Dogs and puppies use their mouths to explore the world, so chewing is common. Puppies chew to ease the pain associated with teething, while adult dogs chew to keep those pearly whites clean and their jaws strong. For some dogs, chewing is a method of stress or anxiety relief, and unfortunately, this is where your furniture may have become the target. Stopping destructive chewing behavior begins by finding the reason behind the chewing.
To determine why your dog is chewing your furniture, look at what was happening when the chewing occurred. Was your dog home alone or did he get exercise that day? For many dogs, separation anxiety contributes to chewing and destructive behavior. Exercise or mental stimulation, such as games, keep dogs entertained. A bored dog tends to look for entertaining activities and chewing is often an option. If the furniture your dog targeted was fabric, object sucking may be a consideration and destructive chewing was not intentional.
If your puppy or adult dog is chewing when you are home, regular supervision allows you to redirect your dog should chewing occur. If you see your dog chewing an item that is not for him, redirect him to an appropriate chewing option, such as toys, ropes and bones. If your puppy is teething and looking for pain relief, wet a small towel, freeze it and offer it to him. The cloth is soft to chew and the cold helps reduce teething pain. If supervision is not an option, confine him to a dog-safe zone where access to furniture or other chewing targets is not an option.
If the destructive furniture chewing occurs when you leave your dog home alone, he may suffer from separation anxiety. If this is the case, counterconditioning can help him connect being left alone with something good. Keeping him occupied while you are gone reduces the anxiety and any potential boredom issues. Food puzzles stuffed with treats, such as peanut butter, offer an enjoyable snack while keeping him occupied while you are gone. While you are home, offer him one of these puzzles and see just how long it takes him to enjoy. The next time, offer this puzzle and then leave for that amount of time.
A bored dog looks for opportunities to keep himself occupied and chewing is an easy outlet for boredom. Regular exercise and mental stimulation keeps him busy and away from chewing the legs of your favorite table. Games like fetch or even a walk around the neighborhood use up energy, while puzzle games in the house keep him occupied. Play hide and seek with your dog by hiding treats throughout the house for him to search and find. This game also works to help ease separation anxiety.
In the same way an infant child clings to a blanket or sucks a thumb, a dog may look to soft items to suck or chew on as a source of comfort. This is often the case in dogs who were taken away from their mother too early. In some cases, fabric furniture may be their target of choice. In this case, a soft blanket or plush dog toy is often enough to distract your dog from the couch cushions.
If redirection and behavior modification do not stop the chewing, taste deterrent sprays are another option. These sprays provide an unpleasant taste for your dog when applied to a piece of furniture or other item he should not be chewing. Spray the deterrent on your furniture and, after a taste or two, your dog is likely to leave the item alone.
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