Few things are less welcoming than coming home after a long day at work to torn-up furniture. Your instinct is to yell at your dog and punish him for ruining something expensive you love. But the fact is, your dog isn’t chewing on fabric, woodwork, drapes, futons, couches, linens or anything else just to anger you or get back at you for leaving him alone. Chewing evolves from boredom, meaning it can be effectively handled and controlled.
Why Does Your Dog Chew?
If you have a puppy at home, expect him to chew on things. According to Cesar Milan, puppies use their mouths to learn about the world. Just like human babies, puppies teethe, with their baby teeth normally coming through at two months of age. Between two and four months after that, their permanent teeth begin to emerge. Chewing helps relieve some discomfort from this painful process.
Some older dogs also have chewing problems. Before you can stop the behavior, you must determine the cause. If he wasn’t taught as a puppy what was okay to chew, he’ll continue to chew on anything.
How to Stop Your Dog’s Inappropriate Chewing
If you’re dealing with a puppy, three steps are imperative to curbing inappropriate chewing: puppy proofing your home, getting him plenty of exercise, and directing him to appropriate chew toys. Keep your shoes, clothes and valuables out of your puppy’s reach. Since furniture and drapes can’t be put away, you must teach your dog what is okay to chew. Restrict him to a certain area of the home until he’s learned this distinction.
When you’re with him, redirect any inappropriate chewing to a toy or treat. If your dog has separation anxiety, Kongs, Buster Cubes and other toys you can fill with treats and food may keep him focused on getting a reward, not your absence. Treat more severe separation anxiety by desensitizing your dog to you being away. Remove yourself from his presence for short periods of time, returning before he begins chewing or otherwise reacting. Reward him with a lot of attention. Extend the amount of time you are out of his sight (and range of smell) to build up his tolerance to your absence.
A tired dog isn’t going to chew your belongings, so walk your puppy and play with him every day. Exercise is the best way to prevent boredom. If your dog is walked and played with for 45 minutes to an hour before you leave him, he’s likely to rest a good portion of the time after that.
Protecting New Furniture
Don’t let your puppy’s chewing problem deter you from buying or owning the furniture you want. Just make sure the fabric is pet-friendly, but the frame is not. For example, if you’re buying a new futon, go with microfiber fabric similar to the color of your dog. You can also invest in a washable slip cover. For the frame, go with something metal that has discreet legs and forgoes the arms. The less surface area you give a puppy to chew, the better. If your puppy starts going for the futon mattress, and enjoys flinging around stuffing like he’s trying to win a snowball fight, look into repellents you can spray directly on the fabric.
What Not to Do
Do not yell at your dog when you come home to a chewed up pillow. He has no idea he’s in trouble for something he did hours ago. Also, never give your dog a toy that resembles “off limits” items, like shoes or towels, as it will only confuse him. If the problem persists, don’t rule out nutritional issues. Speak with your vet if you’ve exhausted all other potential causes.