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Chewing is a natural behavior for your dog, but coming home to find your couch strewn throughout your living room is not desirable for anyone, you or your dog. Dogs need to chew when they are young, as a way to relieve the pain of teething, and older dogs chew to loosen debris from their teeth and keep their jaws and teeth strong and healthy. Therefore, you do not want to teach your dog not to chew, just not to chew on your furniture!
Besides not wanting your furniture or other possessions damaged, chewing on furniture can be dangerous to your dog, as they can damage their teeth on hardwood or sharp corners, ingest furniture polish, loose bits of furniture, or upholstery, or they can damage their mouth with slivers. Besides being expensive to replace damaged items, you could incur veterinary bills if your dog is injured or made sick by ingesting something non-digestible.
Because dogs need to chew, any method used to prevent them chewing on furniture should provide an alternative safe chewing opportunity. Providing a viable alternative to their furniture chewing habit is vital to success, and your dog's health and happiness. It is easier to train your dog from an early age to chew on appropriate items before they get into the habit of damaging your furniture, by providing appropriate chew toys and items. If your dog has started chewing furniture you will need to break that habit, as well as redirect them to appropriate chew items.
Ensure you have appropriate chew items, such as toys you can put food in, rawhide bones, or other chew toys available for your dog. Do not use household items such as shoes or other personal items that will confuse your dog if they transfer to other similar items that are forbidden. Because boredom can contribute to destructive chewing, have puzzle feeders and activities like hollow rubber chew toys that can be filled with food available, to entertain your dog, as a distraction, and alternate behavior. Deterrents such as foul tasting chew deterrents, that are non-toxic, can be purchased commercially, which can be used in conjunction with other negative association creating devices such as noise makers. If a furniture chewing habit has started you may need to have a way of removing your dog from the object they have started chewing; dog gates, crates or the ability to shut your dog in a different part of the house may be necessary. Several methods or combinations of training techniques can be used to deter your dog from chewing furniture, below are some methods that can be used alone or in combination to curb a dog's destructive furniture chewing habit.
The Positive Habit Method
Provide chew toys
From as early an age as possible, develop a toy habit with your dog by providing lots of attractive chew toys.
Use interactive feeders
Fill hollow rubber toys or puzzle feeders with food at meal time.
Reinforce chew toys
Provide rawhide bones and make them into playthings by playing with your dog, petting, and paying attention to him while he chews on his appropriate toy, to encourage chew toy behavior.
Exercise and activity
Provide other toys such as balls to keep your dog active and entertained, so he will not become bored and be tempted to transfer his attention to furniture or other inappropriate household items to entertain himself. Play with and exercise your dog extensively, use appropriate chew items as part of play and exercise to reinforce what your dog is allowed to chew on.
Separate from furniture
If your dog has started chewing on furniture, keep him separate from the object he is interested in chewing and reinforce appropriate chewing items until a new chewing habit is established.
The Claim Furniture Method
If your dog has started chewing on a piece of furniture, block him from access to that furniture when not supervised.
Command 'leave it'
Under your supervision, wait until your dog approaches the furniture he has been chewing and put your body firmly between him and the furniture. Give a 'leave it'” command or a firm “No”.
Tap your dog on the side to exert leadership and claim your space, push him away with your body.
When your dog retreats from the furniture, praise him and give him an alternate chew item. Encourage and praise him for chewing the appropriate item in an area separate from the furniture he has previously chewed on.
Maintain separation when unsupervised, and when supervised do not allow your dog to even approach the furniture that is the object of his chewing habit. Claim the furniture as your territory, provide your dog with an alternate territory and chew item, repeat as necessary for several days until a new, healthy chew habit is formed that does not involve your furniture.
The Deter Method
Use taste deterrent
Spray furniture with a commercial non-toxic, bad tasting chewing deterrent
You will need to supervise your dog, as chewing deterrents alone are not always successful at preventing your dog from chewing on items. Have an alternate negative consequence available, such as a loud noise maker.
Use noise maker
When your dog approaches the furniture and starts chewing, activate the noise making device.
Create negative association
Used in combination with the commercial taste deterrent, this will create a negative association between the taste and noise, and the furniture chewing behavior.
Provide an alternate chew item such as a rawhide bone, in a separate location. Praise and encourage your dog to chew on the appropriate object. Reward him with treats for chewing on his chew toy to replace the furniture habit.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021