how to stop a dog from chewing everything
Behavioral Problems

How to Stop Your Dog Chewing Furniture When Left Alone

Dogs have a natural instinct to chew. Giving their gums a workout comes as naturally to dogs as breathing, which is why so many of your furry friend’s toys revolve around popping hard plastics in their mouths. Naturally, this means that we want our dogs to be happy and comfortable, and to chew to their heart’s content – but not at the expense of our furniture within the home.

If your canine companion appears to be determined to go on a one-dog rampage and munch everything in sight like a pooch-shaped Pac-Man, something will need to be done. Let’s discuss the action you can take to prevent your house from becoming one giant chew toy.

Why Does My Dog Chew Furniture?

Destructive chewing is the term for doggy behavior that sees furniture – and anything else that may be in their path of destruction – destroyed by canine teeth. If you leave your dog alone and return home to find your living room and bedroom in pieces, your dog will be acting this way for a reason.

There are a great many potential reasons why a dog may be chewing the furniture in your home.

Some of these include:

  • Teething. Young dogs chew on many items around the home in an attempt at easing the discomfort of teething.
  • Strengthening Teeth and Gums. Older dogs may chew a great deal in an attempt to build and maintain strength in their jaws. If your older dog has started chewing suddenly, this could be why.
  • If your dog is bored, they’ll chew – it’s the equivalent of switching on the TV or reading a book for canines.
  • If your dog is worried or afraid, they’ll chew in an attempt at soothing their concerns.
  • In some cases, your dog may be chewing in an attempt at finding nourishment and food. If you catch your dog in the act and they’re not usually chewers, offer them a snack!

Dog Separation Anxiety Can Lead to Furniture Chewing

Dogs are naturally sociable pack animals, which means that they’re never going to enjoy being left alone. If doing so means that you return to a scene of devastation, you are going to need to learn how to break your dog’s separation anxiety quickly

Separation anxiety comes with a great many symptoms, but chief among them is destructive behavior. Your dog will be fretting and frightened at being left alone and wondering when you might come home – if at all – and this means that they’ll be chewing and chomping at everything in sight as they attempt to settle their nerves.

How to Stop a Dog from Chewing Everything

Once you have calculated exactly what is causing your dog to munch away on everything in sight, you can start taking steps to put a stop to the behavior.

dog separation anxiety causes destructive behavior

Seek the help and advice of a vet if strictly necessary, but this will probably only be required if you suspect the behavior to be deep-rooted in psychology. By using a process of elimination based on the above causes, you’ll be able to put a stop to your dog’s furniture chewing habits with the right training.

Let’s take a look at some suggestions on how to stop your dog from chewing furniture when left alone based on probable causes.

My Teething Puppy Keeps Chewing the Furniture

Teething can be a very trying time for puppies. The poor tykes will be in a great deal of discomfort throughout this period of their little lives, and they’ll be keen to ease the ache in their gums by chewing as much as possible.

Chew toys may sate this desire – but there may be no stopping Fido from tackling furniture with their teeth during this period. When you factor in the fact that puppies have a natural urge to chew anyway, and they will be inquisitively exploring the world with their mouths, you have a recipe for a whole lot of chewing.

The best way to avoid this happening is to not leave your puppy alone for any prolonged period of time, which is probably sound advice anyway during these critical early days. You’ll be aiming to get your potentially scared dog to trust you completely, and leaving them alone hours on end will not help that!

Also, try giving your pup plenty of officially sanctioned chew toys during this period, distracting them with such items every time they start edging toward the sofa or a rug.  Very cold things will help here, so consider popping a toy into the freezer or trading your puppy’s usual treats out for frozen peas or carrots.

My Older Dog Keeps Chewing the Furniture

Older dogs that chew are usually doing so for one of two reasons – to develop and strengthen their jaws, or because they are bored and frustrated. Of course, it could be both!

If your pooch has left puppydom behind and is not prone to separation anxiety but still chews everything within reach, the chances are they are looking for something to do. Maybe they’re being left alone for too long and not being taken out for a walk, and thus grow weary of chewing the same toys time and again.

One possible solution for this would be to vary up the contents of your dog’s toy box and lay out a different selection of items to chow down on each day, ensuring that the various means they won’t have time to grow bored of the same toy every day.

how to stop a dog from chewing on wood trim

Another solution could be to hide snacks and treats around the house like a canine treasure hunt, keeping your dog stimulated so they have plenty of ways of staying amused when alone. Or, of course, hire a dog walker to get them out for a long leg stretch while you are otherwise occupied.

Will Bones Stop My Dog from Chewing on the Furniture?

As we have already covered, dogs are driven to chew by instinct so bringing bones – or anything similar, such as pig’s ears – into their diet is always advisable. This will give them the ability to sate their natural desires safely, that won’t result in a hefty redecoration bill. Despite this, it may not be advisable to populate your home with bones from the butcher while you are not around to supervise your dog.

Firstly, Fido has another natural instinct – to bury and otherwise hide bones. This is a primal predisposition based on the fact that dogs have evolved from living in the wild, where food may have to be hidden from rivals and dug up later. It’s quite possible that you’ll come home to find a stinky bone covered in meat carcass under your pillow or somewhere else that you wouldn’t enjoy.

There’s also a risk of the bone splintering and becoming lodged in your dog’s throat and preventing them from breathing appropriately. This will always happen with cooked bones left over from a meal prepared in the home, so keep these far away from your dog (including emptying the trashcans regularly, if your hound is known to hunt through waste.)

If you’re going to toss your dog a bone to keep their teeth and gums healthy – which, we would like to stress, is very much advisable under the correct circumstances – make sure you do so while you’re there to keep an eye on them. It’s a surefire way of distracting your dog from a tasty-looking armchair leg or cushion!

Homemade Dog Repellent for Furniture

If you’re keen to prevent your dog from chewing on the furniture while you’re out, there are further steps you can take beyond exhausting them. As dogs are so driven by their noses and mouths, they’ll stay away from something that smells or tastes unappealing. This makes the creation of a homemade spray that can be applied to your furniture an ideal solution for unwanted chewing.

Thankfully, there are all kinds of smells that dogs are repulsed by, many of which are available in the form of essential oils or basic household items. To make your own, fill a spray bottle with water and mix up a selection of all – or even just some – of these oils, substances, and chemicals:

  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Sour Apple
  • Apple Cider Vinegar, or Traditional Vinegar
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Clove Oil
  • Rubbing Alcohol (aka Isopropyl)
  • Cayenne Pepper or Mustard (not too much – a little will be enough to deter, but too much to irritate your dog’s eyes and nose)

Naturally, these smells won’t be too appealing to human noses either, so don’t be shy about liberally applying some air freshener around the house!

If homemade remedies aren’t your cup of tea, you will able to pick up commercial and pet-safe anti-chewing sprays from major pet stores that perform the same task.

How to Stop a Dog from Chewing on Wood Trim

Wood trim is arguably the most unsightly target for a dog chewing frenzy, and often a popular one. If your dog is prone to munching away on the frames around your doors or windows, follow some of the steps above to deter any nibbling.

my dog is chewing blanket and sheets

Also be vigilant about ensuring that your dog is not swallowing excessive amounts of paint in the process, or creating wood splinters that they tread into their paws. If your dog is licking or chewing on their feet to excess, this could be the reason why.

How to Stop a Dog from Chewing on Electrical Wires

Of all doggy chewing behaviors, undoubtedly the riskiest is any propensity for munching on electrical cables. Not only can this be annoying (and lead to some very sketchy picture quality on your TV) but it could also see your dog risking electrocution.

This is more common than you may realize and comes with a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Trouble breathing (either struggling to breathe when lying down or breathing shallowly)
  • A crackling noise that appears to originate from the lung
  • Coughing fits
  • A blue tinge to the skin (also known as cyanosis)

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms when you get home, race them to a vet ASAP.

To prevent a dog from chewing on electrical cables, you should keep them well out of reach. This means elevating them above the height of even the most industrious and inquisitive dog’s teeth, or at the very least, applying tape to mask the wires and prevent them from getting loose.

Also, you could spray a deterring scent, as per our advice above – and if you’re particularly concerned, unplug every electrical appliance possible while you’re out of the house. That won’t prevent any chewing, but it will at least make the grazing on cables less likely to end in electrocution.

My Dog is Chewing My Blanket and Sheets

This is another example of anxious behavior and one that can and should be coached out of your dog. Your pooch may wander up to your bedroom in search of a familiar and comforting scent – which your bedding will provide. After all, we spent several hours in bed each night, leaving all kinds of smells behind in the form of sweat and anything else. Once your dog starts sucking on a blanket, it’s akin to a child that sucks on their thumb.

Some breeds are more prone to chewing blankets and sheets than others, most notably Dachshunds and Doberman Pinschers. Whatever breed your own pooch falls under, however, they may exhibit this kind of behavior if they don’t like being left alone. There’s nothing wrong with a dog enjoying a blanket as they seek something soft and cozy – try to encourage them to keep their teeth to themselves!

Fabric Sucking

The act of suckling at fabric-covered types of furniture, such as a sofa or an armchair, is known as fabric sucking.

It’s believed that dogs that engage in this behavior were removed from their mother before they were ready (no puppy should be separated from their mother until they are at least eight weeks old), and not being weaned appropriately.

The sucking on fabric is an attempt at replicating the experience of gaining nutrients from their mother’s teat, but obviously, nothing is released. This creates a form of canine OCD as they continually attempt to extract something – anything – from the blanket, without ever achieving this goal. Thankfully the habit can be broken with sufficient encouragement, attention, and training.

My Dog Keeps Chewing My Shoes

In addition to furniture and bedding, there is one other favored feast for any dog – any pairs of slippers and shoes that may be left lying around the floor of your home. Just what is it about an old – or comparatively new and expensive! – pair of footwear that drives your dog so crazy?

The answer is pretty simple when we think about it. Many facets of doggy behavior are driven by smell, and it’s familiar aromas that provide comfort for a canine. Dogs are also obviously based very low to the ground and encouraged to walk to heel, meaning that they are most familiar with the lowest extremities of our body. We may be keen to avoid anything that smells like our feet (or those of our spouse!), but for a dog, it’s the purest form of perfume.

When we factor in the fact that dogs chew for comfort and self-soothing, it soon becomes clear why they’re so drawn to our shoes when we leave them alone. A dog will hunt down footwear in the search for something that reminds them of their beloved human, and a pair of shoes or slippers will be the perfect tonic.

In addition to this, your shoes provide a potted history of where you have been all day. This will stimulate their memory when they pick up a scent of their favorite park or woodland walk or excite them about a possible future adventure. The fact that quality leather footwear will take a while to chomp through and provide hours of entertainment is just a bonus.

homemade dog repellent for furniture

To avoid this behavior, leave your footwear on an elevated shelf or behind closed doors when you’re not home. Do not scold or shout at your dog when they do start tucking into your shoes, though. Shouting at your pet equals attention in their mind, and losing your cool will help nobody.

How to Punish a Dog for Chewing Furniture

Shouting and scolding are no good as physical punishment is a strict no-no. You can’t leave a dog locked up in an unfurnished room every time you go out – that’s just cruel. So, how do you punishing a dog for chewing the furniture when leaving them to their own devices? This is an easy one to answer – you don’t!

Undesirable behavior in dogs should never be punished, and always ignored. It doesn’t matter if you’re convinced that your dog chewed your furniture deliberately as an act of sabotage. They didn’t, and that look of shame that you’re convinced belies their guilt is a fallacy.

What’s more, if you’ve discovered that your dog has been on a chewing frenzy while you’ve been out, it will have been a while since they did so. This means that if you decide to issue a punishment, they won’t understand why you’re so angry – dogs live in the moment and won’t think back to something they did hours ago. This, in turn, could lead to all kinds of confusion, and potentially dangerous misunderstandings. If your dog has just eliminated in the garden, for example, they might think that this is what has left you so upset and avoid doing so in the future.

In addition to this, don’t leave your dog muzzled while you are out in an attempt at preventing them from chewing on furniture. Not only this is cruel and unsafe (if you place food in the muzzle to tempt your dog into wearing it, you will not be around to help if they have any mishaps involving choking), but it will give your pet yet another reason to be anxious and worried about the fact that you’re not home. This will increase unwelcome behavior when you do return, not put a stop to it, and greatly increase the odds of your furry friend turning your house into an all-you-can-eat buffet during your next absence.

What Should I Do if I Catch My Dog Chewing Furniture?

Instead of punishment, take a prevention-over-cure approach to your dog chewing the furniture of your home. If you come home and catch them in the act, very gently guide them away from the area that they are chewing and distract them with attention, treats, and toys.

It’s important that you time this correctly so that your dog does not think they are being rewarded for chewing furniture, but this is where that short-term memory association of your canine companion comes in handy. Once you have them away from the offending area, offer a stimulating toy (maybe something that involves a tug-of-war, so you have their complete attention). Within a few seconds, Fido will have completely forgotten about the previously fascinating chair leg or blanket that he was determined to gnaw a hole through!

A deterrent is always better than punishment, and you can save your relationship with your dog a whole lot of heartbreaking strain by not falling out over something so avoidable. Find out why your dog is chewing furniture and take the necessary action, and then chew-proof your home following the advice above.

If you’re patient and ensure that you handle chewing within the appropriate way, you’ll enjoy a happier relationship with your hound – and a home devoid of decorative tooth marks! Just remember, your dog is not chewing the furniture because they have a vendetta against you. It’s all behavior with a root cause that can be coached out of your canine.

There are some dog breeds that can be left alone during the day.