Sooner or later every dog lover returns home to find some unexpected damage inflicted by his or her dog...or, more specifically, that dog's incisors and molars. Although dogs make great use of their vision and sense of smell to explore the world, one of their favorite ways to take in new information is to put their mouths to work. Fortunately, chewing can be directed onto appropriate items so your dog isn't destroying items you value or jeopardizing his own safety. Until he's learned what he can and can't chew, however, it's your responsibility to manage the situation as much as possible, so he doesn't have the opportunity to chew on unacceptable objects.
Chewing is normal behavior for curious puppies who may be teething, but adult dogs may engage in destructive chewing for any number of reasons. In order to deal with the behavior, you must first determine why your dog is chewing--and remember, he's not doing it to spite you.
Normal play behavior sometimes leads to destruction, as it may involve digging, chewing, shredding, and/or shaking toy-like objects. Because dogs investigate objects by pawing at them and exploring them with their mouths, they may also inadvertently damage items in their environment when they're exploring or investigating. Your dog may be chewing for entertainment if:
Dogs with separation anxiety tend to display behaviors that reflect a strong attachment to their owners. This includes following you from room to room, frantic greetings, and anxious responses whenever you prepare to leave the house. Factors that can precipitate a separation anxiety problem include:
Again, remember that these behaviors are not motivated by spite or revenge, but by anxiety. Punishment will only make the problem worse. Separation anxiety can be resolved by using counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques.
Without realizing it, we often pay more attention to our dogs when they're misbehaving. Dogs who don't receive a lot of attention and reinforcement for appropriate behavior may engage in destructive behavior when their owners are present as a way to attract attention--even if the attention is "negative," such as a verbal scolding.
Your dog's destructive behavior may be a response to something he fears. Some dogs are afraid of loud noises. Your dog's destructive behavior may be caused by fear if he tends to be more destructive when he's exposed to loud noises, such as thunderstorms, firecrackers, or construction sounds, and if the primary damage is to doors, door frames, window coverings, screens, or walls.
Punishment is rarely effective in resolving destructive behavior problems, and may even make the problem worse. Never discipline your dog after the fact. If you discover your dog has chewed an item but don't catch him in the act, it's too late to administer a correction. Your dog doesn't think, "I chewed those shoes an hour ago and that's why I'm being scolded now." People often believe their dog makes this connection because he runs and hides or "looks guilty." But dogs display submissive postures like cowering, running away, or hiding when they feel threatened by an angry tone of voice, body posture, or facial expression. Your dog doesn't know what he's done wrong; he only knows that you're upset. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but may provoke other undesirable behaviors, too.