It’s normal for puppies and dogs to chew on objects as they explore the world. Chewing accomplishes a number of things for a dog. For young dogs, it’s a way to relieve pain that might be caused by incoming teeth.
For older dogs, it’s nature’s way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing also combats boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration. Dogs are diagnosed with destructive tendencies when they destroy things we don’t want them to, such as furniture, shoes, doors, or carpets.
Chewing is a perfectly normal behaviour for dogs of all ages. Both wild and domestic dogs spend hours chewing bones. This activity keeps their jaws strong and their teeth clean. Dogs love to chew on bones, sticks and just about anything else available. They chew for fun, they chew for stimulation, and they chew to relieve anxiety.
While chewing behaviour is normal, dogs sometimes direct their chewing behaviour toward inappropriate items. Not all destructive behaviour is the same, however. When a dog chews on the wrong things or digs in the wrong place but does not have any other symptoms, this is considered a primary destructive behaviour.
Dogs that have other symptoms like anxiety, fear, or aggression in combination with their destructive behaviour are diagnosed with secondary destructive behaviour. Both types of destructive behaviour can lead to problems with other organs, such as teeth, skin, the stomach, or intestines, if left untreated.
Symptoms and Types
Primary destructive behaviour:
- Not enough supervision
- Not enough, or the wrong kind of chew toys
- Not enough exercise
- Not enough daily activity
- Fear (phobia) related destruction
- Owner is around to see symptoms
- Symptoms may be more severe when owner is not around
- Fear sets off the symptoms (fear of storms, fear of loud noises, etc.)
- HidingPrimary destructive behaviour
- Chewing on small things left out in the house
- Chewing on furniture legs or edges
- Chewing on or eating house plants
- Digging holes in the yard
- Owner may or may not be around when symptoms first start
Secondary destructive behaviour:
- Things are destroyed to get the attention of the owner
- Owner is around to see things being destroyed
- Obsessive-Compulsive related destruction
- Too much time spent licking or chewing on furniture, rugs, or other things
- Too much time spent licking or chewing on its own legs or feet
- Frequently eating non-food items (pica)
- Owner may or may not be around when behaviour happens
- Separation anxiety related destruction
- Chewing on furniture, rugs or other things around the house
- Chewing on owner’s personal items (shoes, etc.)
- Destroying doors or windows and window sills
- Going to the bathroom in the house when it has been house trained
- Owner is not around when destruction occurs
- Symptoms occur almost every time the owner is gone
- Destruction of doors, windows, or window frames
- Aggression related
- Usually the dog is protecting its territory
- Destruction happens when other people or animals approach the pet’s territory
- Doors, windows, window sills and window frames are damaged
- Owner is usually around to see the behaviour
- Secondary destructive behaviour
- No causes have been found
- Protecting territory may be both learned and inherited
Both puppies and adult dogs should have a variety of appropriate and attractive indestructible dog toys. However, just providing the right things to chew isn’t enough to prevent inappropriate chewing. Dogs need to learn what is okay to chew and what is not. One of the best ways to prevent destruction in by providing your pets with enrichment items to keep them occupied. Give them strong, durable, non toxic toys to play with both interacting with you and when they are home alone.
All of the Aussie Dog range of products are excellent alternatives for destructive dogs. “Dog-proof” your house Put valuable objects away until you’re confident that your dog’s chewing behaviour is restricted to appropriate items. Do your best to supervise your dog during all waking hours until you feel confident that his chewing behaviour is under control. If you see him licking or chewing an item he shouldn’t, say “Uh-oh,” remove the item from your dog’s mouth, and insert something that he CAN chew. Then praise him happily.