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Ask the experts

Why did my adult dog start destructive chewing?


On occasion, an adult dog that has been left alone with the run of the house will suddenly begin chewing on things he previously left alone.

This may be a stress response to something happening in your absence, such as loud equipment working in the street in front of your house, stray dogs romping through the yard or someone trying to get into the house. A compelling need to urinate or defecate can also stress a well-trained dog into inappropriate chewing.

If you can determine the cause of the stressor and remove the source, your dog should quickly revert to his good behavior. The dog should first be checked out by your veterinarian to rule out possible medical causes. Anytime there is a significant behavior change in an adult dog it is important to rule out any underlying physical problems.

Inappropriate chewing might be a result of inactivity and pent-up energy. Perhaps the weather has been bad or your workload extra heavy, restricting your normal exercise sessions with your dog. That energy has to go somewhere, and for some dogs, it goes right to their jaws. The solution here is a renewed commitment to provide adequate exercise, with the addition of mental exercise into your dog's daily routine.

The use of a crate is a good way to keep your dog from chewing household items, but far too often crating is overused. A dog should not be crated over a few hours daily. The dog's energy will increase and pent up energy will manifest itself in one way or another.

If you choose to leave your dog loose in the house, take a good look around and get down to your dog's eye level looking for pencils, books, pillows or other chewable items. Provide appropriate chew toys for him. Food stuff-able toys are great to leave with your dog. Hollow rubber toys that you can fill with tasty treats. Smear some soft cheese or peanut butter around the inside then add some treats and dog kibble. Freeze them and it will take the dog longer to get to the food, keeping him too busy to chew your things.

Destructive chewing can be caused by pent up energy and boredom. Dogs who don't get enough exercise will expend that energy by chewing on anything they can get their teeth on. It is imperative these dogs get more exercise than just running around the backyard. Off-property walks give the dog a chance to investigate and explore new areas. Like us they get stir crazy when spending several days at home, never leaving the house or yard.

Anxiety can also cause a dog to become destructive. Anxiety from being home alone, bad weather or strange noises are just a few things that could cause your dog to become nervous. Many people bite their fingernails when anxious just as many dogs chew on objects when they feel anxious. If not provided appropriate chew items the dog will turn his nervous energy onto your valuables.

Think about what's going on in your life, has there been a change in your lifestyle causing the dog's exercise to be decreased? You're working longer hours or the kids have left home and they were the ones exercising the dog. Someone moved out or someone moved in can shake up a dog's routine resulting in a chewing problem.

Illness or injury can also add to the dog's stress level so a trip to the vet may be in order if your dog has any major change in behavior.

Dogs loose interest in the toys they have, so keep things fresh by rotating them. Put a third of your dog's toys in a closet and every week or two, bring those out and put another third up. That way you don't have to keep buying new toys and won't have a toy basket overflowing with unused toys. If you give your dog chew bones or food stuffed toys, keep things interesting by varying the type of chew bone or what you put inside the toy.

Keep your dog exercised, keep his toys interesting and keep your things out of reach and both you and your dog will be happier.

Tip of the week: Roll on deodorant or bitter sprays can be applied to furniture and woodwork to discourage your dog from chewing on them. Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email

Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the lead trainers are graduates of Purdue University's DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.