A veterinarian advises how to train and deter away from the furniture, cords, shoes, and more.

By Caroline Biggs
July 02, 2020
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If you have a dog that likes to gnaw on cords, cables, furniture, and other household items, you already know how problematic it can be. "If your dog excessively chews objects only when home alone or away from you, this could indicate separation anxiety or boredom," explains Dr. Vanessa Spano, DVM at Behavior Vets. "There's always a risk, if a dog ingests something he shouldn't, of an intestinal blockage or a choking hazard, which are both emergencies."

Along with destroying your personal property and potentially harming itself, Dr. Spano says that a dog that chews too much might have an underlying health issue. "Excessive chewing can indicate oral pain or underlying gastro-intestinal stress and nutritional imbalances, especially if paired with clinical signs like diarrhea, vomiting, inappetence, or weight loss," she says. "Always consult with a primary-care veterinarian to rule out any underlying pain or skin issues." If, after addressing the above, you're left with a healthy dog that loves to gnaw on everything in sight, what do you do? We asked Dr. Spano for advice on how to stop your pup from chewing up your belongings, and here's what she had to share.

Don't promote bad behavior.

If you adopt a dog at a very young age, Dr. Spano says it's crucial to avoid promoting problematic chewing behaviors from the get-go. "Don't give your pets possessions that you do not want them to chew," she says. "Additionally, an owner giving their dog attention (such as tugging at the object their dog is chewing on) may reinforce this behavior."

Supply mental stimulation.

A few canine-friendly toys and enrichment puzzles go a long way when training a dog not to chew. "Dogs are explorers by nature, and as such, we owe it to them to be allowed to practice their natural behaviors," Dr. Spano says. "Providing your dog with appropriate outlets, in the form of interactive toys such as rubber Kong Extreme Ball Toys (from $10, amazon.com) and food puzzles is vital. If you notice your dog interacting with these enrichment tools, make sure to praise him to reinforce this type of behavior, and keep a variety of toys so you can rotate through them."

Restrict certain areas of your home.

If you are not present to supervise, and your dog doesn't suffer from barrier frustration (fear of confinement) or separation anxiety, Dr. Spano says to consider restricting him to an area he can happily adapt to, such as a dog-proofed room, exercise pen, or crate. "If there is a particular area in your home that contains a lot of valuables that your dog should not chew on, you might also want to consider barricading that area with a baby gate," she adds.

Try an all-natural anti-chewing spray.

When all else fails, you can always try a pet-safe anti-chewing spray, such as Grannick's Bitter Apple ($7.60, amazon.com) and Vet's Best Bitter Cherry Spray for Dogs ($9.73, chewy.com), to deter your dog from gnawing on certain items. Simply spritz some on your carpet, furniture legs, or any other area of your home where your pooch likes to chew.

Be patient and talk to your veterinarian.

If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety or barrier frustration, Dr. Spano says it's crucial to consult with your veterinarian or a reward-based trainer or canine behaviorist for help. "Training a dog to stop chewing takes work and patience," she says. "This behavior will not go away overnight."

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