How to stop a dog from chewing his bed

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In this article we’ll look at why dogs chew their bed and how to prevent it. Many of the suggestions here can also be used to stop dogs chewing other things.

There are many reasons why dogs chew their beds or, indeed, other items they shouldn’t chew. Here we’ll concentrate on how to stop a dog chewing his bed but if your dog has another destructive behaviour, you may find it useful, too.

If you can determine the reason, the solution will be easier to apply.

Dog are natural chewersDogs are natural chewers

Just as we explore the world with our hands, dogs use their mouths so chewing is completely natural. What we want to do is stop a dog from chewing his bed or any other items which are out of bounds.

First steps to prevent a dog chewing

As with all dog training, the sooner you start the better. It’s easier for you and for your puppy.

You can, of course, train older dogs, but it’s easier to instil a good habit into a puppy. With adult dogs it may take a little longer. There is also the possibility that a bad habit might be ingrained.

So when you’re about to get a puppy or a rescue dog, it’s really worthwhile putting aside extra time over the first few months to ensure that they are well trained.

Removing items from your dog

One major training exercise I believe it’s vitally important to do, is to be able to take away any item that your dog has, even – or especially – their food.

You want your dog to ‘leave’ absolutely anything you tell it to. Not only does this teach them that you are alpha dog – and a good and kind alpha dog at that- but the training can also make them drop or, at least, stop chewing something they shouldn’t have.

An extreme example might be if they pick up a bottle of bleach and are about to chew it. You wouldn’t leave anything dangerous where they could get it but you may be at a friend’s house or there may be something dangerous on your woodland walk.

As ever, it’s easiest if you start when they are a puppy.

First steps in teaching ‘leave’

Most dogs will ‘leave’ their end of a tug toy, for example, or drop a ball if they like fetching.

With all my dogs, I used the phrase “Let’s see” for them to drop or leave something. I’m not sure where I got the phrase from but you say it to a person if you want to look at something they’re holding and it’s more playful than ‘leave’. You can, of course, use any word or phrase you like.

Getting your dog to ‘leave’ their food

If not trained, most dogs will growl or snarl if you try to remove their food. Only try it when your dog leaves a toy and a treat.

Ready when you are!I’d say “Let’s see” and remove their food, although only for a few seconds. I’d praise them and give them their food back.

I’d do this regularly and sometimes keep their food for slightly longer periods. They were all happy – or at least didn’t complain – when I did this as they knew they’d get it back.

Obviously, a growling and unhappy puppy is easier to manage than an adult dog which is one reason why early training is best.

This exercise worked fine with all my dogs. Monty was the most friendly and agreeable of dogs but he wasn’t happy when I first tried this but he soon learned and all was well.

Training an older dog to ‘leave’

Murphy was a rescue dog and almost a year old when I got him and he wasn’t at all happy at having his food removed. So, as described above, I started with a tug toy saying “Let’s see” and praising him when he left it.

Then I moved on to large treats I could keep hold of while he was chewing so it was sort of a game and it wasn’t such a wrench for him o leave it.

Then we moved onto his bowl of food and that worked fine, too

Habit and repetition

It’s also important to repeat this exercise at regular intervals or they may forget.

Be positive, playful and encouraging at all times. We want positive reinforcement so your dog is happy to obey and knows that ‘good things’ will follow.

If you can’t take anything from your dog you may have trouble stopping them chewing stuff they shouldn’t.

Stopping them when you catch them in the act is one thing. Preventing them doing it in the first place is another.

How to stop dog problems before they start

Jasper tried to make his first bed in the washing machine!Many dog problems occur because of lack of training when they are puppies, and lack of follow-up when they grow up.

It’s easy to forget that dogs are only puppies for around 9-15 months so you don’t have a long time to teach them how to behave. If you miss this essential window, training can be a lot more difficult.

After my experience with Wesley (which I sincerely believe was more due to negligent breeder socialisation, possibly tinged with his own his in-born temperament) I spent six months with Monty almost 24/7 to ensure that he did everything he should and didn’t do anything he shouldn’t. He was, however, also exceptionally socialised by the breeder and the importance of this cannot be overstated.

Right!

Why your dog chews his bedI'm not gonna chew this bed, nope, no way!

Let’s look at situations and circumstances that might cause your dog to chew his or her bed.

Sometimes the cause of destructive behaviour is not one thing but a combination of circumstances.

For example, boredom and excessive energy can be caused by lack of exercise. So the cause is not necessarily down to just One Thing.

Hunger and nutritional deficiency

We’ll look at this first because it should be the easiest to detect and to cure.

If you’re feeding your dog a nutritional and balanced diet, this should not be a cause.

However, as a puppy grows, their dietary requirements change so do keep up to speed with their nutritional requirements as they grow up.

If your dog’s hungry then, obviously, it will look for things to chew and eat.

Even if you are feeding your dog correctly, worms can cause an increase in appetite so it’s essential that you worm your dog regularly for their overall health.

When is it time for dinner?

Any time is dinner time!If a dog thinks it has missed a meal, it may look for something to chew.

They say dogs have an inherent sense of time and they know when it’s time for food. I think this can vary from dog to dog and circumstance to circumstance but, generally speaking, I’d say it’s roughly true.

If you feed your dog at exactly the same time each evening, he or she may well get to know when it’s dinner time. This may have benefits in establishing a routine but it doesn’t allow for any flexibility.

Murphy’s flexible dinner time

Murphy, for example, would often ‘remind’ me when it was dinner timer. However, he’d be quite happy to eat dinner early if I had to go out. Likewise, if I’d been out and was delayed beyond dinner time, he was never destructive. And so it was with my other dogs.

Routine is useful but I also advocate a degree of flexibility.

Can dogs tell the time?

My experience is that dogs know when it’s time to eat but they are also forgiving and won’t attack their bed because of hunger if you are a little late.

To allow for flexibility, I didn’t always feed my dogs at exactly the same time each day. Sometimes it might be half an hour early or half an hour late or even an hour either way. Murphy was especially good at spotting when I was late!

Not using the exact same time, I believe, gave me flexibility to feed my dogs at convenient times while the dogs still knew they would definitely get fed ‘around’ that time.

But the main take-away from this section is to ensure that your dog has an adequate and well-balanced diet.

How often should you feed your dog?

All this talk of feeding times gives rise to the question of how often you should feed your dog.

I always fed my dogs twice a day. In s spite of the so-called ‘natural’ theory that back in the day dogs killed their prey and only ate one big mean a day, most dog experts believe that feeding twice a day is the best option.

Lacking nutrients

This also feeds – yeah, I know!  – into the theory that dogs chew because their diet is lacking some essential nutrient.

I have no idea if that is true or not. I can imagine dogs will chew something if they feel their diet is lacking – see Why my dog eats grass – although I suspect bed-chewing, if related to food in any way, might be more hunger-related than nutrient.

So, again, make sure you are feeding your dog a nutritious and well-balanced diet. If in doubt, do consult your vet.

Does your dog chew their bed while you are present?

Mi cama su cama!It’s one thing if your dog chews their bed while you’re not there, but quite another if they do it in your presence.

In the former case it can be due to stress which we look at in a moment but if your dog chews his or her bed while you’re there, it’s another issue entirely. And, hopefully, easier to remedy.

If you’re feeding your dog correctly and can rule out hunger or nutritional deficiencies, why would they chew their bed when you’re there?

There could be a couple of reasons.

Breaking old chewing habitsChew! Chew! Chew! I just love to chew!

One is that they have not grown out of their puppy need to chew while teething and the act of chewing has become a habit.

Another possibility is that they enjoy sucking on the fabric of the bed which can be a comfort activity. Some dog behaviourists believe it may come from being weaned too early and the habit has become compulsive.

This is more likely to lead to a soggy bed than a destroyed one but it’s still a habit that should be discouraged.

Distract and replace

As with many dog problems, the solution is to distract from the unwanted behaviour and replace it with a wanted one.

This is much more fun than chewing a bed!So, in the case of chewing, you want to entice your dog away from chewing their bed and encourage them to play with or chew something that is permissible.

If you have taught them the ‘leave’ command this shouldn’t be difficult. Once they have left it, offer them a toy or a treat amid much praise.

If they are initially reluctant to leave it on command (more training required), most dogs will leave the current object of their attention for the promise of a new one. So encouraging them enthusiastically with a treat or toy will usually divert their attention away from the bed.

This process applies to chewing other items such as shoes and furniture, too.

Positive training techniquesJasper has now settled in his proper bed

It’s important to be positive about this training for a number of reasons. I’m a firm believer that positive reinforcement is far, far better than negative punishment. Not only is it more effective but your dog will want to be with you more, rather than shy away from you – happy dog and happy you!

Governments use negative reinforcement and punishment to keep the population under control with threats of fines and jail if you don’t obey the law. It is, literally, a very negative and counter-productive way of enforcement. But a topic for another blog entirely.

We often use this with children by taking away privileges if they are ‘naughty’.

But it is not a method we want to use to train our dog.

The psychology behind positive reinforcement in dog training

Negative reinforcement can be used to train dogs but it’s not a good or healthy or productive way to do it, and it comes with many risks.

For a more detailed and psychological explanation take a look at Reward Training vs. Discipline-Based Dog Training.

So let’s take a positive approach to dog training.

Do dogs know they’re being ‘naughty’?

It’s reasonable to assume that dogs don’t know if they’re being ‘naughty’ or not. It is, after all, a rather arbitrary set of circumstances which vary from one owner to another.

One might allow their dog upstairs, another not. One might allow their dog on their bed, another not, and so on.

Such behaviours and limitations need to be taught and you cannot blame your dog for not knowing what’s allowed and what’s not instinctively.

They’re a stranger in a strange land so how do they know it’s okay to chew a ball but wrong to chew a shoe?

And on that subject, don’t give your dog old things (such as shoes or cushions) to chew. How are they to know it’s okay to chew this shoes but not that one?

The problem with scolding your dog

Most experts agree that dogs can’t associate a current ‘telling off’ with a past deed.

Who has not returned home to some destructive behaviour and said: “Who’s done that?” Yes, I am guilty, too. But the problem is your dog doesn’t associate you telling him off with the behaviour they may have done hours ago.

If they show any signs of remorse or submissive behaviour, it’s because you are telling them off, not because they are able to associate the telling off with a chewed bed.

They are reacting to your negativity and may learn to associate you coming home with a negative experience which is something you certainly don’t want.

Let your dog know you’re pleased to see them

I fully appreciate that such training can be incredibly difficult because that sort of remonstration works with humans – and children! – who CAN make the association but, alas, it doesn’t work with dogs.

The best you can do is to let them know how pleased you are to be home and to see them again because the chewed bed or the chewed shoe will not figure in their awareness at all.

If they are destructive when you are out, you need to practise leaving them for short periods with a positive association when you go such as s Kong filled with treats. Then gradually increase the time you are away.

Again, you only have a few months to train your puppy so you must make an effort in their early weeks to spend a lot of time with them showing them what they can and cannot do.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety occurs when you leave your dog and they become stressed or anxious. It is a common cause of bed chewing although that can be just one of several types of behaviour.

Separation anxiety is a massive subject so we’ll look at just a few possible causes along with some potential solutions.

Experts aren’t 100% sure what causes separation anxiety but it occurs more with rescue dogs than with dogs who have been brought up from a puppy in a family household. This has lead many dog behaviourists to believe it is connected to a loss or a change of people in the dog’s family group or immediate surroundings.

This can be events like a change of owner, moving house, new people entering the family group or people leaving it. It can also be due to a change in routine such as leaving the dog alone at a time when you were previously always there.

Separation anxiety symptoms

The symptoms of separation anxiety are also many-fold including urinating, barking, pacing and, of course, destructive behaviour.

The solution is to reduce and finally eliminate the stress and anxiety so your dog looks upon you leaving as a positive experience.

Again, early training is best. You need to reassure your puppy that they’re going to be fine if you pop out for a few minutes or a few hours. Do this slowly, increasing the amount of time you leave your puppy alone.

Pavlov pre-departure anxiety

If you recall the Pavlov dog experiment, when dogs were fed they salivated. Then before they were fed a bell was rung. The dogs then associated the ringing of the bell with food and started to salivate before the food arrived.

A similar thing can occur with separation anxiety whereby your dog knows your ‘getting ready to leave’ routine and starts to become anxious when you put on your coat or shoes, for example.

If you notice this behaviour, do your ‘getting ready to leave’ routine but don’t leave. Put on your shoes or coat but stay in the house. This will let your dog know that these activities do not always mean you are going to leave.

Likewise, you can pop out ‘unexpectedly’ for a few minutes, wearing your ‘in house’ clothes.

Training a dog takes time

Yes, it takes time but if it was easy to raise and train a puppy everyone would do it! (Okay, joke!) Or, more to the point, we’d have a nation of happy, well-adjusted and well-behaved dogs!

So, as you gradually increase the time you leave your dog, they will learn that you WILL come back. Hooray!

Be positive about leaving

You should make leaving your dog a positive experience for them. I always gave my dogs a treat and said something like: “Back in five minutes”, relying on the assumption that they had not yet learned to tell the time 🙂 (feeding time apart…).

I’d usually give them a chew treat if I wasn’t going to be long or a Kong, or in Murphy‘s case the Satellite, if I was going to be a few hours.

A Kong can keep a dog occupied for 30-60 minutes after which, hopefully, they will be tired enough to lie down and snooze or play with their other toys which were always available.

If you want to learn more about separation anxiety there is an excellent but detailed article about on the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) site called Separation anxiety.

The bored dogI'm bored. What can I chew next?

Separation anxiety and boredom are usually discussed separately but if your dog doesn’t show obvious signs of pre-departure anxiety it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between the two.

A bored dog might start chewing their bed simply for something to do.

I’m sure my dogs got bored at times when I was out but, bless them, they probably played with a toy or slept.

Boredom becomes a problem when it leads to destructive behaviour.

How to stop your dog being bored

Puppies need lots of exercise, too!There are a couple of solutions to this scenario.

Dogs are generally active animals and need daily exercise, possibly more than we might imagine.

So the first step is to give your dog lots of exercise before you leave them. If you leave for work in the morning, give them a good walk before you go.

Exercise is not a loo break!

I'll need a sleep after this!I know a few dog owners who give their dogs a ten-minute walk in the morning to relieve themselves, and then go to work. Imagine the scenario – you sleep all night, get up, go to the loo then are effectively sent back to bed for 4, 6 or 8 hours.

I don’t know about you or your dog but I’d certainly be bored!

So if this is your routine and your dog is chewing their bed, try giving them a decent 30-40+minute walk in the morning before you leave and see if that helps.

Also, still practise positive reinforcement when you leave and give them a Kong or a chew treat.

Mental exercise for dogs

If you have an intelligent dog – and who doesn’t? – when the exercise excesses have worn off, your dog may require some mental stimulation.

Aside: I loved Monty. He followed me around and, of course, I thought he was a bright dog because of it. After all, what sort of mental agility do we ask of a dog other than he ‘behaves’?

It was only after I lost him that a friend said: “Well, he wasn’t the brightest of dogs” which I thought was both untrue and hurtful. For the life of me I couldn’t bring to mind any situation where he had demonstrated any lack of dog intelligence. Or, indeed, was required to do so. He was a beautiful, warm, happy, loving dog and what more can we ask?

But if he was not the brightest dog on the block, perhaps that’s what gave us such an affinity 🙂

Back to the plot.

As well as physical exercise, dogs need mental stimulation. They get this in several ways such as playing games with you, playing other dogs, playing with dog toys, and exploring their surroundings which they can do indoors and out.

Reading the doggy newspaper

Murphy's favourite pastime - apart from eating - was reading the doggy newspaperWhen one of my dogs was out and sniffing around I used to say they were reading the doggy newspaper. They find out which other dogs have been that way and discover scents of other animals and people.

A dog’s sense of smell is more sensitive than ours by a factor of several thousand so this is all very interesting to a dog. They probably get the same sort of mental stimulation from it as we get from reading a newspaper.

So a good walk and active play are important for exercise, but the sniffing is also important for mental stimulation, too.

Indoors, your dog will quickly become familiar with the smells and may require additional mental exercise.

Mental puzzles for dogs

As mentioned earlier, a puzzle toy such as a Kong can keep a dog engaged for up to an hour.

There are also many more demanding dog puzzle toys which require a greater amount of time to solve. They usually involve your dog ‘doing something’ in return for a treat. This might be rolling the toy around so treats fall out of holes or pressing buttons to release a treat. There is an amazing range of such toys on the market.

You need to try them with your dog before leaving him or her alone with one. Some dogs may not find them interesting, others may give up before they’ve solved them, and some puzzles are eminently chewable so your dog might resort to chewing it rather than trying to get the food out. You may need to show your dog what to do.

But if your dog chews because they’re bored, such puzzles might give them enough stimulation to counter their boredom.

Anti-chew spray

Spraying your dog’s bed with an anti chew spray could seem like an obvious solution. It might, indeed, provide a quicker result and it’s certainly worth a try but there are a couple of things to bear in mind.

First, if your dog only chews their bed and you’re not sure why, there is a risk that they might transfer their chewing to something else. I’m guessing a worst-case scenario is where you have to spray the entire house! I’m not sure if that’s a joke or not.

The hope with these sprays is they will discourage the dog who will then get out of the habit of chewing items they shouldn’t.

However, they may start chewing their bed again when the spray wears off. You can keep applying the spray but training them out of the habit is an all-round better option.

Secondly, there is a small possibility that your dog actually likes the taste of the spray or, at least, tolerates it while chewing.

There are, however, several sprays so if one isn’t effective, you can try another.

Chew proof beds

Monty could sleep anywhere - even the top of the stairs!If your dog is an avid bed destroyer, while you apply some of the ideas and training techniques discussed here, you might also want to consider buying a chew proof bed.

As we discuss in The best chew proof dog beds, there are two types of ‘chew proof’ – chew proof and chew resistant.

True chew proof beds use a raised aluminium or PVC frame with a fabric stretched across it cleverly arranged so there are no corners or edges for the dog to grab and chew at. These are very hard to destroy.

Chew resistant beds are made from tough material with hidden seams and come in a range of designs such as pad, bolster and sofa. If your dog is a chewer rather than a tearer or a digger, one of these might stand up to their efforts but they are not as tough as chew proof beds.

There are dozens of chew resistant beds on the market and in The best chew proof dog beds, as it says on the tin, we only look at the chew proof beds.

How to stop a dog from chewing his bed -summary

By far the best method to prevent any unwanted behaviour is to star training your dog when they are a puppy and to spend a lot of time with them showing what they can and cannot do.

Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, it is easy for behaviours to slip through the net. But, again, the best solution is to train it out of your dog using positive reinforcement.

This can take time and effort on your behalf but it will be worthwhile as you will have a better-behaved and much happier dog.

Finally, if you are really struggling to solve the problem, do consult a professional who specialises in dog behaviour problems. You may find one locally on the internet but your vet should also be able to advise you and suggest someone suitable.

 

I hope you found this article interesting and useful.

You may also be interested in these features:

Why my dog eats grass – The real reason revealed!

Should dogs eat ice cream? – What are the alternatives

Can Dogs Eat Bacon? – Or other pork food?

If you have any questions about how to stop your dog chewing their bed or would like to share your experience – successful or not! – please leave a message in the Comments below and I will reply as soon as possible.

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2 comments on “How to stop a dog from chewing his bed

  1. Oh my God! This is so good. So many helpful tips. I have a dog and she doesn’t chew her bed but takes all the stuffing inside her bed out. I am guessing the same tips apply for this behavior. I will read again all your tips very carefully and will start to apply some of them.
    Great site. Very cute.

    • Thank you for your kind comments.

      The same suggestions should apply in your case. Try to discover why she is doing it then you’ll have a better idea of how to stop it. For example, does she do it while you’re there? If so, she may be hungry or bored or possibly not ‘know’ that the bed is not a toy to be chewed.

      If she only does it in your absence, again it could be boredom or connected with separation anxiety.

      Have another read and see if anything rings a bell.

      Hope it helps.
      Ian

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