It’s happened again. You seemed to only turn around for five minutes to change your shoes and your dog made off with your slipper and is now gnawing away on it like a bone.
Why do dogs chew slippers? Dogs chew a lot of things, including slippers, shoes, the baseboards. But it in most cases they are not doing it to be destructive or to make you mad, it’s often unless they are puppies, for whom chewing everything is normal, a sign that something else is going on that their pet parents need to address.
But what is your dog trying to tell you when they chew your best slippers to pieces? It may be a little more complex than it seems.
Normal dog chewing
To a certain extent, all dogs chew. When they are puppies they do so in order to better help them explore their new world. As they get older it’s often a way to relieve the pain of incoming teeth. In older adult dogs chewing is a way of keeping their teeth clean and their jaws strong, or to relieve boredom or anxiety.
How do I stop my dog from chewing my slippers?
Whatever the reason your dog is chewing up your slippers, shoes, ,clothing etc. we know it can be annoying. It can get expensive too if they do it to often. But shouting at them, or getting mad, is not going to help (and they just don’t understand anyway) Trying to work to get what lies behind destructive chewing – like chewing up your slippers – is the best course of action every time.
Ruling out problems that can cause destructive chewing
Dogs, chewing and separation anxiety
Some dogs rarely chew anything when they are with their humans, unless they are given the occasional tasty bones. However, when they are alone – perhaps when you’ve gone to work or school – that changes and it seems like the moment you are out of the door they begin to chew everything in sight.
Im many cases this is a sign that your pup is suffering from separation anxiety. They are chewing things in order to try to calm themselves down. Some dog owners think that their pets chew things up when they leave because they are angry about that fact. That’s not the case though. They are lonely and confuse and may also display other signs of separation anxiety like barking, whimpering, pacing and even urination and defecation when they are usually perfectly housetrained.
Dogs and sucking on slippers – and other fabrics
Some dogs don’t so much destroy the slippers they steal but seem to lick, suck and chew on them without destroying them instead. Some per experts believe that this behavior can be the result of having been weaned too early (before the age of eight to nine weeks) If their slipper (fabric) chewing behavior occurs often, or if it is difficult to distract your puppy away from the activity it may have become a compulsion, and they may need the help of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) with specialized training and experience in treating compulsive behavior.
Destructive chewing and hunger
Sometimes a dog needs to be put on a diet. But unlike humans, they don’t really know what’s going on. All a calorie restricted dog knows is that its hungry and it’s looking for additional sources of food and nutrition. In these cases it’s time to reexamine their diet. Some people unknowingly underfeed their pups because they simply don’t know how much they need to eat. Or they feed them a food that is not particularly nutritious. A conversation with your vet about your dog’s specific nutritional needs will be very helpful here.
How to reduce and manage your dog’s destructive chewing habit
The reasons that puppies and very young dogs chew are fairly simple. They use their mouths to investigate interesting objects they come across – including your slippers. They are also usually teething, and like human babies need something to chew on to relieve the pain and discomfort.
Usually puppy teething and their chewing phase ends by the time they are six to eight months old. Some veterinarians suggest giving puppies ice cubes, special dog toys that can be frozen, all of which might help numb teething pain. And although puppies will usually chew on things with the right gentle training and encouragement they can be taught to restrict their chewing to the right things – like their toys – and stay away from the wrong things, like your slippers.
Normal dog chewing behavior
There is nothing unnatural about chewing in dogs of any age and of any breed. BAck when they live in the wild dogs spent hours chewing on bones and it’s a behavior that has remained in the consciousness of the modern domesticated dog. This is an activity that helps to keep their teeth clean and to exercise their jaws.
They also do this to stop themselves from being bored, to relieve anxiety and even just for fun. The key is to make sure that they are given things to chew that are appropriate.
Adult dogs, not just puppies, should be given a variety of appropriate, safe and attractive to them chew toys. Doing this isn’t quite enough though. They need to be taught what is okay to chew and what isn’t. And they need to be taught in a gentle, humane manner, not by being shouted at.
More useful tips to help you get your dog’s chewing under control
Dog proof your house
Just like you toddler proof your home to prevent damage (and injury) you should dog proof it as well. Put away valuable objects – including those $40 Lands End slippers – until you are fairly sure that your dog’s chewing is under control. By doing so you make it easier for him to succeed, and that can only be a great thing for you both.
Yes, your dog needs toys
Some non pet parents often marvel – and even scoff – at the idea of making sure that your dog has plenty of toys. But, if a dog is prone to chewing they need them, and preferably a variety of them too (dogs get bored with their toys just like kids do)
But do shop with caution. Not all dog toys are created equal and some of the very inexpensive ones – the ones you find in dollar stores for example – are not very sturdy and contain small parts that could become a choking hazard. Before you shop for dog toys take the time to read some online reviews to help you discover just what toys are best for ‘active’ chewer dogs.
You do need to use caution when giving your dog bones as well. Do not give offer cooked bones, like leftover t-bones from a steak or the bones from your football game snack chicken bones as these splinter very easily and that can seriously injure you dog.
Better edible things to offer you dog to chew like bully sticks, pig ears, rawhide bones, pig skin rolls or other natural chews. Do watch how fast they chew them, as some can choke is they eat the smaller ones too fast. If your dog is going to be alone err on the side of caution and only leave them with a very robust bone like a Nylabone.
Can I discourage chewing behavior with a deterrent?
You can help your dog understand what items are ‘bad’ for them to chew by spraying them with a deterrent. These have become relatively easy to find in pet stores and while your pup will find them unpleasant to taste they are harmless. Halt! and Nature’s Miracle Pet Block are two good choices but your vet may be able to recommend others as well.
When you first use a dog deterrent, you have to go about it the right way. Begin by applying a small amount of the deterrent to a clean piece of tissue or cotton wool. The gently encourage your dog to put it in his mouth.
At this point he is going to taste the bad taste and spit it out. He might be irritated, he might drool or even retch, but ideally he will have begun learning the connection between that terrible taste and the smell of the deterrent and once he does, he’s unlikely to want to repeat that bad experience by chewing on anything that smells like that again.
The next step, of course, is to spray the deterrent on the things you do not want your dog to chew, like your slippers. Reapply the spray every few weeks, even if your dog has been good and has stayed away, just to make sure that the smell is still there. Try to avoid using the homemade remedies you might see on the Internet though. Some of them are not safe and some of them can damage the things you are applying it to, especially fabrics.
Helping your dog learn
Successfully reducing destructive chewing will take more than just the occasional use of deterrents. You will have to become actively involved in helping them learn what they can and cannot chew. If they pick up something bad, gently remove it, say something like ‘uh-oh’ and then give them something they are allowed to chew in return.
Obviously, most of us cannot be with our dogs all the time, and as many pet owners know that is when some dogs are most likely to begin their destructive chewing. Therefore It’s a must that you find safe ways to stop him chewing things up while you are out.
If you work or go to school during the day, give your dog his own, confined area to be in. You don’t necessarily have to use a crate – that is often a little too restrictive for many dogs and will increase their anxiety – a small space blocked by a dog (or baby gate) is just as good, or, if you have the space you could even give them their own ‘room’.
Make sure you remove all things that your dog shouldn’t chew from his ‘doggie zone’ and give him a variety of appropriate toys and chew things to enjoy instead.
Should I give my dog one of my old slippers?
Some people think that if they give their pup one of their old slippers to claim as their own then they will be helping to ‘save’ their current pair. This however is a very bad idea? Why? because you are undoing all the good work you have been doing and confusing your dog. It just isn’t fair to expect your dog to understand what a ‘bad to chew’ slipper is versus an ‘okay to chew’ slipper. They need to be taught that all slippers are off limits, and you cannot do that if you decide to give him one as a toy!
What NOT to Do
As frustrating as a dog’s destructive chewing habit can be there are some things that you simply must never do. These are some of the most important:
Do not hold up a chewed slipper (or other item) and dangle it in your dog’s face and scold him hours after the event happened. Dogs can’t connect the punishment with something they did hours ago.
Do not leave your dog in a crate for too long – over 6 hours – just to stop him chewing things.
Do not shout at your dog when he chews something bad. He needs to be corrected, but in a calm, measured manner. Shouting will only frighten him and if his chewing is anxiety related make it even worse. If you struggle with this consider taking your pup to a professional dog trainer. Doing so will actually serve two purposes. Your pup’s behavior will improve and you’ll learn valuable lessons about how to interact with your dog, so it will be a win-win situation for both of you.