Is your dog chewing you out of house and home? Of course we know that dogs chew a lot when they are puppies. While most dogs outgrow this habit, some may still continue with this activity and keep chewing on things after they grow up. Sometimes, a typically well-behaved adult dog may begin to chew things seemingly out of the blue. So what are the top causes for an excessive chewing dog?
Table Of Contents
- What causes excessive chewing in dogs?
- Top 10 Reasons: Why is your dog chewing excessively?
What causes excessive chewing in dogs?
Whatever the case may be, when your dog begins exhibit excessive chewing, the most important part of the solution is to find out what is causing this destructive behavior. We already mentioned the most common ones in our article about stopping a dog from chewing on door frames, but as noted in that article, those are not an all inclusive list, there are more reasons.
Top 10 Reasons: Why is your dog chewing excessively?
Here are the top 10 reasons why dogs chew and what may be the cause of excessive dog chewing:
1. Dog tries to escape confinement.
Excessive chewing, especially when it’s on a door frame or objects near an exit, is common if a dog is trying to escape confinement. When you leave your house or apartment, your dog may not like being left alone by themselves. The destructive chewing is then more than likely related to fear or anxiety, but in some cases, the dog may not enjoy confinement in itself.
2. Separation anxiety
This is among the most common causes for dogs chewing everything, especially on doors and door frames. This chewing behavior usually results in pretty severely damage doors, door frames, and door trim. Sound familiar? Your dog is likely afraid to be left alone and tries to escape confinement. Or your dog just misses you dearly. This is a trending problem that many of our patients are now coming to us with. They’ve been working from home for the last 2 years and now they have to go back to the office. Unfortunately, your pup doesn’t understand this. They only know that you are leaving and they miss you. Remember, dogs are pack animals and you are the leader of the pack. When you leave, your dog gets nervous.
We won’t talk further separation anxiety in much detail here. For further details, please see this ASPCA article on separation anxiety in dogs. For now, it is good to understand that your dog is not excessively chewing because they are mad at you. They are doing so because they are afraid to be without you.
- Signs of separation anxiety include hyper-attachment to one or more family members. In this case, destructive chewing occurs when the owner (or that specific person) is away. Your dog may also be howling, barking, and soiling the house. When you the owner comes home, your dog is likely to greet you with exaggerated enthusiasm. Additionally, when you are home, your dog may follow you from room to room.
- How to stop separation anxiety in dogs: Please understand that separation anxiety is a very complex syndrome. We recommend you to find professional help and consult with your veterinarian. This ASPCA article is excellent, please read more about separation anxiety here.
3. Fear-related anxiety
Do you notice your dog’s destructive chewing behavior is present during fireworks, thunderstorms, or other frightening times? In such cases, your dog is chewing on objects for two main reasons: your dog is trying to escape the “scary” thing and the chewing itself serves as a soothing activity. Staying close to your dog during these events is the most effective solution. The two reasons are:
- Not enough exercise and activity. The needs of your dog include: taking long walks, playing time, meeting other dogs and people (socialization), being aware of cars, and sniffing every corner. These are crucial activities. Remember that dogs are very active animals by nature. If for some reason, a dog does not get enough of these activities they may indulge more in activities that are available to them. For example they burn off their excessive energies by chewing on things.
- The owner has trained the dog to chew. We don’t mean that it happened intentionally. A common scenario is a dog that chews because of boredom or anxiety. The dog is longing for the attention of the owner it never gets enough of. Imagine what happens when the owner finds a chewed up shoe? More than likely they get mad, shouts at the dog angrily or worse. Paradoxically, in the eyes of the dog, it is at least some kind of attention and they are likely to chew again just to get some attention.
This is usually linked to a lack of activities because activities dissipate boredom. Inactivity can wind your dog up like a loaded spring which urges them to chew on items. You have two options to solve it. First, ensure your dog has enough activities to give them the mental stimulation they need. Second, leave dog toys all around for them to enjoy when you are away. Look here for a list of some exciting activities to do with your dog.
5. Playing and exploring
This is a very common reason why dogs chew. Just like human babies examine things with their mouth, dogs also learn about their environment through chewing and mouthing objects. It’s normal behavior for a puppy and younger dogs. Unfortunately if this is reinforced, it may continue into adulthood. Provide your dog with an adequate amount of toys to chew like a chew toy and other appropriate toy. Additionally, put items you don’t want inappropriate chewing on out of your puppy’s reach and never reward, praise, punish, or scold your dog for chewing. Remove the item silently instead.
This form of chewing is a natural reason why puppies chew things. It will typically last up to the age of six months until their adult teeth have fully come in. As your dogs teeth grow in, it creates discomfort that is relieved by chewing on things. In this case, you should provide many toys and items that are appropriate for teething. We’ve found wetting a small towel and putting it in the freezer. This is usually a treat for a puppy as their sore gums won’t bother them as much from the cold of the frozen towel.
7. Your dog enjoys chewing
More than likely there is some other cause that initiated the chewing such as fear or boredom. Many dogs find chewing interesting or enjoyable. Please understand that all dogs like to chew. When this behavior is directed towards chew toys, it’s a positive way to direct their excess energy and stress. In cases where the chewing becomes destructive, it may take more effort than to remove the initial cause.
8. Chewing provides attention
Chewing may be beneficial to your dog in some other way. Is your dog getting what they want because of their excessive chewing? For example, do you play with your dog or feed them to stop this destructive behavior? Aha. Your dog knows what to do to get your attention. Not to mention that if your dog manages to destroy the door and escape, they are also getting what they want. Yelling at your dog can also encourage more chewing. Why? Because, if your dog is seeking attention, yelling can provide it.
9. Medical issues
Medical causes may also be the reason why your dog is chewing excessively. Most commonly, it happens when a disease is causing discomfort, pain, or stress in your dog. Your sick puppy may find that the symptoms are relieved by chewing. Other health disorders may also be present such as increased urination, increased appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and activity changes. If you notice these, please visit your veterinarian. Compulsive disorders that are of neurological origin also shouldn’t be ignored.
Your dog may simply be hungry and finds that chewing things satiate them. As a good pet parent, you want your dog to maintain a healthy body weight. When a dog doesn’t get enough exercise combined with too much food and treats, your dog can gain weight. Putting your dog on a diet is something they don’t understand. All they know is they are hungry. In this case, provide an outlet for your dogs chewing behavior with chew toys. Another method we’ve found our patients have success with is a treat ball. You put kibble in the toy and your dog has to chew and play with it to get each morsel. This expends some of their energy and satiates them as well.
Lastly, you should also know that excessive chewing in dogs is often initiated by multiple causes. For example, separation anxiety may become severely exaggerated if your dog doesn’t get enough exercise or if you only give attention to your dog after something is destroyed. If you are not able to find out what is causing your dog’s excessive chewing, please seek the help of your veterinarian. You will be happy and your pet will be happy. And a happy pet is what we all want right?