Destructive Chewing

Exploring the world with their mouths is normal behavior for puppies and dogs. Chewing can be directed toward appropriate items so your dog isn’t destroying items you value. Until they learn what they can and can’t chew, it’s your responsibility to manage the situation as much as possible, so they don’t have the opportunity to chew on unacceptable objects.

Taking Control by Managing the Situation

Chewing is normal teething and investigative puppy behavior, however, dogs can also engage in destructive behavior for a variety of reasons. In order to deal with the behavior, you must first determine why your dog is being destructive.

Boredom and/or Social Isolation

Normal play behavior can result in destruction, as it may involve digging, chewing, shredding, and/or shaking toy-like objects. Since dogs investigate objects by pawing at them and exploring them with their mouths, they may also inadvertently damage items in their environment when they’re exploring or investigating. Your dog may be chewing for entertainment if:


Attention-Seeking Behavior

Without realizing it, we often pay more attention to our dogs when they’re misbehaving. Dogs who don’t receive a lot of attention and reinforcement for appropriate behavior may engage in destructive behavior when their owners are present as a way to attract attention – even if the attention is threatening, such as a verbal scolding.


Fears and Phobias

Your dog’s destructive behavior may be a response to something they fear. Some dogs are afraid of loud noises. Your dog’s destructive behavior may be caused by fear if the destruction occurs when they are exposed to loud noises, such as thunderstorms, firecrackers, or construction sounds, and if the primary damage is to doors, door frames, window coverings, screens, or walls.


Separation Anxiety

Dogs with separation anxiety tend to display behaviors that reflect a strong attachment to their owners. This includes following you from room to room, frantic greetings, and reacting anxiously to your preparation to leave the house. And/or destroying walls, doors, or objects when left alone.

These behaviors are not motivated by spite or revenge, but by anxiety – the dog is so afraid of being alone that they absolutely panic. Punishment will make the problem worse. Separation anxiety can often be resolved by using counter conditioning and desensitization techniques (see our resource Separation Anxiety).

What Not To Do

Punishment is rarely effective in resolving destructive behavior problems and can even make them worse. If you discover an item your dog has chewed minutes, or even seconds later, it’s too late to administer a correction. Your dog doesn’t understand that “I chewed those shoes an hour ago and that’s why I’m being scolded now”. People often believe their dog makes this connection because they run and hide or “look guilty.” Dogs don’t feel guilt rather they display submissive postures like cowering, running away or hiding, when they feel threatened by an angry tone of voice, body posture or facial expression. Your dog doesn’t know that they have done something wrong; they only know that you’re upset. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but may also provoke other undesirable behaviours, as well as making your dog afraid of you.


Contact us at 403-295-6337