If you’ve ever wondered the reason why dogs chew so much, you’re not alone. Understanding this primal instinct can help dog owners comfort their pets (and avoid a few chewed-through pairs of shoes, in the meantime).
There are several causes of persistent chewing, most of which depend on the stage of life your pup is in. For every cause of chewing, however, there are simple ways to avoid more damage to your home and belongings.
The first reason dogs chew is that they’re going through teething. Just like human babies, our pups lose and grow teeth in their first year of life. This process leads to sore gums, something chewing alleviates (ASPCA).
If your puppy is teething, you can help provide them comfort by sticking a soft chew toy in the freezer before playtime. The cold will soothe their gums, while the chewing motion will reduce teething pain.
Instinctively speaking, however, dogs may chew for completely different reasons. Chewing has been to keep doggy jaws strong and teeth clean (Whole Dog Journal). It’s no wonder chewable treats like are so popular—they help promote dental health in a tasty package.
Beyond dental health, dogs instinctively chew because it is their way of exploring the world (Pet Health Network). Without fingers to help them, dogs figure out what’s what by chewing on things. They’re particularly drawn to smells and tastes from other animals—so is it any shock that our pups find themselves chewing the smelliest items we own?
Additionally, our dogs chew because of the environments they’re in. Boredom, for example, is a major reason behind excessive chewing. If you’ve ever come home from a long day to find the living room in shreds, you probably understand that bored pups often take things into their own hands (or mouths).
Many pups also chew when experiencing feelings of anxiety or frustration (ASPCA). For example, some pooches need to gnaw on something in the car, while others cope with the stress of thunderstorms by chewing through anything they can find. A dog’s surroundings and stimulants may cause their chewing instincts to kick in and should thus be closely considered when attempting to stop your pup’s excessive chewing.
Finally, our dogs may chew just to get our attention. Your dog chewing on a ball can prompt you to start a game of fetch, just as your dog chewing on something they’re not supposed to have will prompt you to run after them. Most of the time, our pups just want to connect with us. Chewing is one way to do that.
What you can do
The first step is to work with your veterinarian to determine the root cause of the excessive chewing. After that is understood, in order to avoid any gnawed-on furniture or destroyed shoes, provide your pooch with the right things to chew on. Never give your pup a chew toy that once belonged to a human (like an old rag or sneaker). Dogs don’t know the difference between a rag they can chew on and a dress they can’t—so only give your dog chew toys that are meant for dogs.
In addition, fight off puppy boredom by purchasing dog chews that change shape over time. , for example, become more interesting as your dog chews, thanks to the way the ear buckles as it’s eaten. For a species that primarily explores through chewing, this ensures hours of puppy-approved fun.