Understand What Causes Destructive Chewing & Put an End to It

Updated: February 23, 2019 at 3:37 pm, Author: Alice

We understand that it can be frustrating to come home to yet another pair of shoes chewed up, or to see the leg of your antique dining table gnawed to the core, but though you may be upset with your dog when she does this, it is not her fault. There is always an underlying cause of destructive chewing behaviors, and if you can identify the source, you can help to eliminate the problem.

Causes of Destructive Chewing

dog destructive chewing


If your dog is still a puppy, the cause is likely her age. From exploring the world around her to teething, there are a number of likely reasons that your puppy is destroying your belongings. The good news is that with proper guidance, she will outgrow this stage and learn to leave your shoes alone.


Separation Anxiety

Some dogs go through extreme separation anxiety when their humans aren’t around, prompting them to act out by chewing, barking, whining, urinating and defecating. To help your dog with this problem, take her for a walk before leaving her alone. This will help calm her down and relieve some energy. When you leave, follow the “no touch, no talk, no eye contact rule” – which basically means don’t make a big deal out of your leaving. If you make leaving a normal occurrence, you are communicating to your dog that time apart is not a big deal. Depending on the severity of your puppy’s issue, you may have to practice this rule for anywhere from five minutes up to an hour before leaving.

Another way to help your dog through her anxiety issues is to practice leaving her alone for small periods of time, and then increase your time away as she gets better and better at being by herself.


Fabric Suckling

Many experts believe that if a dog is weaned to early (before 8 weeks), it causes them to lick and suck on fabric, which, of course, leads to chewing. Unfortunately, if this is the case, it is a hard habit to break. If your dog exhibits compulsive sucking behaviors on fabrics, or if it is difficult to distract him from such behaviors, you may need to seek professional intervention from a certified dog trainer who specializes in treating compulsive behavior.



Some dogs just have excess energy, which is perfectly fine, but if this is the case with your pup, you need to help her redirect it elsewhere. Make sure that she gets plenty of exercise and play, and that she is not forced to sit for long periods of time on her own. Remember: dogs are social creatures and are not meant to spend long periods of time indoors and on their own.



If your dog is not getting enough to eat – or if you have put them on a calorie restricted diet – they will attempt to find additional sources of nutrients in anything that lies in their path. While this does not bode well for your shoes or furniture, it is even worse for any objects that smell like food.

How to Manage Destructive Chewing Tendencies

While chewing is 100 percent normal for dogs of all ages, when they direct their masticating tendencies towards inappropriate items, it can become a problem. While providing them with a number of chew toys appropriate for their size and age is helpful, it won’t completely nix the problem. To fully eradicate destructive chewing behaviors in your dog, try doing the following:


  • Encourage Appropriate Chewing: Appropriate chewing is when dogs opt to gnaw on toys or chew sticks, such as bully sticks. While chew toys are a great option, bully sticks actually serve to promote healthy gums and teeth. Additionally, they are all natural, and when you pup gnaws on one, it will gently massage her gums, making it so she won’t ever want to munch on anything else again.
    Rotate new toys into the mix of things she can chew on, just for variety, and so she doesn’t get bored with the same old chew item. If you’re going to give your dog a bone, make sure it is all natural and made specifically for dogs and their natural mastication tendencies.
  • “Dog-Proof” Your Home: Just like when you have a baby, there are certain measures you need to take to make sure that your dog isn’t playing with anything that she shouldn’t be playing with. Put your shoes in a closet with a door you can firmly shut, all valuables up out of her reach, and all clothes in the hamper. You want to help your dog succeed by eliminating temptation.
    For items that you can’t put away, such as table legs and the arms of your couch, spray them with a chewing deterrent. Before you use it, apply a small amount to a piece of cotton or wool and let your dog get a taste of it and smell for it. If she shakes her head, drools, or retches, she doesn’t like it, and she should, from then on, associate the odor with the bad taste.
  • Learn Your Pup’s Munching Habits: Are there certain times of day that she chews? Does she start to gnaw on items after certain events, such as you leaving? Does she chomp when she’s hungry? By learning the signs, you can anticipate when she is going to want to gnaw and therefore, take measures to stop it, such as giving her a bully stick or a toy.
  • Supervise Your Dog: The best way to stop chewing is to always be with your dog – at least as much as you can. This way, when you see her starting to lick at something or nosing around at a possible target, you can say “No” or “Uh-oh,” and gently remove the item from their reach. Replace it with something they CAN chew, and praise them for selecting an appropriate item.
    If you cannot always be with your dog (as most people work out of the home all day), create a space in which your dog can comfortably relax during the day, but that doesn’t have any chewables (other than toys and bully sticks) in it. Block-off the area with a baby gate if there aren’t any doors to close off the entrances to the confinement area.
  • Help Them Learn the Difference Between Appropriate and Inappropriate Chewing Items: The worst thing you can do when training your puppy out of her bad habits is confuse her. Don’t tell her that she can’t chew shoes and then give her an old shoe to munch on. Don’t get mad at her for destroying your child’s stuffed animal, and then give her old stuffed animals instead of buying her her own toys. It is not fair to expect your dog to learn that some items are okay to play with, while other, very similar ones are not.

! The following behaviors are inhumane and will not help your puppy to learn !:

  • Using duct tape to hold your dog’s mouth shut for any length of time (in fact, this has killed pets);
  • Tying a damaged object around your dog;
  • Leaving your dog in a crate for an extended period of time (more than 6 hours); and
  • Muzzling your dog.

Additionally, your dog will learn nothing if you spank, scold, or punish her after the fact. In order to understand what she did wrong, she must be able to associate your scolding with her actions.


Don’t Give Up On Your Dog

Dogs are born with an innate desire to gnaw and munch, but it is up to you to redirect her habits so that she is no longer destroying your possessions. By identifying the cause of her habit, giving her the appropriate toys, praising her where necessary, and proving her with support and guidance, you can eliminate destructive chewing habits for good.

At Bully Stick Shoppe, we strive to help dog owners control destructive chewing by providing American made chewing products that are good for your dogs health and that they enjoy gnawing on. To pick out the perfect bully stick for your puppy, visit our shop online.

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