To chew or not to chew isn’t really the question … chewing is a necessary behavior for all dogs. It helps strengthen the jaw and can help keep teeth clean. However, inappropriate chewing can be one of the costliest behavioral issues pet owners face with puppies and adult dogs alike. The key is to teach your dog what items are a fun and exciting chew toy and which they should avoid.

Excessive chewing in dogs can be linked to a number of external issues. Boredom, teething in puppies, separation anxiety, hunger and attention seeking are the most common explanations for this behavioral issue. Through a number of steps, it can be relatively easy to deter and prevent negative chewing.

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Out of Sight

Step one is, of course, to pick up any items you don’t want your mischievous pup getting his mouth on. It is particularly important to keep cleaning supplies and electrical cords out of doggy reach. Shoes, socks, and other items should also be put away to avoid chewing. Make sure you aren’t giving your dog a chew toy that can easily be mixed up with something you don’t want chewed. That old running shoe with the hole in it can easily be mixed up with your newest, pricey kicks.

You Have a Bone to Pick

Step two is discovering the most awesome chew toy your pup has ever seen. Every dog is different and has unique likes and dislikes. Watching what items your dog regularly seeks out can give you some insight into the types of chew toys your new family member will love. For example, if your dog is constantly finding and chewing on sticks when you are outside, he may enjoy one of the several options of wood bones. Naturally shed antler chews are popularity with many pups, and NylaBone, Kong, and Greenies have safe products that just beg to be chewed. When buying a chew toy make sure you buy the appropriate size for your dog. Both Kong and Nylabone sell chew toys specifically designed for growing and teething pups that come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

If your dog doesn’t seem to be too interested in any of the toys you bring home, you can up the awesome factor. Pair the toy with meal-time and play-time. If it’s a toy that can hold food, feed dinner in the toy a few times. You can also fill certain toys with your pup’s favorite treats or add a little peanut butter to the mix. You can always try changing chew toys every few days so the chew toy becomes novel to your pup once again.

Play is the Way

Step three is the age-old, dog training golden rule. Tire that dog out! A well-exercised and mentally stimulated dog is the happiest kind of dog. To vary your typical evening walk, try out different training classes and visit new areas. Puppies do well at canine kindergarten classes and high-energy dogs can be enrolled in a variety of agility classes. Going to dog parks for playtime with other pups is another good way to burn a lot of energy. During down time at home try entertaining your canine companion with treat puzzles or learning a new trick. This not only focuses your dog’s physical and mental energy, but it can increase bonding between pet and owner and reinforce a great relationship.

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Uh-Oh

Lastly, you’re going to need hawk-like supervision during this training time. While your dog or puppy is learning what not to chew, you should have a good eye on them as much as possible. When you do find your pup chewing on something that isn’t theirs, the ASPCA recommends saying “uh-oh,” removing the item from his/her mouth, and replacing it quickly with doggy chew toy. Praising your pup when they are chewing on the correct things during the first few weeks is incredibly important as well. If you find evidence of destructive chewing, you should never discipline after the fact. If you must leave your dog unattended during this time, leave them in a secure place with all off-limits items out of the way and one or two chew toys present.

The Chewer and You

Having a respectable chewer can make life so much easier and pleasant for both you and your dog. Teaching your dog what to chew and what not to chew takes patience and dedication. When working towards this goal, make sure to keep realistic expectations. Your dog will inevitably have a slip up and destroy something you would’ve rather kept in one piece. They will make up for it with love and companionship. If you continue to have trouble with chewing after following these steps, you may need to hire a professional to come in and help.

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Image source: m01229/flickr