Chewing is a natural and satisfying behavior to both dogs and puppies. Just like human infants, your curious pup might investigate his world by putting just about anything into his mouth, including your favorite pair of shoes. And like an infant, he goes through a teething period, which can cause him discomfort. Chewing facilitates the teething process and relieves his gum soreness caused by incoming adult teeth. While chewing is necessary for your pup, you can divert it from your footwear to more appropriate objects.
To discourage your pup from chewing shoes, coat them with an unpleasant-tasting substance such as cayenne pepper, bitter apple or Tabasco sauce. Test the deterrent on a small area of the shoe to make sure it won't damage or discolor it. If in doubt, consult with a local shoe store. Keep an eye on your pup the first time he chews the deterrent-covered shoe to see if it does the trick -- you might have to try a few different deterrents before finding one that works. For optimum effectiveness, reapply the deterrent once each day for two to four weeks.
When you catch your puppy chewing shoes, firmly say "No!" or gently tap him to interrupt the behavior. Repeat the command "give" with an outstretched hand until he gives you the shoe, and immediately replace it with a tasty chew toy or natural chew treat such as pig ears, rawhide bones, pig skin rolls or bully sticks. Avoid showing anger or roughly pulling the shoe away, which can upset your pup and cause him to chew even more to relieve his anxiety. Praise and pet him when he takes the chew toy or chew treat in his mouth. To prevent boredom, rotate your pup's chew toys every few days.
For soothing teething relief, provide your pup with ice cubes to chew on so he won't need to chew on shoes. If he isn't fond of ice cubes, make them more enticing by freezing low sodium chicken or beef broth in ice trays instead of water. You can also freeze wet washcloths for your pup to chew on, which helps relieve teething pain by numbing the gums. Roll a washcloth into a long tube shape, soak it in water or broth for a few minutes, tie one or two knots in it, and then stick it in the freezer. Supervise your puppy while he's chewing the washcloth in case it begins to fall apart -- you don't want him swallowing it.
Supervise your pup as much as possible until his habit of chewing shoes is under control. When you notice him chewing shoes, say "No!" until he drops it. Or, hold your hand in front of him and say "give" until he gives you the shoe, and then replace it with a chew toy or chew treat. Repeat this whenever you see him chewing shoes until he learns that chewing is only permitted with a chew toy or treat. Remember to always praise him when he gives up the shoes for a chew toy or treat. If you must leave him alone during this transition period, provide him with chew toys and chew treats before leaving. Avoid making your shoes readily available to your puppy by leaving them strewn around your home. Keep them in a closet with the doors tightly shut.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Chewing: The Whys and Hows of Stopping a Gnawing Problem
- Cesar's Way: 5 Steps to Save Your Shoes From Your Chewing Canine
- Dog Training Central: Stop Dog Chewing Dog Behavior Training
- The Whole Dog Journal: How to Stop Your Dog From Chewing All of Your Shoes
- ASPCA: Destructive Chewing
- WebMD: Destructive Chewing in Dogs