Stop Your Pet's Unwanted Chewing

Dog and chewed up paper
Did your dog chew up your favorite item? While we know it's frustrating, punishing your dog is not the answer.

The world, as they say, is your oyster. But for many pets, life is more like a toy box stocked full of enticing items to investigate, play with, chew on, and potentially eat! Similar to human infants, puppies and kittens explore their world largely with their mouths and spend their early months teething. For them, chewing is an absolute necessity and may simply make those sore gums feel better. But sometimes, the tendency to chew on items persists and becomes destructive and unsafe well into adulthood. Here’s what you need to know to help stem your pet’s unwanted chewing behavior and restore peace to your home.

Take the Issue Seriously

Unwanted chewing is destructive and causes some pet owners tremendous stress. It also puts your pet’s health in danger. Pets who love to chew are at risk for electric shock, injury to their mouth and teeth, choking, poisoning, and digestive tract obstruction or injury. These problems may require emergency veterinary care and can be life-threatening.

Discover the “Why”

We know why teething puppies and kittens chew, and you can help minimize future destruction by encouraging your young pet to chew on appropriate pet toys in a supervised area. This will help promote a lifetime of healthy, safe chewing behavior.

If you have an older pet, however, learning why he chews will make it easier to reduce or eliminate the behavior. The tendency to hold, chew, and rip apart an item can be traced back to natural predatory instincts. If you’ve ever watched a dog or cat rip apart a toy, pull out the stuffing, and “kill” the squeaker, it’s easy to imagine his wild ancestors taking down and dissecting prey. But destructive chewing is not strictly about recreating the excitement of the wild. If your dog rips up socks or gnaws off the corner of a rug, it may be a result of boredom, separation anxiety, stress, or a desire for attention. It’s also possible he was never taught what is and is not acceptable to chew on.

If your pet’s chewing is inappropriate or destructive, or if it’s putting his health at risk, talk to your veterinarian. Chewing may be an expression of a bigger health problem. Some medical conditions, including some compulsive disorders, can lead to excessive chewing. Unless you resolve the underlying health issue, chances are, you won’t be able to stop the unwanted chewing.

Don’t Punish

It’s understandable to be frustrated if the cat chewed you out of functional hairbands or if the dog tore up your favorite cozy slippers. But experts don’t recommend punishment. Animals aren’t capable of associating punishment with anything other than the immediate act that preceded it. Unless you’re prepared to punish your pet in the moment every single time he chews, your attempts won’t be effective. In fact, punishment is far more likely to result in other undesirable behaviors than to correct unwanted behaviors.


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