Puppies explore the world with their mouths, which can lead to unwanted chewing. Medical conditions such as sore gums and teething can also increase their need to chew toys, furniture and clothing they find in their path. This guide reviews why do puppies chew and ways you can curb chewing and other destructive behavior in your puppy before those behaviors become habits that an adult dog has difficulty breaking. 

Why Do Puppies Chew

The Types of Chewing Behavior in Puppies 

Before you can begin to work on your puppy’s chewing behavior, it’s useful to know why it wants to put everything it encounters into its mouth. There are multiple reasons dogs chew throughout their lifetime, but it’s normal puppy behavior in most cases. If you can teach your puppy what’s an acceptable chew toy and what’s not, it will learn to fulfill those needs in a healthy way that isn’t bringing destruction to your home and stress to your family. 

Here are a few reasons your puppy likes to chew: 

To Relieve Mild Anxiety 

When a dog feels threatened, worried or alone, it may resort to chewing to calm and relax itself. Dogs with separation anxiety often chew whatever they can find to pass time before their owners return home, for example. Chewing can be one of several fear-related behaviors, so if you’re noticing your puppy chewing more than normal, try to observe what’s causing the stress, such as loud noise, other dogs or people and cars passing by your home. You can desensitize your dog to these things with targeted training to put it at ease in the future. 

To Cure Boredom 

When you’re not able to give direct attention to your puppy, it finds something to do itself. Puppy chewing is fun and interesting because dogs like to feel different textures in their mouths. If your dog isn’t getting enough physical and mental exercise, it turns to chewing to stay busy. Just like humans, dogs don’t like to sit around and do nothing for hours on end, so it’s their way of passing time.  

It Makes Sore Gums Feel Better During Teething 

Depending on your dog’s breed, baby teeth can begin to fall out at around three months, and the teething process continues until about six months. When a dog’s mouth is going through these changes, its gums are sore and irritated. Chewing can relieve some of that discomfort and help the adult teeth erupt. An adult dog doesn’t need to chew as often due to oral discomfort, so you might notice an improvement in destructive chewing around this time.  

How To Prevent Destructive Chewing 

You should use a strategy similar to what families use when human babies arrive home. Limiting your dog’s exposure to things it shouldn’t have access to can limit chewing and other undesirable behaviors. Crate-trained dogs are housebroken faster and only have access to dog toys they have permission to chew.  

Putting objects in a puppy’s crate such as its own dog toys, edible chews, bully sticks and a Kong-type toy provides plenty of mental stimulation when you’re not able to give the dog your full attention. When you put a lot of objects appropriate for chewing in your puppy’s crate, you’re teaching it what’s safe to explore with its mouth. The next step is to communicate what you consider inappropriate chewing. 

You can do this by first puppy-proofing your home so it can only reach areas in your immediate view and keeping things out of the dog’s reach that would threaten its own safety. Dogs love to explore, so allow your puppy to sniff around a room and begin to play. It will inevitably chew something you don’t want it to, so have some appropriate items ready that it can chew. Divert the destructive behaviors by interrupting the chewing, then give your dog one of the toys it can chew on. 

Give your puppy plenty of options to curb undesirable behavior. Rotating your puppy’s toys offers something new and exciting to put teeth on, and you could incorporate a puzzle toy to offer more mental stimulation. Whenever your dog chooses the right toy, reinforce the choice with a “Good dog,” but try not to teach it that it’ll get extra attention for chewing the wrong things. 

Provide a chew toy to your puppy.

Additional Strategies To Limit Destructive Dog Chewing 

If you’ve given your dog plenty of toys to chew on and a dog-proof environment and notice it still has a desire to exhibit unwanted chewing behavior, there are other things you can do. A tired dog doesn’t chew as much, so trips to the dog park, dog sports and physical and mental activity are all ways you can help your dog expend its energy.  

You can use a taste deterrent to keep your dog’s teeth off objects such as trash cans and wooden furniture. These substances have bittering agents in them that are safe for your dog but taste horrible. When the dog explores the object, the taste will remind it that it’s not pleasant, and the smell should keep it away in the future.  

You can talk to your veterinarian for additional guidance if you’re still struggling. If your dog’s chew toys aren’t enough to keep it entertained, your vet might suggest working with a dog behavior professional such as The Dog Wizard. Our dog trainers have experience working with puppies and older dogs. There’s no behavior we can’t help you overcome.  

A Balanced Approach When Puppies and Adult Dogs Chew Uncontrollably 

Just like humans, dogs have unique personalities and needs. What works for one puppy might not work for another. This is why The Dog Wizard believes in a balanced training approach that uses multiple training disciplines to deliver results. If your dog is chewing excessively and you’ve tried everything you can think of, we can help. To learn more, give us a call at (877) 585-9727. If you are also looking to switch careers and need help with the dog training certification, we are here to help.