Many dogs engage in destructive chewing, leaving dog owners wondering what's going on in their mind.
It's almost as if dogs have this deep pleasure in ripping things apart with their potent teeth, while dog owners watch with horror.
Sometimes, you may even think your dog is engaging in destructive chewing out of spite or to seek revenge. However, dogs don't think this way.
In reality, their ultimate chewing pleasure stems from their deep ancestral past.
Different Forms of Chewing
When it comes to chewing behaviors in dogs, there are different forms of chewing.
The underlying motives that drive your dog to chew may therefore vary depending on what's causing the chewing in the first place.
Let's therefore dig deeper into several types of destructive chewing in dogs.
Did you know? The teeth mainly used by dogs for chewing include the premolar and molar teeth, including the carnassial teeth (Logan, 2006).
Destructive Chewing From Teething
This is the typical chewing seen in puppies who are teething.
As the teeth emerge, puppies instinctively feel compelled to bite and chew, which helps expedite penetration of the teeth through the gums.
Gnawing on things like shoes, pillows and clothing can also help to alleviate their pain.
Teething is usually the worst between 4 to 6 months, and tends to end by the time the puppy has all his permanent teeth in, which happens around 8 months.
Destructive Chewing From Boredom
When dogs don't receive enough exercise and mental stimulation, boredom quickly sets in.
With no way to expend the energy, these dogs will start chewing as a way to keep occupied.
Destructive Chewing From Separation-Related Distress
Dogs suffering from separation-related distress usually become overly attached to their owners and will act out distressing, panic-stricken behaviors when left alone.
Such behaviors may include pacing, whining, barking, peeing and pooping in the house, and destructive chewing.
The destructive chewing is often targeted towards what prevents these dogs from ultimately being re-united with their owners.
A tell-tale sign is therefore persistent chewing aimed towards windows and doors.
Destructive Chewing as a Coping Mechanism
In certain situations, dogs may chew as a coping mechanism and a way to relieve feelings of frustration, high arousal or stress.
According to a study by Forsyth et al., moderate increases in chewing were indeed seen after there were changes in the dog's daily routine or following arousing or stressful events such as going to the vet or having guests.
This seems to prove that dogs may engage in destructive chewing behaviors as a way of coping with negative emotions.
Did you know? A study by Rooney et al. 2009, found that stress was relieved in working dogs by providing them with objects to chew.
Destructive Chewing From Instincts
Chewing is ultimately a normal, instinctive behavior in dogs. It stems from their ancestral past, when they were hunters.
When prey animals were captured, a dog's ancestors (wolves) spent a good amount of time chewing and dissecting.
Feral dogs are often scavengers surviving on human waste, but their diet may also compromise prey animals. (Bonanni and Cafazzo, 2014).
In particular, free-ranging dogs rely on a diet which may be comprised of up to 50 percent of carcasses, requiring a good amount of chewing which may last for a good 26 minutes. (Forsyth et al., 2014)
The dietary habits of a dog's ancestors and those of free-ranging dogs can provide some better insights into a domestic dog's chewing behavior.
What we can deduce by looking at this data, is that feeding dogs commercially-prepared food through a bowl doesn't provide domestic dogs with enough opportunities to chew and dissect (Kasanen et al., 2010).
What This Means For Rover
Dogs can chew for various reasons, and as such, every form of chewing may require a different type of intervention.
In some cases, chewing may be associated with negative emotional states. Tackling the underlying emotions by working on the root problem (reducing the anxiety, boredom and frustration) is key.
For teething puppies, the best way to stop them from chewing your belongings, is to give them a variety of toys to chew.
Make sure to rotate such toys on a daily basis. This will keep your pup interested and prevent him from chewing on your furniture and cabinets.
In general, providing more opportunities for dogs to chew safely can help increase a dog's welfare as it helps fulfill behavioral needs.
On top of providing more mental enrichment, the opportunity for dogs to chew on safe, age-appropriate items is recommended by veterinarians as way to improve oral health.
- Roberto Bonanni, Simona Cafazzo, The Social Organisation of a Population of Free-Ranging Dogs in a Suburban Area of Rome: A Reassessment of the Effects of Domestication on Dogs’ Behaviour, The Social Dog, Academic Press, 2014.
- Forsyth DM, Woodford L, Moloney PD, Hampton JO, Woolnough AP, Tucker M (2014) How Does a Carnivore Guild Utilise a Substantial but Unpredictable Anthropogenic Food Source? Scavenging on Hunter-Shot Ungulate Carcasses by Wild Dogs/Dingoes, Red Foxes and Feral Cats in South-Eastern Australia Revealed by Camera Traps. PLoS ONE 9(6): e97937
- Ellen I. Logan, Dietary Influences on Periodontal Health in Dogs and Cats, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice,Volume 36, Issue 6, 2006, Pages 1385-1401
- Christine Arhant, Rebecca Winkelmann, Josef Troxler, Chewing behaviour in dogs – A survey-based exploratory study, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 241, 2021
- I. Kasanen, D.B. Sørensen, B. Forkman, P. Sandøe Ethics of feeding: the omnivore dilemma Anim. Welfare, 19 (2010), pp. 37-44