Chewing is a natural behavior in both puppies and adult dogs and, as such, you don't want to discourage it. You do, however, want to make sure she's chewing on the right things. Chewing on the wrong items can be potentially dangerous to your pooch, not to mention your belongings. Deterrents are often an ideal tool in the training process.
Reasons for Chewing
Before creating a deterrent, it's important to understand why your dog or puppy is chewing on non-toy items. Puppies put things in their mouths to explore, much like human infants, and also to help ease the pain and soreness that comes along with cutting teeth. Adult dogs chew for a variety of reasons, often for comfort. Other reasons include instinctual, separation anxiety, boredom, fear and desiring attention. A deterrent can help with training, but only as part of a training regimen -- it's not a miracle cure for all destructive chewing.
Taste and Smell Deterrents
Dogs have keen senses of smell; they have 220 million olfactory receptors in their nose, or 44 times more than humans. When it comes to chewing, using your pooch's sense of smell and his tastebuds as tools can help combat chewing. Strong-smelling citrus sprays made from orange zest (or other citrus fruits), or citronella oil, and water may deter your pup from chewing on items. Bitter-tasting or hot sprays will immediately tell the pooch to drop the shoe or item once it gets in his mouth. Mix a teaspoon or so of cayenne pepper in a small spray bottle of water to make a homemade spray. The chemical that makes peppers hot and burns the tongue and throat when you eat spicy foods works the same on your pooch. Test the sprays on small, unnoticeable areas of the objects first; some sprays may damage or stain certain materials.
Reducing the Temptation
Crate training is one of the most highly recommended methods of training. When you're away, the crate keeps your dog in a safe, comfortable spot while also protecting your home from his destructive behavior. When you are at home with your pooch, keep an eye on him and offer several safe chewing toys to choose from. For dogs who chew out of boredom, lengthen your daily walks or add in additional exercise to tire him out. Offer brain-teasing toys that he has to work on to keep him mentally stimulated.
One of the most important keys to training is not letting your pooch make mistakes. Until your pup has completely learned what not to chew on and you've figured out what is triggering the behavior, you can't assume your dog just "gets it." When you see your dog pick something up that's not an acceptable chew toy, make a loud noise -- say something like "Drop it!" or "No-no!" -- and quickly offer him an acceptable chew toy. On the other end of the spectrum, train your dog the command "give" or "drop" by offering him a tasty treat when he hands over the item.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Chewing: The Whys and Hows of Stopping a Chewing Problem
- Perfect Paws: Dog and Puppy Chewing Problems
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: The Dog's Sense of Smell
- Cornell University Cornell Chronicle: Study: 'Nuisance-barking' Dogs Respond Best to Citronella Spray Collars
- The Humane Society of the United States: Crate Training
- Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images