How to Stop Destructive Dog Chewing

Two puppies chewing on shoe laces, an example of destructive dog chewing

Dog chewing is a normal canine behavior, especially for puppies who are exploring the world around them and learning how to use their mouths appropriately. Dogs also chew to relieve boredom or stress. However, chewing can become problematic if the dog is chowing down on household items and not on dog-safe chewing materials. Instead of punishing your dog for destructive chewing, try to embrace their chewing instinct by refocusing the dog’s attention to more appropriate objects.

Redirecting inappropriate dog chewing

Start by having an abundance of items around that are safe for your dog to chew on. To interest your dog in chewing on these items, try to have a variety of textures, shapes, tastes, etc. These items should always be available to your dog — including outside if your dog tends to chew on inappropriate things in the yard.

If your pup starts to chew on an inappropriate item, simply trade the dog for an appropriate one. When they begin to chew on it, give them lavish praise. Take note of which types of items your dog gravitates toward to chew on, and try to find similar items to expand their chew toy collection.  

But never allow your dog to chew on any of your possessions — even ones you don’t mind being chewed. A dog can’t distinguish between, for instance, an old worn-out shoe and a brand-new one. You should also help your dog stop destructive chewing by not leaving items within their reach that they might be tempted to chew.  

Furthermore, always check your dog’s chew toys for wear and tear. If you leave your dog unattended, make sure they can’t ingest any object they’re chewing on.

Selecting dog chew toys

There are plenty of products on the market that are healthy and fun for dogs to chew on. Pet supply stores have a wide variety of durable rubber or nylon dog toys that satisfy a dog’s urge to chew. Dog food puzzles that you can stuff treats into (such as Kongs and Buster Cubes) can keep a dog occupied for a long while and not only satisfy the urge to chew, but also offer brain work in the form of helping the dog to develop problem-solving skills.

You can fill a Kong (or other durable chew toy) with peanut butter, wet dog food mixed with dry, or a piece of cheese. If your dog empties the toy too quickly, experiment with different fillers. You can try filling the Kong with wet dog food and freezing it or wedging a piece of hard cheese tightly inside the toy.

Maintaining good chewing behavior

To prevent your dog from becoming bored with their chew toys, rotate them. Put some away for a while and then bring them out again, making them seem like they’re new. Keep trying toys with different tastes, odors, textures, and challenges (e.g., new puzzles).  

Finally, because some dogs will chew out of boredom, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and interaction with you on a daily basis.