Why do dogs chew wood furniture? Let's face it: all dogs love to chew. Indeed, some dog owners swear they must own a beaver rather than a dog. However, chewing in dogs is a natural behavior that has been passed down for many generations. All dogs need to chew to some extent. so it is more a matter of providing dogs with appropriate/desired items to chew rather than prohibiting them from chewing.
Nothing Better to Do
If you take a look back into what each dog breed was selectively bred for, you will notice that most were purposely bred for some type of work. Hounds tracked hare, retrievers fetched downed birds, spaniels flushed birds out of bushes and so forth.
Nowadays, most dogs spend the majority of their time at home. Unlike humans, dogs can't kill time doing crossword puzzles or watching TV show marathons. Instead, dogs are often forced to be lounging inside, driving themselves crazy to find things to do.
So it may happen that one day, your dog is pacing around out of boredom, and the legs of the coffee table grab his attention, so he gives the table's leg a casual lick. Since wood has an attractive texture and taste, he proceeds to take a chomp, and then, next thing you know, by the time your shift at work is over, you come home to a pile of splinters.
Dogs don't chew wood furniture because they are bad, they are just trying to burn off some energy and keep their minds stimulated. It's sort of like leaving a toddler in a room and finding him chewing on pencils or pretending the remote control is a spaceship.
A Matter of Growth
All dogs have a hard-wired predisposition for chewing, but chewing particularly reaches peak levels when dogs are puppies and youngsters.
Puppies are notorious for chewing stuff, especially when the are in the process of teething. In general, the worst part of teething happens when puppies start shedding their puppy teeth and cutting their permanent set.
Expect the teething phase to start at around three months of age up until 7 months of age, when pups are expected to have all of their 42 permanent teeth.
Among the variety of things puppies chew, wood remains one big attraction. The legs of wooden furniture are a preferred target considering that they are right at a puppy's nose level. Not to mention the fact that wood has an interesting scent and a pleasant “mouth feel.”
Don't expect though for chewing to subside once puppies have obtained all their permanent teeth! Many young, adolescent dogs (anywhere between 6 months and 2-3 years) love to chew as their adult teeth are permanently setting in their jaws and this may cause their chewing to get quite destructive.
Add on top of this the fact that many adolescent dogs are very simular to human teenagers, and therefore, tend to get bored easily. These youngsters are often looking for ways to entertain themselves, and you'll soon get to witness their destructiveness.
A Matter of Stress
While boredom and teething play a big role in prompting dogs to chew, some dogs chew due to stress. The behavior is quite similar to people who bite their nails.
Chewing provides dogs with proprioceptive input to the jaw and this can have a calming effect when the dog is overstimulated, nervous, or overwhelmed. Perhaps your dog is stressed by noises such as those produced by construction workers or perhaps your dog just chews as an outlet for a stressful day.
Regardless of what triggers the chewing, consider that strong chewing activities increase those serotonin and endorphin levels in the dog's brain. "These high serotonin and endorphin levels in turn reduce the production of adrenaline and stress hormones, explains Dr. Clare Middle, in the book: "Real Food for Dogs & Cats."
Now That You Know...
As seen, many dogs are enamored with those "tooth-some" table legs, but how can you put the chewing to a stop? After all, wood furniture isn't completely innocuous. Wood tends to splinter, and if the dog happens to ingest the splinters, rather than spitting them out, he risks cuts to his tongue or gums or even damage to his digestive tract. Following are some tips to stop your dog from chewing wood furniture.
- ,Make sure your dog is provided with sufficient exercise, training and mental stimulation.
- Help your dog make good choices. Make sure your dog has access to a variety of toys of different shapes, sizes and textures.
- To keep your dog's interest in toys alive, it helps to rotate them every now and then.
- Provide food-dispensing toys. Choosing between a toy containing goodies such as a stuffed Kong and a leg of chair is often a no-brainer: most dogs will choose the food dispensing toy. Make sure though that it is stuffed in a challenging way, otherwise your dog will work on the toy as an entree' and have the chair-leg as his second course meal.
- When you are able to supervise, redirect your dog to appropriate chew items and praise him for chewing those.
- Crate your dog when left unsupervised (but make sure to have provided exercise and mental stimulation beforehand). This will prevent your dog from rehearsing the problem behavior, keeping your furniture and your dog safe.
- Erect a baby gate or x-pen so that your dog is kept in an area away from the furniture. This can be an alternative to the crate if your dog isn't crate trained.
- Wait a bit. Many dogs are prone to chewing when very young, but as they mature, they get better. By the age of 3, which is past the adolescence stage, many dogs calm down and may be less likely to chew.
- Go gradual. As your dog matures, slowly start giving him supervised freedom and see how it goes.
- Invest in a webcam so that you can monitor your dog while you are away. With some models, you can even talk to your dog, telling him to "leave it" and having the webcam deliver treats to your dog (Furbo camera).