Teaching Your Dog Good Chewing Habits

Puppies and dogs are curious creatures—they learn about their world by smelling, touching, manipulating, and sometimes chewing on novel items. Chewing bones and toys is also a naturally enjoyable (and necessary) activity for dogs. Therefore, chewing is considered to be a natural behavior, and with training, can be directed to appropriate items before it becomes a behavior problem. Here are a few guidelines for teaching good chewing habits to your dog.

What to Chew?

  • Select Appropriate Toys: Provide a variety of interesting chew toys for your puppy or dog, and offer these to her frequently. Appropriate chew toys are those that are attractive to dogs, are hard enough to not be destroyed or torn apart quickly, and are composed of a material that is known to be safe if swallowed. Food-delivery toys that can conceal biscuits or soft treats are also good tools for teaching dogs appropriate chewing behaviors.
  • Redirect: If your dog picks up something that is not his, simply remove it from his mouth, and redirect him to one of his own toys. Remember to praise your dog calmly and quietly whenever he voluntarily selects one of his own toys or bones for chewing.
  • Rotate Toys: Puppies and adult dogs enjoy novelty in their toys. Therefore, select a variety of chew toys for your dog and rotate them frequently. If your puppy or dog has not seen a particular toy for a few weeks, she will be more excited to play with it when it is reintroduced.
  • Teach Fetch and Find It Games: Another way to keep your dog focused on his own toys is to teach him enjoyable games such as fetch and find it. Introduce retrieving with his favorite ball or hide a toy and then praise with a food treat when your dog finds it. These games are a great approach for teaching new behaviors and manners, and are also enjoyable activities for both of you!

Prevent Mistakes

  • Manage the Environment: Manage your home environment to prevent undesirable chewing and to keep your dog safe from consuming dangerous objects. Keep all items that may attract your pup secured and out of sight. These include, but are not limited to, the following: socks and other items of clothing, children’s toys, slippers and shoes, household knickknacks, tissues, and open garbage cans.
  • Supervise: Puppies and new dogs must be supervised during all free time in the home, both to prevent inappropriate chewing and to monitor house training. Until you can trust your new dog, she must be under constant supervision or confined to a safe area. Consider using a leash to keep her within eyesight. A crate or dog-safe room also can be used to keep your dog safe when you are not at home or available to watch her.

Achieving Success

  • Teach “Leave It” and “Give: In addition to managing the environment and providing plenty of varied and interesting chew toys, an owner can teach his or her dog the two invaluable commands of “leave it” and “give.” The command “leave it” is used when a dog is intending to pick up something that is either dangerous or off limits, and the command “give” can be used to retrieve an item from the dog once he has picked it up. When trained properly, these commands are enjoyable for your dog to learn and are helpful when teaching him which toys are his and which items are not. Many community puppy or obedience classes provide instructions for teaching these commands.
  • Avoid Punishment: Do not chase your dog or use harsh reprimands or physical punishment if he is chewing on something that is not his. This will quickly teach him to chew out of your sight or to run away from you. Unfortunately, owners may incorrectly interpret these behaviors as signifying that the dog “knows he is wrong.” However, avoidance behaviors simply show that the dog has learned through experience with punishment to avoid chewing in the presence of his owner or to run away when in possession of a novel object. For these reasons, you will be most successful using home management, redirection, and reward-based training to teach your dog proper chewing habits.