Why does my Brittany want to chew EVERY-THING?

Chewing is natural. Brittanys are curious canines. They explore the world around them by sight, sound, smell, and taste. Brittanys use their mouths a lot like we humans use our hands. They’re not tasting your shoes, they’re feeling them. And, yeah, feeling with your mouth looks a lot like chewing.

Brittanys are normally destructive for one or more of five reasons, none of which involve spite, malice, or “getting even.” 

  1. Stress:
    Simply put, physical activity relieves stress. A stressed human may pace the floor, go jogging, chew her fingernails, or tap a pencil on the table or a foot on the floor. Chewing, digging, and other destructive behaviors are stress relievers for dogs. Stress-related destructive behavior can be relatively mild, or turn into full-blown separation anxiety.
  2. Teething:
    A young dog can be in mild to somewhat severe discomfort when his new teeth are pushing through the gums, and until they are fully emerged at 18-24 months. Chewing helps relieve teething pain, which is one of the reasons puppies and adolescent dogs are such dedicated chewers.
  3. Boredom:
    Brittanys need something to do. Sporting breeds can be workaholics; if you don’t give them a job, they’ll create one, and it may not be one that meets with your approval. They need to be mentally and physically challenged. 
  4. High jinks:
    Dogs explore the world with their mouths, and young dogs are particularly driven to explore the world around them, as so much of it is new and exciting. Does this taste good? Does this feel good? Is this fun to play with? In addition, puppies and youngsters tend to have high energy levels, and sometimes go on a rampage in a burst of feel-good energy, similar to a teenager who trashes the house with a beer party when his parents unwisely leave him home alone for a weekend.
  5. Habit:
    If a dog is poorly managed and allowed to repeatedly engage in destructive behavior during his formative months (the first one to two years) he may develop destructive behavior habits that can continue throughout his life. In contrast, if he is well managed for his first two years, he is unlikely to pick up destructive behaviors later in life – unless his environment changes drastically and causes him undue stress.

Tips to discourage unwanted chewing

  • Exercise your Brittany and give them  plenty of social interaction, playtime, and ample opportunity to explore.
  • Try different chew toys with varying shapes, colors, sizes, textures, tastes and odors to find their favorites. You can also try stuffing the toy with peanut butter (no xylitol!) or kibble.
  • Rotate toys every two to three days and pack the others in a drawer. You’ll find they get super-excited when you open that drawer and withdraw a “new” plaything.

Stay positive and be calm 
A word of caution about yelling, swatting or spanking misbehaving dogs: It doesn’t help. The fact is dogs aren’t able to connect their actions with your reaction. They’re responding to fear and pain without fully appreciating the cause and effect.

If you catch them in the act, make a loud noise (not a yell or scream but a clap or similar), call their name, give them a favorite toy, and praise them when they begin playing with the toy. Stay positive and be calm.