How To Fix A Destructive Dog's Chewing

I Have A Destructive Dog

A destructive dog can push you to the edge and even off the edge in some cases.

For the dog, it can be a way to relieve stress. For you it’s just “one more thing”

Chewing, for your dog, is an enjoyable behavior. But that enjoyment cause a ton of damage to your furniture, walls, carpet, and shoes. It becomes a frustrating and continuous problem for you.

How To Fix A Destructive Dog's Chewing

Before you lose your mind, let me toss you a few bones in the way of tips, to solve your destructive dog chewing problem.

But first let’s have a look at some of the reasons for chewing.  If you find the root cause of your dog’s chewing problem, it might provide you with an eye-opening solution for your destructive dog. You might not need that home improvement loan after all.

Reasons to Chew

Medical problems: Always rule out medical problems as a reason to chew. Some diseases can cause excessive hunger or the eating of non-food items.
Gum and dental disease can sometimes cause chewing to relieve the discomfort.

Teething puppies may chew stuff because it’s there.  Everything is a chew toy to your puppy until he’s trained to tell the difference.

Inconsistent feeding routines: A hungry dog may become anxious when his mealtime is late and begin chewing.

Barrier frustration: Many dogs confined for long periods of time get stressed. They get anxious then chew on cabinets, doors or other things of yours to relieve that frustration.

Fearfulness: If your dog is thunder phobic or afraid of loud noises he can chew to relieve his stress. Doors, door jams, window trim and walls are all fair game if they are available.

Social isolation or boredom: Isolation for long periods of time in the back yard or in the house is difficult.

Not knowing when you are coming home can add to your dog’s frustration.

Not knowing when he gets to go walk (especially with you), train and play can create a boring life for your dog. Knowing when it will happen every day creates happy anticipation.

Attention-seeking behavior: That’s right. Some dogs will take your stuff and chew on it just to get your attention or get you to do something with him. Even if the attention he finally gets is a correction, often times he’ll accept that over “nothing at all.”

Investigative digging: That’s right! Your dog picks up a scent and starts digging. It could be digging in the backyard or digging in your sofa for that peanut you dropped between the cushions. Oops!

The Fix

Medical reasons aside there are many things you can do to fix the destructive behavior of chewing or digging. You already know that you should have begun long, long ago which would have prevented the problems in the first place.

Let’s take a look at your check list of things you should be doing

A Strong Foundation

Leadership is good: Put your dog on a learn-to-earn program where everything he could want from you he must earn by doing at least a sit.

He should earn his food, attention from you, access to your furniture, his toys, going for a walk and putting his leash on to go for that walk.

He should also sit before going in and out doors. Add to this list as you think of other things.
Obedience training: Do rapid-fire sits and downs three times daily but just for 2 minutes. You will see amazing results in a week or two from this alone.

Exercise: Walk your dog twice daily for 20 minutes. If you can’t do two walks, then do one walk every day, 7 days a week and try to do it at the same time every day including weekends. Being able to predict when walks happen is important to your dog.

The chewing problem: Stock up on legal chew toys for your dog. Nothing fluffy with squeakers. Get him Kong toys to stuff, Buster Cubes or Bob-a-Lot toys. Card board boxes and empty plastic water bottles are good as well as long as you are there to supervise his activities with these. Get him addicted to playing with these toys. When you are not able to supervise your dog, confine your dog with these toys.

Once he knows what’s legal for him to chew, he’s played with them long enough, you can he gets full access to your home with supervision.

Catch any attempt to chew a table leg or couch cushion before his teeth are on it. Redirect him to his toys and praise him for taking the legal toy.

In other words, get your dog to chew “his” legal chew toys whether you are home or not.

How? Simple:
1. Make his toys more attractive, more interesting than your stuff. (learn to stuff them so that he can’t resist them and change the stuffing all the time);
2. Don’t give him any other choices (supervise when you are home/confine when you are gone); and
3. Play with him with his toys.
If you have a difficult dog, don’t feed him his food all at once in a bowl. That’s way too easy. Instead, put his food in a Buster Cube or other food dispensing toy, that tastes better than a table leg.

Together We Can Raise A Happy and Obedient Dog

Jim Burwell, is Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 30 years, serving over 11,000 clients. Jim takes the science of dog training and shows you how to make it work with your family and dog. He gives you the ability to get the same great behavior from your dog.

9 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Pam: chicken is considered a “hot” protein. It MAY contribute to behavior. I do in-home lessons, video coaching and tele-coaching. Happy to help you with any of these. Jim

  2. Pam
    Pam says:


    Are you saying that chicken based puppy food will make them hyper? We use a chicken based puppy food that has no grains and all of the ingredients you have suggested before, but we have two female lab puppies that are 4 months old and are off the wall! We walk them, play with them, but some days are kenneled up to 5 hours! More suggestions?

  3. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Shirley – dogs dig and tear stuff up – it’s a natural energy burner for them. In your eyes he’s destroying your things, in his eyes he’s burning energy and having
    a good time. The more structure you put into your dog’s life both inside and outside the happier you both will be.

  4. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Jaymie: Sojo’s is not a kibble so you can’t put it in his Kong Wobbler. Lamb is also a hot protein. I would stick with beef or turkey. Why not try him in a
    doggie day camp 1 day a week.

  5. shirley hammond
    shirley hammond says:

    My dog constantly tears up our yard. He pulls up the grass and small plants. He is not left in the yard for more than 20 – 30 minutes at a time, but when we go out, it is a mes. I am afraid she does not get enough exercise, but why does she destroy things?

  6. Jaymie Derden
    Jaymie Derden says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. He eats a raw meaty bone diet — no grains or sugars, including treats. He did seem to have some issues with chicken, so now he pretty much eats pork, beef, turkey and lamb.

    However, I would like to try the Sojos brand to put in his Kong Wobbler. I’ll check the pet store the next time I go. Or is it available online?

    Haha… can’t imagine what this dog would be like on “junk” dog food!!!

    I know he’s young still… and labradoodles are notoriously rambunctious. Just frustrating issue to deal with.


    Other suggestions?

  7. Irene
    Irene says:

    Jim, we send our Vizsla to daycare M, W, Fri, with days inbetween at home to rest. Our daycare has recently told us that their daycare advisor is suggesting that dogs should not do daycare more than twice a week. What is your opinion on this?

  8. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Jaymie – Check what you are feeding him. Many dog foods have lots of grain in them and dyes, sugars. For example, Purina Puppy Chow has little IF any protein
    in it. Get a high quality food. We use Sojos for our dogs. It’s a dehydrated raw food, grain free that you re-hydrate. Also make him earn everything he
    gets from you and put some of his dry food in a “bob-a-lot” (find it at Petco) and that will exercise his brain and keep him occupied. But with all that
    you are doing right, I would definitely check what you are feeding. Science Diet first ingredient is corn. chicken as the base of protein for a rev-ed up
    dog can make things worse. Try beef or turkey

  9. Jaymie Derden
    Jaymie Derden says:

    My dog (14-month old labradoodle) doesn’t chew things up that much, but he “steals” things. Pillows, blankets, socks, towels, bags, shoes, cans, boxes… NOTHING is safe. We have pretty much put everything up that we can, but when we remove an object, he just moves on to something else. IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY. It really seems to be attention-seeking and he will often get the “zoomies,” grabbing items and running all over. We don’t chase him and try to ignore it whenever possible, but sometimes there are things we MUST get from him. We’ve also started giving him brief timeouts in the laundry room if he doesn’t immediately drop the item on cue. He gets lots of exercise (walks, ball-play), lots of attention, lots of training. I work part-time, so he is only crated a couple times a week and never more than 4 hours at a time. I would love to be able to solve this problem.

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