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Why Your Dog Chews Everything and How to Stop It

Picture this: You’re sitting in the living room, enjoying a quiet evening, when you suddenly hear a loud crash. You rush into the kitchen to find your dog has knocked over the trash can, spreading its contents everywhere. Or perhaps you walk into the bedroom and find your favorite pair of shoes chewed to pieces. Many dog owners face this challenge, dealing with pets that exhibit destructive behaviors like chewing, getting into the trash, and shredding pillows or rugs—even when they are home. Addressing these behaviors is crucial to maintaining a harmonious home environment, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You need to understand the underlying reasons for the behavior, set the stage for the desired behaviors, meet your dog’s needs proactively, and address any emotional issues driving the problem behavior. In this blog, I will discuss destructive behavior in the home and the best ways to address it.

The first step in addressing destructive behavior is to figure out its function. Why is your dog doing this? Start by ruling out separation anxiety or other separation-related behaviors. Does the destructive behavior only occur when your dog is left home alone? Does it happen every time your dog is left alone? If you answered yes to both questions, you might be dealing with a separation-related issue. Destructive behavior can be a symptom of your dog’s emotional distress when left alone. If you believe your dog’s behavior is separation-related, you’ll need to address it by gradually desensitizing your dog to departures at a level that does not cause undue stress. For more information on separation anxiety, check out my other blogs here and here.

Is your dog frustrated? Frustrated dogs often exhibit destructive behavior as a way to redirect their frustration. For example, shredding your shoes could be a response to seeing a squirrel outside the window and being unable to chase it because the window prevented it, causing frustration and prompting the dog to seek an outlet for that frustration. Dogs can become frustrated for various reasons, but it usually boils down to not being able to access something they want. This could be chasing a small animal, interacting with a visitor on the front porch but being prevented by the door, or being unable to get your attention while you’re on the computer or the phone.

If your dog is being destructive due to frustration, addressing it through management and antecedent arrangement is your first step. Are there things you can do to adjust the environment to reduce frustration-inducing events? With the squirrel example, you could cover the window with window film so your dog is not taunted by squirrels outside and thus not left in a frustrated state. You could also teach your dog to come and settle on a mat, cueing this behavior when you sense your dog is experiencing frustration to help them settle down.

If dogs experience strong emotions, particularly frustration, destructive behavior may be a result of redirected behavior. For instance, a dog may be stuck indoors, agitated by the sound of the neighbor weed-whacking, and redirect that agitation onto a nearby throw pillow, ripping and shredding it to pieces.

Is your dog bored? Has your dog had exercise that day, been given enriching mental activities to do, and had all their basic needs met? What is your dog’s typical energy level? Do you have a young, active dog who has not been exercised enough? Has your dog been home alone all day while you were at work with nothing to do? Ensuring that all your dog’s basic needs are met proactively is essential to preventing destructive behavior. If you have a dog with a high need for cognitive stimulation, make sure to meet that need. This can be done through food puzzle toys, scavenging exercises like hiding treats in snuffle mats or inside a box, scent games to play in the house or yard, and teaching your dog new tricks and skills as part of their daily routine.

Chewing is a natural and normal dog behavior. When you bring a dog into your home, you should assume they will have a desire to chew. There are all sorts of commercially made dog chew items available, and you can pick the one that’s right for your dog. Some are better suited for tough chewers than others. Options like Nylabones, bully sticks, and marrow bones are good choices to meet a dog’s need to chew. If you have an adolescent dog, they will have an even stronger need and desire to chew, so make sure you prepare to set them up for success by providing appropriate chew items from the start. This helps them learn good habits and know where to put their mouth when they need to chew.

Sometimes dogs chew up items in the home as part of a learned behavior. Has your dog figured out that chewing an item will earn them your attention? Perhaps your dog has learned to chew and be destructive during particular situations, such as when the family sits down to eat dinner, when you get on a Zoom call, or when you talk on the phone. If this is the case, your dog may be chewing as part of an attention-seeking behavior. When your dog is attention-seeking, it indicates a need that is not being met. Why is your dog having to seek out your attention through destructive behavior, and how can you set the stage for them to get your attention proactively for appropriate behavior?

You can allocate time during your day to “catch” your dog doing appropriate behaviors and ensure that these behaviors are the most effective way to get your attention. If you wait until your dog is already seeking attention by chewing on your shoe, you’ll have no choice but to respond to the behavior, starting a cycle of habitual attention-seeking behavior. Instead, proactively give your dog attention for behaviors you want to see more of. Set up your environment so that the items they want to chew are not available and ensure there are appropriate items readily accessible, especially when you are engaged in activities that trigger the behavior, such as working on the computer or talking on the phone.

Young dogs who are teething will also have a strong desire to chew and may be more destructive. This is especially common in dogs between 5 to 7 months of age. Make sure they have plenty of items to chew on to relieve the pain associated with teething. Additionally, an adult dog may have an intense desire to chew if they are experiencing a medical issue related to their mouth, such as an abscess or a broken tooth. If you’ve addressed the other factors mentioned above but are still having issues, it may be worthwhile to ensure that nothing medically is wrong with your dog.

What should you do if your dog is already engaging in destructive behavior and you catch them in the act? The best approach is to act as if you do not care about the item they have. Do not attempt to ask them to drop it, leave it, or try to take the item from them. This will only teach them that taking the item gets them extra attention from humans. You don’t want to add value to the destructive behavior. Instead, redirect your dog to follow you into another room to do something fun.

For example, if you see your dog with your shoe in their mouth, say, “Hey Fido, oh my gosh, follow me into the kitchen. Look what I have here!” When the dog follows you into the kitchen, give them something more appropriate to do. This could be allowing them into the backyard for a quick potty break, encouraging them to get their toy that you toss, offering them a few treats for following you into the kitchen and responding to your cue, or giving them a puzzle toy or something else to chew if they need to chew at that moment. Once your dog is distracted and doing another activity, quietly pick up the shoe and return it to its original place.

If your dog is repetitively stealing items, it may be wise to clean up your environment. Remove items they tend to gravitate towards and put them in the closet or on high shelves, so your dog does not have access. Set the stage to prevent them from rehearsing the behavior you do not want. At the same time, ensure there are plenty of appropriate items available to them that can take the place of the destructive ones. You may need to make sure your shoes are securely placed in the closet behind a solid door, and that an attractive chew item is placed on the ground in front of the closet.

Reprimanding your dog for chewing an item may stop the behavior in the moment, but it is likely to cause a larger problem in the long run. It is very unlikely that you will be able to be 100% consistent in preventing your dog from chewing an item the moment they get it unless you are constantly supervising them. If you are constantly supervising your dog, you should be able to prevent them from taking an item to chew in the first place.

Another issue is that you might teach your dog to avoid you when they have an item they are chewing. When they see you coming and realize you are going to correct them, they might run away and play keep-away. Worse still, they may begin to exhibit aggressive behavior to prevent you from taking the item, especially if they associate your arrival with punishment and the removal of something they were previously enjoying.

There are always better ways to deal with this situation beyond corrections. If you find yourself resorting to reprimands, it implies that you need to be more thoughtful about management and antecedent arrangement, as described above.

Addressing destructive behavior in dogs requires understanding the underlying causes and proactively managing your dog’s environment and needs. Whether the behavior is driven by frustration, boredom, or a desire for attention, there are effective strategies to help your dog develop better habits. By providing appropriate outlets for their energy and instincts, setting up the environment to minimize triggers, and reinforcing positive behaviors, you can create a harmonious home for both you and your dog. Remember, patience and consistency are key. With the right approach, you can transform destructive behaviors into positive, enriching activities that benefit your dog and keep your home safe.


If you’re struggling with your dog’s destructive behavior and need personalized guidance, my expert dog behavior coaching services can help. I understand that every dog is unique, and I tailor my strategies to meet your specific needs. My comprehensive consultation will provide you with practical solutions and techniques to address and manage your dog’s behavior effectively. Following the consultation, my innovative Dog Lab custom behavior coaching will support you in implementing these strategies and achieving lasting positive change.

Ready to transform your dog’s behavior and create a more harmonious home environment? Click here to learn more about the services I offer and how I can help you and your dog thrive together. Don’t let destructive behavior stand in the way of a happy home—reach out today and take the first step towards positive change.


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