Pet Parenting: My dog chews everything!

Dear Denise,

My dog is not a puppy anymore, but she chews like she is! What can I do to keep her from destroying shoes, electric cords and even my brand new throw pillow! I give her things to keep her mouth busy, but I’m obviously doing something wrong. Please advise. Thank you.

Dear Mama:

You say your dog is not a puppy anymore, but you don’t mention how old she is or her breed. Some dogs take a long time to mature and there’s more to ‘not being a puppy’ than just being full-grown. If you have a large or giant breed dog or mix (lab to great dane size), then you are looking at at least 2 years of age before you can say ‘not a puppy.’

If you have a medium dog, then expect something in the range of a year and half. Those are just guesses though and all dogs are different. I have a friend whose Ridgeback mix chewed until the day she died, though she did, eventually, for the most part, figure out what she could and could not have (toilet paper and paper towel rolls were a common exception).

So, what can you do? You’ve mentioned that she has things of her own and that’s a good start. Make sure, though, that those toys don’t look like things you own. For example, if you have throw rugs or pillows with tassels, don’t give her rope toys. “If it looks like mine, it’s mine.”

Also, be sure that when you DO catch her chewing things she shouldn’t, that without making too big a deal of it, a simple ‘no’ will suffice, you take what is not hers and redirect her to something that is. Then offer lots of praise for chewing the correct thing.

If you’ve done these things and you’re still having trouble, perhaps the toys you give her should be more interactive. A kong with frozen peanut butter takes longer to go through than one that isn’t frozen. A buster cube filled with breakfast or dinner, can occupy her time and provide more stimulation than just eating out of a bowl. There are several lines of toys designed to entertain your dog, so check them out and get creative. Kong and Premier both have some good ones.

There is a chance that the chewing isn’t just an oral fixation and due to boredom or anxiety. If that’s the case, then perhaps more frequent or longer walks is the solution. If that doesn’t help then maybe try some Comfort Zone, either spray or plug-in, to help calm her.

Good Luck!

Denise Holmes is a pet behavior counselor with over 25 years of experience. She focuses on family pet training and animal-assisted therapy.  She has consulted with Arkansas Children’s Hospital, helped set up a variety of local programs and produced a CD to help expecting parents introduce the family pet to a newborn,