What is destructive chewing? The act of chewing seems to be a matter of individual preference among dogs: some have an innate desire to chew as a pleasurable activity in itself, and some seem to have no need to chew whatsoever unless they’re driven to it out of sheer boredom.
The phrase "destructive chewing" may sound redundant, because – by its very nature! – all chewing is destructive.
Your German Shepherd has strong jaws full of sharp, pointy teeth: just about anything she starts to chew on is probably going to show the effects of it inside of a minute.
So just to clarify, when I use the phrase "destructive chewing", I'm referring to inappropriate chewing: the kind of chewing that's focused on your own possessions and household items, instead of on your dog's own designated toys and chews.
The three main reasons why dogs chew:
- Most dogs have a natural desire to chew. It's fun, it passes the time, and it's a self-rewarding, self-reinforcing activity (for example, if she's chewing on something that tastes good.)
- Chewing provides a nervous, bored, or lonely dog with an outlet for her emotions. To an anxious dog, the repetitive act of chewing is soothing – it's the doggie equivalent of comfort food.
- Under exercised dogs often use chewing as a way of burning up nervous energy and giving themselves something to do.
Dogs are perfectly capable of learning not to chew your stuff – you just have to put in a little effort first, that's all. Destructive chewing can be prevented.
Remember, most dogs need to chew; if she's an adolescent (under three years) or a puppy (under one year), her needs will be even more pronounced.
Go on a toy and chew shopping spree, then give her two or three to play with at a time. Rotating the available toys every few days will keep things novel and interesting for her.
5. Spend lots of time in active supervision to prevent "destructive chewing". Yes, it might be easier for you to just keep her penned up in her crate, run, or the yard – but that's boring and horrible for her, and hardly much fun for you either (if you wanted a pet that you don't need to interact with, you'd have got a goldfish, right?) She can't learn what you expect of her if she's spending all her time boxed up in the dog-proof zone: she needs the opportunity to explore the boundaries of your expectations, so she can understand what's appropriate and what's not.
6. When you catch her chewing something inappropriate, interrupt her by making a loud noise: clap your hands or make an "Ah-ah-aaaah!" noise. Then, immediately hand her a tasty and dog-appropriate alternative (a rawhide bone or other chew toy); as soon as her jaws close around it, praise her lavishly. There is no better way to get your dog to understand that chewing "her" toys equals praise from you, but everything else equals trouble.
Above all, remember to keep your expectations realistic concerning destructive chewing and chewing in general. You’re not perfect, and neither is your German Shepherd: there’s likely to be at least one incident where a cherished item is damaged by her curiosity.
Particularly in the early stages of your relationship, she’s still learning the ropes: it’ll take awhile before she’s completely reliable (and even then, if she’s left by herself for too long or feels neglected, she may choose your stuff over hers to occupy her time and jaws with.) Remember to give her time to learn the rules, and plenty of ‘you-time’ to help her learn faster – and don’t forget to take precautions and keep things out of reach until she’s got the hang of the chewing rules!
For more information on dog training techniques and how to deal with problem dog behavior (like “destructive chewing”), check out SitStayFetch. It’s the complete manual for dog ownership and is designed to fast-track your dog’s learning.
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Thank you for this web site. Very informative and well written. I often advise my shepherd people to visit here for information. Again GREAT JOB. Laura Page Warden, DVM
What a fabulous website!!! I really enjoyed reading about the history of the dogs. There is a ton of helpful information on here and defiantly something for every reader to enjoy!!! Misty Weaver
Recently got a GSD again. Last time had GSD no internet etc. Cant believe how much info for free. Kenneth
I love and appreciate the helpful advice I found on your website! Rachelle