Dogs get up to all sorts of trouble when we leave them alone. Most dogs chew, dig, or destroy at least a few things in their time. But how do we teach a dog not to chew on things when he’s alone?
In the latest “Ask a Trainer” question, we’re helping a reader troubleshoot her dog’s problem chewing.
Our reader writes,
How can I teach my dog not to chew things when we are not home? I read some articles that say to teach them “staying away” behaviors when you are around them. The problem is – my dog isn’t interested in anything when I’m home! He is super cuddly and lazy and doesn’t touch anything (remotes, loose papers, tables, shoes), but we’ve seen issues of him chewing those things when we’re not around.
If you’re having a hard time teaching your dog not to chew on stuff when she’s left alone, I can help.
Many dogs chew on things when we’re not home. This can be a symptom of boredom or stress. The simplest way to deal with dogs that chew on things is twofold:
- Remove things that your dog may want to chew. Put a little sticky note on your door reminding you to clean up the house (or put the dog inside a contained area) before you leave every day.
- Give your dog something else to chew on. After you’ve picked everything up, leave your dog with something better to chew on. This could be a pig’s ear, a bully stick, treats hidden inside a cardboard box, or a stuffed Kong. Don’t expect squeaky toys or other inedible dog toys to cut it. Letting your dog get her shredding needs out on something appropriate will help reduce the chewing on other things. We’ve got a whole list of our favorite puzzle toys here.
Here are a few of my favorite substitute chew items for dogs:
Keep in mind that bitter apple sprays and other deterrents might help, but they might not. Some dogs don’t really mind the taste (mine included, and I’ve tried at least five different brands and “recipes”). Many dogs will simply find something else to chew that you haven’t sprayed yet.
It’s far easier to just put the dog away in an exercise pen or baby-gated room, remove everything tempting from that room, and then give your dog something appropriate to chew on.
If you’re not seeing results, try exercising your dog more. Her chewing could by a symptom of boredom and leftover energy.
If you’re still not getting what you want, film your dog while you’re gone. She may be stressed or anxious, in which case more exercise is unlikely to help. If she looks frantic or stressed while she’s gone, I suggest signing up for our separation anxiety online course for help.
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, and as a private dog trainer. When not working on Journey Dog Training, Kayla works at Working Dogs for Conservation. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.