If you have ever owned a dog, you have probably experienced the dreaded “chew” phase. Whether a favorite pair of shoes, something out of the trash can or your actual furniture. We all know the more valuable the item, the easier it is to feel concerned….and lots of furniture is not cheap! So why do dogs chew furniture?
I’m going to start by sharing our own experiences, so you don’t feel alone in this – and I’m sure many dog owners will have similar tales to tell, so buckle up and enjoy the read.
There are several famous incidents in our house to do with chewing…and to set the scene, Rocky was a mid-coated German Shepherd.
The paint incident
When Rocky was still relatively young, he used to stay in our garage. Everything was safely stowed at height and he had his home comforts – or so we thought.
One day we came home to find paint sprayed all over the garage walls, all over Rocky’s legs and around his mouth. Initially we panicked – “What if he’s swallowed a whole lot?”.
We phoned the vet first as he was based 45 minutes away, and after questioning us on the type of paint the panic was a little less, as it was a water-based variety. If it had been oil-based it would have been much more serious. Anyway, we traveled to the vet for a check up and got some charcoal tablets to help absorb anything untoward in the stomach.
Once we ascertained he was OK, we tried to work out what had happened. The plastic tub of paint was on a shelf, above the average human head height. The only way he could have got it was by jumping and managing to catch the handle in his mouth.
Either the lid came off when it dropped or he bit it off. Now it gets a bit trickier – how did the paint get all over the walls? Using our imagination, and we can’t verify this, we think he had budding ambitions to be the next Picasso by picking up the handle of the pain tub and swing it around in the air! Oh, and one other thing – the color of the paint was pink!
The dishwasher incident
OK, let’s jump forward a few years and by this time we were confident that Rocky could be left inside the house when we were out.
We had recently installed a new kitchen, and ordered a brand new dishwasher to be installed. It arrived, all ship shape in its packaging.
In my own defense here, I did say to my husband we should put the dishwasher in the garage and leave the dog inside. “No, he’ll be fine – there’s no way he’s going to do anything to that!”.
Well, this time we came home to a near perfect round hole all the way through the outside cardboard, the polystyrene insulating layer right through to the machine. That wasn’t all – he had chewed right through the power cord as well! Luckily, my father-in-law is pretty handy and he re-wired it for us, but the guarantee on our brand new dishwasher – poof, gone!
Funnily enough, we have now moved house and 13 years later that same dishwasher is till going strong 🙂
The feather incident
I worked quite close to home, and used to come home every lunch time to walk Rocky. This particular day I unlocked the front door, to be met ankle deep with a layer of feathers. Right through the hallway and living room, and a few tell-tale ones stuck to Rocky’s muzzle.
He had chewed the zippers on all the cushions on the sofa, right through to the filling then had a field day shaking them to get maximum coverage with the feathers.
Interestingly, we had a wooden dinner table and chairs and he only had one small nibble on a corner of one of the chairs, but the cushions and dishwasher I would still call furniture!
99% of the time – it’s boredom
So what do I think is the main, single reason dogs chew furniture around them? Well, there is one common element to all of the above with our own dog. He was alone, and probably bored!
I think most dogs would never chew furniture in front of you, or if you’re playing with them, throwing a ball or even just sitting with them on the sofa. The only exception is if they are sneaking away to do it somewhere else in the house, while you are still there. If this is the case, they may still be bored, but you may need to seek out advice from a trained behaviorist to try and identify what the problem is.
And remember puppies will chew almost anything and everything, especially as they are losing their milk teeth and new ones grow in. Just like children, biting down on things helps with the process and gives relief. So, keep anything you don’t want chewed away from them!
The first things to try though, if you catch them in the act, is
a) distract them, by going to do something else
b) give them something they are allowed to chew on instead, a ball or chew toy, for example.
So, how do you keep your dog from getting bored?
I would be the first to say that in an ideal world we would all have enough money and be able to stay home with our dogs, or take them places, basically be together almost all of the time. But let’s get practical, most of us need to go out to earn a crust and our dog’s may be left alone for some of the day.
Some dog owners may have an outside kennel or dog run that has a roof and where their dogs can be when they are out. Some other won’t have that space, and will leave the dogs inside the house. Either way, if left alone for reasonable lengths of time they will need something to keep them entertained – this is especially the case if they are an only dog.
However, there are a couple of good rules to follow. It’s not a good idea to leave your dog alone with any toy that can be chewed up into little pieces – they may ingest these or even choke on them. As a general rule I tend to advise that as toys get used and start to disintegrate, toss them out and get some new ones. Toys are cheap, both in comparison to vert bills and the life of your dog. Most will need to be replaced periodically. Check out my top toy tips…
What stories do you have about your dogs chewing up things they shouldn’t? Please share them below – especially the funny ones.
Happy dog days everyone 🙂