Why Do Dogs Chew on Things?

Posted by Dr. Roth on

bulldog chewing on comfort bone

Dog or puppy parents know their canine is a chewing machine. Chewing is a natural instinct that achieves many goals, but there are good and bad kinds of chewing. Bad chewing can result in destroyed shoes, clothing, furniture, and toys, hurt gums, digestive blockages, or cracked teeth. It can also indicate there may be a nutritional or anxiety problem with the pup. Here’s what pet parents should know when it comes to the age-old newbie pet parent question, why do dogs chew? 

Why Do Dogs Chew?

There's no singular answer to that question. Dogs and puppies chew on things, and themselves, for several reasons. Here are some of the most common:

Exploring New Environments

Dogs explore their world using their mouths in similar ways that humans use their hands. When they’re in a new environment, they’ll often pick things up and gnaw on them, at least at first. To them, it’s no different than a human picking something up to get a better look at it. Once they acclimate, exploratory chewing and nibbling should stop.

Taking Care of Their Teeth

Puppies often chew to alleviate the discomfort of teething. Chewing on things soothes gum pain, making the puppy feel better. Adult dogs may chew on things to keep their teeth clean and jaws strong. Just like in people, dog dental health is critical for long term health. 

Self-Entertainment & Stimulation

Like humans, dogs can become bored, frustrated, or mildly anxious. Some canines deal with these issues by chewing. Think of a dog's chewing like the use of a fidget spinner. It’s perfectly normal and healthy when they’re chewing on something appropriate. However, if the dog starts chewing on items they shouldn’t be, it can become a frustrating and potentially lethal problem.

When Chewing Might Indicate a Problem

A dog’s chewing behavior can sometimes signal that there’s a problem. If a canine is chewing on something they shouldn’t, like non-digestible items or potentially toxic or harmful things around the house, they may be trying to tell a pet parent they’re unhappy or unwell. The dog may also have an issue if he’s chewing on or licking themselves aggressively. 

Destructive chewing may indicate issues such as:

If a pet parent is concerned about their dog’s chewing habits, they should consult an online veterinarian to see if there’s an underlying issue that might be going unnoticed. 

dog chewing on rawhide

How to Encourage Good Chewing Behaviors

Pet parents shouldn’t try to discourage all chewing. Instead, they should focus on encouraging and reinforcing good chewing behaviors. Some of the best ways to do this are by:

  • Dog-proofing the house
  • Providing plenty of safe dog chew toys
  • Offering healthy chew treats
  • Taking away things the dog shouldn’t chew on immediately and replacing them with a suitable alternative
  • Praising and rewarding a dog when they exhibits good chewing behaviors (especially if a teething puppy)

Keep Chewing Healthy

Chewing is perfectly normal for dogs. It offers mental stimulation, helps keep teeth healthy, and allows dogs to explore their environment. In some cases, it can indicate a health or anxiety issue that pet parents should address right away. The sooner they get to the root of the problem, the faster they can find a solution. Their dog will be healthier and happier for it. 

Still wondering, “why do dogs chew?” Pet parents can contact a vet for answers and additional dog care advice. If dog parents become a Fuzzy member they can start an online vet chat and connect with Fuzzy’s canine behavior specialists for personalized reviews of the dog’s behavior with suggested alternatives to curb destructive dog chewing habits. Pet parents should ask a veterinarian about any concerns, and get additional tips and tricks for relieving dog anxiety. 

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