The Right Kind of Toys
You are your dog’s best friend so it makes sense that they get bored and help themselves to the remote (and not to watch daytime television) when you’re away. Toys are a great way to mentally and orally engage your dog.
- Oral engagement is an important part of your dog’s well-being. It releases endorphins that relax them, which is why it looks so damn satisfying. Safety is key here, as we saw in my last post. It is important to choose toys that you can leave with your pet for long, unsupervised periods that won’t end up being swallowed or choked on.
- Find a texture (and smell) that you dog enjoys. There’s a huge variety of chew toys out there. Some are smooth, ridged, bumpy, and/or wavy. Some are shaped like bones, tires, antlers, or sticks. There seems to be an endless variety of “flavors” (we have to take their word for it) like venison, chicken pot pie, or peanut butter. There is an endless combination of textures and flavors for your dog to enjoy, so use that to your advantage!
- Toys that keep up interest will keep your dog from getting bored and tearing up the house. There are all kinds of food puzzles in pet stores now ranging from super easy, like the traditional Kong to super advanced flip board puzzles (I’ve added some links to these). Find a toy that engages your dog for as long as possible without causing frustration (Gremlin gets really frustrated with the really hard ones).
- Just like with a toddler, you’ll need to keep these toys on a rotation so they don’t get bored because of overexposure.
- Encourage your dog to play with these toys by praising them when they do.
Mix and Mingle
A lot of boredom comes from a lack of socialization. Here are few things you can do to help your dog feel more socially engaged.
- A regular play routine with your dog is an important part of your relationship and the routine will help your dog manage boredom.
- Positive social interactions include walking or jogging around the neighborhood. Be sure to allow your dog to stop and really get a good sniff of something interesting since this plays into his social engagement with neighborhood dogs, cats, and whatever else you have running around your area.
- Play games with your dog like fetch, frisbee, or go for a swim if they enjoy it.
- Enroll or take part in more intense social and physical activities like flyball, agility training, or even herding trials. You might be surprised at what activities are available to you in your area and the kinds of dogs participating in them. Don’t let your dog’s breed keep them from doing something you know they’ll enjoy.
- Obedience training only seems like work to you. Your dog will enjoy the time you’ll spend together and your bond will only grow stronger as your dog learns to communicate with you through completing obedience tasks.
- If your dog plays well with others, regular trips to the dog park can be a game changer for a dog suffering from boredom.
Maybe your dog has every kind of chew toy on the market and you take them on walks to the dog park three times a week! WHAT NOW?! Some dogs have a need to explore their surroundings. Their curiosity is usually piqued by treasures they find in your closets and under your bed, which they will continue to explore through chewing. Here’s what you can do to stop them.
- Never EVER play tug of war with things that are not toys. Even if you’re clearly upset and are trying to take the item from your dog, it looks a lot like a game to your dog and will only encourage more “playful” behavior with your things.
- Dog-proof rooms that your dog usually finds treasures in. Yes, these means you have to clean. If things that are considered put away are in your dog’s reach, consider moving them out of reach until your dog breaks this habit.
- If certain rooms are just too difficult to dog-proof (because how do you dog-proof table legs??) close them off with baby gates. They make baby gates that you can tighten up to the wall of almost any size entry way.
- Interrupt inappropriate chewing with a distracting noise that will give you the opportunity to immediately replace the inappropriate item with an appropriate one.
- Never punish your dog either physically or with any other correction method that might cause anxiety. Destructive chewing is a common symptom of anxiety, so don’t make your problem worse!
As always, if you believe your dog’s actions are a symptom of anxiety, do your best to pinpoint the cause. Talk to your vet about your dog’s anxiety so they can help you come up with the best game plan.
What’s the worst your dog has every done? Let me know (or show me >.<) in the comments!