For many dog owners, coming home to find chewed-up furniture is a frustrating and perplexing experience. While it's natural for dogs to chew, understanding the reasons behind this behaviour is crucial for addressing and preventing it. In this article, we'll explore the common reasons why dogs chew on furniture and provide practical tips on how to curb this behaviour.
Why do dogs chew furniture?
There are six main reasons why your dog may chew the furniture. For puppies, it is usually a teething issue, so they will chew on things to ease discomfort. In older dogs, it could be because of several reasons including anxiety, boredom or to simply help maintain their jaw strength.
1. Instinctual Behaviour
Dogs have a natural instinct to chew, which stems from their ancestry as hunters and scavengers. Chewing is not only a way for them to explore and interact with their environment, but it also serves practical purposes. In the wild, chewing helped maintain dental health, strengthened jaw muscles, and provided mental stimulation. When dogs are domesticated, this instinct doesn't disappear; instead, it may manifest in chewing on household items like furniture.
Puppies, in particular, go through a teething phase, usually between three and six months of age. During this period, their gums may become sore and itchy, leading them to seek relief through chewing. Providing appropriate chews or toys and regularly checking their mouth for discomfort can help redirect their chewing behaviour. We love split deer antlers and pizzles for teething pups!
3. Boredom and Lack of Stimulation
Dogs, especially active breeds, can become bored when left alone for extended periods. In the absence of mental and physical stimulation, they may resort to chewing as a way to alleviate boredom. Regular exercise, interactive toys, and puzzle feeders can keep your dog engaged and reduce the likelihood of furniture chewing.
4. Separation Anxiety
Dogs are social animals that form strong bonds with their human companions. When left alone for long periods, some dogs may experience separation anxiety, leading to destructive behaviours like chewing. Addressing separation anxiety may involve gradual desensitisation to being alone, using comfort items, or seeking the assistance of a professional dog trainer or behaviourist.
5. Attention-Seeking Behaviour
Dogs may resort to chewing as a way to get attention, even if it's negative attention. If your dog associates chewing on furniture with getting a reaction from you, it may continue the behaviour. Positive reinforcement for good behaviour and redirection to appropriate chew toys can help break this cycle.
6. Medical Issues
In some cases, excessive chewing may be a sign of underlying health issues, such as dental problems or gastrointestinal discomfort. If you notice a sudden increase in chewing behaviour, it's advisable to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any potential medical causes.
How do I stop my dog chewing the furniture?
Addressing and preventing furniture chewing in dogs requires a combination of strategies that focus on redirecting their natural chewing instincts, providing alternatives, and addressing any underlying issues that may contribute to the behaviour. Here are some effective tips to help stop your dog from chewing furniture:
Provide Appropriate Chew Toys:
Offer a variety of safe and durable chew toys for your dog. Look for toys that are designed to promote dental health and are suitable for your dog's size and chewing style.
Rotate the toys regularly to keep them interesting and novel for your dog.
Provide Long Lasting Natural Chews
If your dog enjoys chewing on the wooden furniture, you could consider getting your hands on a few natural and long-lasting wooden chews like Olive Wood Dog Chews and Root Chews. Not only will they save your furniture, but they are 100% natural, so you don’t have to worry about any toxic chemicals or any bits being ingested. Other long lasting chews which are a great alternative to your furniture are Yak Bars and Lamb Horns.
Use Bitter Sprays or Deterrents
Apply pet-safe bitter sprays or deterrents to the furniture your dog is prone to chewing. These products have a taste and smell that dogs find unpleasant, discouraging them from chewing on treated surfaces.
Even better, make your own spray using Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice. Using a clean spray bottle, pour 2 cups of lemon juice into a jug with one cup of white vinegar, or 2 cups of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of white vinegar. Whether you use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar is up to you, lemon juice smells nicer around the home but apple cider vinegar can sometimes be more effective. The bitterness from either should deter your puppy or dog from wanting to chew anything that’s been sprayed.
Supervise and Manage Environment
When you cannot directly supervise your dog, consider confining them to a safe space, such as a crate or a dog-proofed room. This limits their access to furniture and reduces the likelihood of destructive behaviour.
Use baby gates or pet barriers to restrict access to certain areas of the house.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Ensure your dog gets enough physical exercise through walks, playtime, and other activities. A tired dog is less likely to engage in destructive behaviours out of boredom.
Incorporate mental stimulation into your dog's routine with puzzle toys, interactive feeders, or training sessions. Enrichment toys can be a great way to tackle boredom and keep your dog entertained. Lickimats can be frozen allowing them to last even longer! The motion of licking the mat also releases a feel-good chemical in the brain which helps relax your dog.
Training and Positive Reinforcement
Teach your dog basic obedience commands, such as "leave it" and "drop it." Consistently use positive reinforcement, rewarding good behaviour with natural treats or praise.
Redirect your dog's attention to appropriate chew toys when you catch them in the act of chewing furniture. Reinforce and reward them for choosing the correct items.
Address Anxiety and Boredom
If your dog is chewing due to separation anxiety, gradually desensitise them to being alone. Start with short periods and gradually increase the time.
Consider enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviourist, especially if the chewing behaviour is linked to anxiety or stress.
Consult with a Veterinarian
If the chewing behaviour persists or is sudden and severe, consult with your veterinarian to rule out any potential medical issues, such as dental problems or gastrointestinal discomfort.
Modify the Environment
Make the furniture less appealing by using furniture covers, anti-chew sprays, or double-sided tape. These methods can create an undesirable texture or taste.
Consistency is key when training your dog. Enforce rules consistently and reward positive behaviour promptly. Inconsistency can confuse your dog and make training less effective.
Remember, patience and positive reinforcement are crucial in modifying your dog's behaviour. It may take time for your dog to break the habit of chewing on furniture, so stay consistent in your efforts and provide plenty of positive reinforcement for good behaviour.
With Woofs and Wags,
Laura, Dolly & Reggie