Why Do Dogs Chew in The Yard?

Adrienne Farricelli

Many dogs chew in the yard, especially when they are left out there unsupervised for prolonged periods of time. Often, this behavior leaves dog owners upset considering that, when left in the yard, many dogs end up chewing things such as the garden hose, the fence, the legs of tables and chairs. What gives?

Several dogs chew in the yard when they are left out to enjoy some fresh air and stretch their legs. Whether it's your garden hose, the legs of your wood bench or your pair of garden clogs, it's always frustrating to witness destructive chewing in dogs. But why do dogs chew in the yard, and most of all, how to stop dogs chewing in the yard?

Stuck in a Life Stage 

Dogs go through several life stages and chewing can play a quintessential role in some of them. For instance, puppy hood is known for being a trying time for new puppy owners as puppies engage in lots of mouthing and chewing.

We can't blame them though: by mouthing and chewing, puppies get to learn about the world around them and it's how they play. Some dogs breeds may be more mouthy than others. For example, goldens and Labrador retrievers can be particularly prone to mouthing when young. 

Not to mention, puppies start teething at around 3 weeks of age with all their baby teeth haven grown by the time they're about 6 weeks. Then, starting around 12 weeks, puppies start losing their baby teeth, while the permanent adult teeth start erupting. By the age of 6 to 8 months, puppies should have their full set of 42 permanent teeth. 

During this time, puppies may therefore chew to relieve the discomfort of teething as the permanent teeth cutting through the gums may be uncomfortable, and maybe even painful.

Past the teething stage, don't expect puppies to stop chewing cold turkey. With the adolescent dog stage just around the corner, you may actually witness an increase in chewing, but this time those jaws are much stronger. 

It's as if these dogs go through a "second teething stage," but instead of getting relief from sore gums, these dogs are now prepping their jaws for a lifetime of hunting and chewing. While your dog no longer needs to hunt and use his teeth to inflict stabbing wounds to prey and tear carcasses apart, these strong instincts and needs to chew persist nonetheless.

The dog adolescent stage tends to start around six months up to when the dog  reaches two to three years of age although there are variances based on breeds and sizes.

High Energy Levels 

Many dogs who engage in destructive chewing do so because they have high energy levels and a strong need for more mental stimulation. That energy must go somewhere so why not engage the body and mind into chewing on something enticing? 

Many dog owners often send their dogs out in the yard in hopes of them burning off some steam, but dogs may not engage in activities dog owners find appealing. 

The end result is often dogs who pace and bark at anything that moves, dogs who dig to their hearts' content "dogscaping" the yard into what may look like planet Mars, and dogs who chew anything they find in their path. 

Relief from Emotions  

There is chewing and chewing when it comes to dogs and sometimes you may need to put your investigative hat to find out what form of chewing your dog engages in. 

Boredom: this emotional state leaving Rover with little to do can trigger bouts of chewing. It's not like Rover can grab a pen and play a game of Sudoku or engage in useless thumb twiddling when he's bored out of his mind!

Frustration: dogs may suffer from frustration too! Dogs with low frustration tolerance may engage in chewing when they are faced with a situation in which they cannot achieve their goal. Excess restraint or confinement, routine changes, the presence of a physical barrier or unmet expectations may all trigger bouts of frustration chewing in dogs.

Anxiety: dogs who are anxious may engage in significant destructive behaviors. If you go to work and leave your dog alone in the yard, and your dog suffers from separation anxiety, he may chew and dig at the fence line that separates him from you. A dog with noise phobias may try to chew his way out of enclosures in hopes of escaping the sound. Stressed dogs may also chew just for the sake of relieving their stress.

Did you know? Chewing in dogs is believed to be over all a relaxing and self soothing activity considering that chewing releases endorphins, nature's feel-good hormones.

Now That You Know...

As seen, dogs chew in the yard for a variety of reasons. Finding out why your dog is chewing in the first place can help you better address it, but if you aren't sure why your dog is chewing in the yard, no worries, you can still tackle your dog's chewing by using a variety of strategies. 

  • Consider that dogs don't chew out of spite. Chewing in dogs is a natural behavior that is instinctive. It is also self-reinforcing considering that it feels good to the dog.
  • Manage your dog's environment by keeping items you don't want your dog to chew out of reach. In other words, dog-proof your yard! So store your garden hose, shoes and favorite items away out of Rover's reach. 
  • Help your dog make good choices! Leave out in the yard only safe items to chew. Puppies with sore gums may enjoy puppy-specific toys, such as a Chilly Bone or a frozen baby blue or pink Kong. Alternatively, grab a wet dishrag or towel, twist it into a rope-like shape and freeze. Then offer it to your puppy to chew on. Adult dogs may enjoy chewing on stuffed Kongs, bully sticks,dental treats and Himalayan dog chews. It goes without saying that puppies and dogs should always be supervised when chewing in the yard. Ask your vet for safe and appropriate chews for your dog. 
  • Dogs suffering from boredom benefit from daily walks, games, interactive toys, socialization, sniffing adventures, brain games, training and play. If you work long hours, have a dog walker or neighbor stop by or take your dog to a good doggy day care if your dog happens to be a social butterfly who loves interacting with other dogs. 
  • If you suspect your dog suffers from a low frustration tolerance, aim on offering interventions that garner a better development of general frustration tolerance and coping skills. Some suggestions can be found here: how to train your dog better frustration tolerance. Ask a dog trainer or behavior consultant for help. 
  • Dogs chewing from anxiety may benefit from an anxiety-reduction program through the use of calming aids (pheromone diffusers, calming sprays, prescription meds from the vet)  along with behavior modification. 
  • If you catch your dog chewing something in the yard that she shouldn't, don't just try chasing him around trying to pry his mouth mouth. This can lead to problems such as playing hard to catch and even resource guarding and biting. Try instead swapping the object with something else. Here is a guide on how to remove objects or toys from your dog's mouth: how to take toys away from dogs. If your dog shows signs of aggression when he's chewing something, please play it safe and consult with a dog behavior professional.  
  • Does your dog chew sticks in the yard? Read this guide on why do dogs chew sticks! 

 

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