As a dog owner, no doubt you’ve at some point come home to a piece of furniture or a pair of shoes utterly destroyed. Sometimes dogs can even chew through drywall or floorboards, doing actual structural damage to your home that can result in very costly repairs. While your dog clearly has the ability to bite as a survival trait, the reasons behind excessive chewing are still kind of murky. Chewing can be a sign of quite a few different issues. Does your dog do this out of some displaced aggression? Is separation anxiety the real reason for this behavior? Are they fighting off an animal instinct that just can’t be avoided?
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The Root of the Behavior
So the most common cause of excessive chewing in your dog is separation anxiety. This occurs primarily in housetrained dogs that don’t get a lot of socialization outside of your presence in the home. Dogs that have been raised in an environment with a lot of people around and a lot of attention have a hard time adjusting to a change in environments. It’s fairly common for dog owners to see this after spending a period of time with their pets and then starting a new position at work. Your dog quite literally has no idea what to do with himself as prior to now his universe has revolved mainly around you. Separation anxiety can be a pretty severe problem and usually needs to be treated with training, although in more severe cases it might even require medication. If you have real concerns that this might be afflicting your dog, always consult with your general vet.
Hunger is another obvious factor that can contribute to their chewing habits. If your dog doesn’t have easy access to food throughout the day, they can quickly build up quite the appetite. This is only made worse by their high metabolism. When they hit a certain threshold of hunger, chewing becomes a compulsion that they honestly have trouble controlling. And because it’s a hunger-based compulsion, they avoid chewing on their toys because they don’t identify them as sustenance. This is what drives them to chew on things like drywall or wood because, to their senses, it’s the closest thing to food that they can identify. A real easy way to avoid this compulsion is to keep some sort of food on hand for your dog whenever you’re away. If they can properly feed themselves, they’re much less likely to try and eat the furniture.
Encouraging the Behavior
Anger is another fairly common reason for your dog to go nibbling away at the family heirlooms and footwear. Yes, your dog can get angry with you. And yes, this anger can externalize itself in the types of behavior we would almost regard as a form of revenge. Your dog’s mental health can be just as nuanced of a predicament to deal with as any physical ailments they may exhibit. Unfortunately, psychological issues in canines can be a little more difficult to diagnose and treat, as your dog doesn’t have very clear ways to communicate with you. That’s why it’s so vital that as a dog owner you pay critical attention to your dog’s proclivities. They are the only warning signs that you have as a dog owner.
A newly popularized theory about chewing is that your dog is trying to take control of its environment. While dogs lack the kind of detailed eyesight we experience as humans, they have great tactile senses. When coupled with their keen sense of smell, your dog can quite literally take notice of every bite mark and its location. For them, this is almost akin to “nest building” in birds. They are surrounding themselves with items they now “own” after having chewed them into oblivion. While this instinct is frequently the main motivator behind the destruction caused, it has proven to be a valuable hypothesis for a lot of dog owners unable to find a reasonable solution.
Other Solutions and Considerations
All of the reasons behind your dog’s chewing tend to point towards a very small set of issues that, if avoided, can curb the chewing behavior altogether. Maintaining a respectable amount of food for them to consume while you are gone is key to avoiding hunger pains, and therefore hunger chews. Finding ways for them to socialize in your absence will also help, as this can alleviate the issues commonly seen with separation anxiety. Getting your dog plenty of exercise not only relieves issues of stress and anxiety but also releases the large amounts of pent-up energy your dog can commonly have in his reserves. Proper attention to your dog’s behaviors will only help you identify and solve health issues before they truly become a burden.
At the end of the day, your dog is going to chew things regardless of how many alternatives you provide him with. It’s just in his nature. But, from the evidence looked at here it’s clear that with proper attention, care, and training you can severely limit the damage done. Regardless, what is true is that without proper care or attention your dog is always going to do what he “chews”es!