My Dog Chews Everything in Sight
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Dogs use their mouths similarly to how we often use our hands. With an inability to manipulate their environment well with their paws, they use their mouths to explore their environment. For this reason, it is common to see them nibbling on almost anything that cross their path. There is a difference between this exploratory behavior and destructive chewing. When my dog chews everything in sight, it is a form of communication. What they are trying to tell us depends on the context and the individual dog.
At AnimalWised, we look at the reasons why a dog chews everything. We also find out the practical ways we can help stop this destructive behavior.
Why does my dog chew everything in sight?
There are many reasons why dogs chew on various objects. It is important to know that it is always a form of communication. Sometimes this is a direct communication between the dog and their environment, but often the communication is indirectly for their caregivers. To know what a dog is trying to say when they are chewing on everything, we need to analyze their behavior in context. The most common causes of chewing on everything are:
- Exploratory Behavior: this is the most common reason a dog will nibble on what it finds. Dogs explore the world around them through their senses, especially their sense of smell. Licking, biting or holding objects in their mouths also help them learn about various of objects. This is especially important for puppies who are still discovering the world. Exploratory behavior is completely normal and especially common in young animals.
- Play: when dogs play with each other they do it by biting. They bite to pick up a ball, throw around a soft toy like it was prey or even grabbing another dog's neck to instigate a play session. When the dog knows bite inhibition and they have a good relationship with their playmate, this is very healthy behavior. When they are a puppy they use it to both understand their world and establish boundaries with it. Unfortunately, this can take some time and newly adopted puppies will often chew on objects for prolonged periods as part of their play behavior.
- Instinctive hunting behavior: if you see your dog taking a toy or another object and chew it for a long time, it could be part of their instinctive behavior. When hunting, a dog will chase their prey, grab it somewhere sensitive and go in for a kill. However, this can be a prolonged process and dogs will use objects in the home to exercise their innate hunting instinct. They can end up chewing on anything in sight, especially when they are younger. Some dogs will have a stronger hunting instinct than others or they may be more focused on certain objects over others.
- Boredom: while much of chewing behavior is carried out by younger dogs or as a natural expression of their canine selves, it can also be a symptom of a problem. Boredom is one of the most common. When the dog is insufficiently engaged or stimulated, boredom can lead to various behavioral problems. Chewing on everything in sight is a way occupy their time when they are bored, but it is also a signal to caregivers that they are experiencing boredom.
- Discharge of frustration or stress: similar to boredom, dogs can become frustrated when they are prevent from expressing typical behaviors of their species. They can also become frustrated when we give them inappropriate tasks such as inappropriate training techniques. Other members of the family, changes in routine or even something as simple as changing their kibble can cause stress and frustration, resulting in the dog chewing everything in sight.
- Previous experiences: when biting something has been useful or beneficial to the dog in the past, it tends to repeat this behavior more frequently. They may even intensify it when they are bored and/or ignored. For example, if the dog learns that nibbling on the legs of a chair gets our attention, they may repeat it. This is how dogs learn and it is up to us to redirect their communication into other forms of expression.
Why does my dog chew everything in sight when alone?
Many dogs do not exhibit biting or destructive behavior towards objects in the house until they are left home alone. This is very common, especially as many of us need to leave the home during the day to work or perform other daily tasks. When they dog has to entertain themselves, it is understandable they will look almost anything in sight. Since chewing can help relieve anxiety, a dog being destructive in this way can help them pass the hours and feel better.
We can find out if this is the case with our dog by setting up some sort of recording equipment when we are gone. We can look back at the footage and analyze their behavior. An animal that is simply bored at home usually spends part of their time resting and part of their time curiously wandering the home. They may chew objects, but they will usually move on to something else when they tire of this activity.
Separation anxiety in dogs is a much more complex emotional and behavioral problem. We will likely see high levels of stress and anxiety with our dog looking out the window to see if we will return. They will bark at almost anything that passes by the home, even if it is only sounds. They will work themselves up into a frenetic mess, chewing on everything in sight and exercising other destructive behaviors to release the tension.
It is also common for the dog to urinate or defecate at home inappropriately and salivate excessively while alone. They may bark loudly at nothing at all or become very agitated at the smallest stimulus. Some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others, but all can develop it given the right circumstances.
How to stop my dog chewing everything in sight
If your dog keeps chewing everything they see, we need to understand the reasons behind it. Sometimes, this can be relatively straightforward. For example, the video we have of our dog acting anxious can imply our absence is causing problems. However, it is often quite difficult to understand the root of their problem.
We also need to consider the context. Puppies chewing on everything in sight is completely normal and something we need to simply accept to a certain degree. There are actions we can take to help reduce this behavior or redirect it somewhere more suitable. One of the most basic is to simply provide a lot of chew toys which are more likely to entice the young dog. Adult dogs can still use chew toys, although they should reduce this behavior significantly once they mature.
Training and education is also vitally important. We cannot expect our dog to understand the boundaries of the home if we have not taught them in the first place. Dogs which are understimulated and chewing out of boredom and/or frustration will also be able to use training as a way of providing this required level of stimulation.
We can also use the training to actively redirect the behavior. When a dog decides to chew on a chew toy instead of the couch, we can reward them positively with a treat or encouraging words. Positive reinforcement is both the most effective and the least cruel form of training. If we use negative reinforcement such as scolding the dog, it can make the situation worse.
Training is important, but so too is simply spending time with them. Show affection and ensure you are taking them out for the amount of exercise they need. All dogs will need attention, but not to the same degree. Make sure your get to know your dog's needs so you can meet them such as walking them for the appropriate length of time.
Another important thing to do when your dog chews everything in sight is assess for stress. Look at the context of the dog's chewing behavior and see how factors in the home may be influencing it. If there is another person or animal which is causing stress, find out ways to help them get along. This is common when older and younger dogs don't get along in the same home. We will even need to asses their basic needs in terms of food, bedding, accessories and other factors. Doing so can be the answer to how to stop a dog chewing everything.
Finally, if you are unable to make these assessments, bring in the help of a canine ethologist or dog trainer. They can assess the dog's individual needs and provide specific instruction to meet them.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Chews Everything in Sight, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.