Keeping ‘Em Honest: Managing Puppy Chewing

Lea Jaratz

Most dogs need a great deal of safety-proofing to keep them honest and out of trouble. And when it comes to puppies, you’re not only fighting their instinct to chew, but also teething, curiosity, boredom, and separation anxiety. I don’t know any puppy that made it through the first few weeks without wrecking something. But, after 14 years with some problematic chewers, I’ve learned that, if you can think like your dog, you can set him up for success. It’s become second nature for me to do a quick “puppy proof” before we head up to bed or leave the house. Let me show you what I mean.

Know why your dog chews:

Not every dog chews things for the same reason. There is an array of possibilities:

Separation Anxiety: Lyger only chewed my possessions, including my space on the couch, demonstrating he was upset when I left him alone. It took managing his separation anxiety to cut back on his destructive behavior.

Teething: Puppy gums get sore from teething and their first instinct might be to chew your molding or a table leg to relieve the discomfort. Provide your puppy with appropriate chew toys in an effort to save your furniture.

Boredom: As the saying goes, “A tired dog is a happy dog.” It’s even more true for puppies. If your puppy is getting adequate exercise and mental stimulation, he’s less likely to focus his energy on chewing.

Curiosity: What does drywall taste like? What about your favorite shoes? Your puppy has all of these questions and a million more, and nothing stopping him from doing a little investigative chewing.

Recognize your dog’s vice:

Kayden’s got a thing for gnawing on remote controls. Tahlula chewed up every coaster we owned. Lyger...whoa. What didn’t he chew? Mattresses, towels, toys, and underwear. Lots and lots of underwear.

  • I chew because I love you. Most puppies will chew up items that belong to (and smell like) their favorite people, including socks, shoes, and gloves. Kleenex and other personal products are also favorites. As tempting as it may be, don’t give your puppy one of your old shoes as a substitute for one of your off-limits shoes. It only sends mixed signals about what is or isn’t okay to chew.
  • Food items. It’s not really fair to leave leftover pizza crust on the counter and expect your dog to leave it alone. The same goes for items thrown in garbage cans. Keeping garbage cans locked or secured and counters cleared will keep your kitchen a puppy-friendly zone.
  • “But I thought it was my toy!” At least that’s what your dog is thinking while you’re scolding him for chewing up your kid’s beanie baby or basketball. The only difference between most kids’ toys and a dog toy is a squeaker. Keep the kids’ clutter out of puppy’s reach, or there might be a sad conversation about the demise of someone’s favorite My Little Pony.

That being said, assume it’s all fair game. Puppies will chew on just about anything, from rocks to glass ornaments. Nothing is safe.

Keep them honest

Keeping clutter and anything you don’t want destroyed out of reach is a good start, but sometimes that’s not feasible.

  • The crate is your friend and should be your puppy’s friend too. Letting your puppy play or rest in an empty crate while you’re gone is not only safer, but more comforting to your little one. Always remove chewable bedding or destructible toys, as those will pose a risk.

    Pro-tip: Don’t leave the crate where your dog can pull items in. I once came home to curtains that were six inches shorter because I thought my dog would like being next to a window for fresh air. He ate as much as he could pull in through the bars.
  • I know it can be tempting to just confine a dog instead of crating. While some puppies do well locked in laundry areas or a bathroom instead of a crate, most will still chew whatever is available, including a locked door, the flooring, or, in Lyger’s case, a stair railing.
  • Chewing deterrent sprays, like bitter apple, are a small investment compared to replacing your couch. Keep some on hand and re-apply to high risk areas (furniture, bedding, molding) regularly. These can prevent a problem when your pup sneaks out of sight for a few seconds.

What’s the craziest thing your puppy has ever chewed up? We know you’ve got some stories of goofy puppy antics and we want to hear ‘em!

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