German Shepherds are a high energy dog, having been originally bred as a working dog to herd sheep. They love having a job to do and their desire to please their owner is like no other. If, however, they are left unexercised, boredom will quickly set in and they might indulge in destructive behavior, such as chewing which you will want to stop.
To stop a German Shepherd from chewing provide lots of daily exercise and play so they don’t become bored, provide a range of chew toys, train them using positive reinforcement techniques, or try anti-chew deterrents.
This article will explore the reasons why German Shepherds chew in the first place and then we will explore the 16 ways on how to stop your German Shepherd from chewing.
Welcome to the world of German Shepherd chewing. Let’s get started!
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- Why Do German Shepherds Chew?
- 1. Make Sure Your GSD Gets Lots of Exercise
- 2. Provide a Variety of Chew Toys
- 3. Train Commands Such as “Leave It” or “No!”
- 4. Make Commands Short and Sharp
- 5. Use Treats as Rewards
- 6. Use a Clicker
- 7. Distraction
- 8. Don’t Rush The Process
- 9. Puppy-Proof Your House
- 10. Make a Homemade Chewing Deterrent
- 11. Purchase an Anti-Chew Spray
- 12. Get Everyone On Board
- 13. Don’t Give Toys That Resemble Items Your GSD Shouldn’t Chew
- 14. Give Bully Sticks to Teething Puppies
- 15. Consider Putting Your GSD in Time-out
- 16. Consider the Vet for a Check-up
- Final Thoughts
Why Do German Shepherds Chew?
Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, they enjoy it, and it helps keep their teeth clean and jaws strong. All dogs explore the world with their mouths. Whether your German Shepherd is chewing because they’re feeling restless, bored, anxious, or they’re teething as a puppy, it is normal behavior for a dog.
The problem starts if your German Shepherd starts to chew your personal possessions such as socks, shoes, coats, or even the wooden leg of your dining table! This is known as destructive chewing.
Causes of destructive chewing are a lack of training, insufficient exercise, boredom, attention-seeking, anxiety, or other medical causes.
Anxiety can manifest itself in three forms; noise sensitivity, fearfulness, and separation anxiety. The latter is common in German Shepherds but research shows that all three types of anxiety can cause behavior problems in dogs.
There are plenty of methods that you can use to stop this destructive chewing. Rather than scolding them and causing fear, use these 16 ways to stop your German Shepherd from destructive chewing and teach him what he can chew on.
1. Make Sure Your GSD Gets Lots of Exercise
German Shepherds need at least 2 hours of exercise every day, preferably in two sessions. This needs to be varied and not just leash walking! GSDs need to run, play fetch or frisbee, or do agility.
They also need a good amount of attention throughout the day to keep them stimulated. If you’re out working, and you can’t entertain them, you can hire a dog sitter, dog walker, or use a doggy daycare. Remember, never leave a German Shepherd alone for more than 4 hours, even less for puppies.
Research on dog anxiety and exercise found that puppies who had very little daily exercise were more susceptible to separation anxiety and noise sensitivity when compared to pups who had the recommended amount of daily exercise.
The reason that destructive chewing starts from lack of playing or attention is due to GSDs’ working dog traits. German Shepherds want your attention, and they’re loaded with energy from morning until night. If they can’t release their pent up excitement, boredom sets in and they start chewing at anything they can get their teeth on.
Check out the below video from celebrity trainer Zak George who states that other than normal puppy teething, the number 1 reason why dog’s chew is because they are bored:
2. Provide a Variety of Chew Toys
A variety of chew toys should be provided for your German Shepherd to help them stop gnawing things they shouldn’t and to prevent habituation. Especially when you leave your GSD alone, you need to make sure they have enough chew toys to keep them entertained.
Furniture, appliances, shoes, and other items that you won’t want to be damaged are all subject to their chewing. Some owners believe that dogs love shoes, which is actually false! They love variety.
German Shepherds are one smart cookie, so they know when a toy looks or feels similar to another. You will need to buy plenty of toys that look, sound, and feel completely different. This process will prevent them from seeking different types of chew toys!
I always choose KONG toys as there are loads to choose from, and last forever. They are made from strong rubber that not even your German Shepherd can chew through!
Here’s my German Shepherd, “Willow,” with a selection of her KONG chew toys. You can read more about her favorite ones here.
3. Train Commands Such as “Leave It” or “No!”
Use positive reinforcement techniques to train your German Shepherd commands such as “leave it” when he starts to chew your wooden furniture. Once you have your dog’s attention with the verbal command, direct him to something that he is allowed to chew and then reward him with a treat. That way, he will soon recognize when to stop chewing things he shouldn’t!
It’s easier to train any dog when they’re young, especially German Shepherds, and males, in particular, tend to get a bit stubborn as they become adults. It can be done, though, as I explain in my post, Is It Ever Too Late To Train a German Shepherd?
4. Make Commands Short and Sharp
If you’re going to be loud when training your German Shepherd to stop chewing, make sure your verbal commands are short and sharp. Constant yelling won’t stop your dog from chewing your shoes and will likely make him scared of you, which can harm him for good.
Instead, stick to a specific word or phrase that will make them connect their disliked behavior with the sound. You could try saying “Ouch!” or “Ahh Ahh!” both of which are sharp and sudden.
5. Use Treats as Rewards
When faced with a destructive chewer, make sure you have small treats to hand. Rather than scolding them over and over, show your German Shepherd that good rewards are given to puppies who obey!
This method helps to stop unwanted chewing because it teaches your pup that chewing is only for toys and food, nothing else. They’ll learn to stop chewing on your things and focus on their toys, especially if you stuff them with peanut butter as you can with some chew toys.
Check out my recommended treats for German Shepherds here. They are all healthy and made with quality ingredients. You can buy cheaper ones, of course; however, most will be of poor quality with added fillers, artificial ingredients, or preservatives.
6. Use a Clicker
Clicker training is a great way to train your German Shepherd. It is a form of positive reinforcement. Dogs quickly learn that if they do something good and please you and they get a treat, they are likely to keep repeating the rewarded behavior.
Timing is very important when clicker training but first you need to introduce your pup to the clicker. When you press the clicker and your GSD hears the noise, you then give him a treat. Do this a few times so he now associates the noise with getting a treat.
At the precise moment, you see your German Shepherd about to start chewing something he shouldn’t, use the clicker to distract him and reward him.
Distraction is one of the most commonly used methods of stopping German Shepherds from chewing on things they shouldn’t, especially if you don’t have other tools to hand, such as chew toys, treats, or your clicker. Also, if you’re looking for ways to save money without buying tons of toys or treats, you could always just keep them entertained.
The best way to distract a German Shepherd is to get their attention by either a clap of hands or a snap of the fingers and then quickly get eye contact with your dog.
You can then start to play with them yourself. They love your attention! GSDs seek a strong bond with their owners more than almost any other dog. If you show them affection and play with them when they’re doing something wrong, they’re more likely to go to you rather than chew that shoe!
8. Don’t Rush The Process
Below is a photo of my German Shepherd who took a dislike to one of her cushions in her crate!
It’s important to recognize that not all German Shepherd puppies will learn everything right away. Patience and consistency are the key components of training your dog not to chew your stuff!
If you scold them too much or get mad at them, they’ll become anxious or stressed. Shouting will not work when trying to discipline your German Shepherd.
You also shouldn’t scold them aggressively when trying to stop destructive behavior as they might start to think that chewing is bad in general.
This will force them away from their chew toys and make them confused or sad. Your GSD could even end up barking, which is much more challenging to tame and prevent than chewing.
9. Puppy-Proof Your House
It’s no secret that puppies chew on things more than older dogs as they go through the teething stage, and German Shepherds are no exception! They will want to chew on anything to soothe their sore gums whilst their adult teeth are coming through.
At this young age, German Shepherd puppies are super inquisitive and want to learn and experiment with their mouths by chewing everything and anything. While you can’t stop them chomping while you’re away, you can definitely puppy-proof your home to keep your possessions safe from your curious pup.
Tuck and tie away electric cords, curtains, and headphones, or anything your pup may be attracted to.
I recommend crate-training your pup as this provides a safe environment where he can gnaw those interesting KONG chew toys. Most dogs love their crate as it is their special place to go and rest or play. If you opt not to have a crate, one idea is to segregate a part of your home using a dog gate.
You can also use a particular room and make it puppy-proof. Remove all valuables out of sight, and make sure that there aren’t any shoes you’ve left hanging around for your GSD to chew.
10. Make a Homemade Chewing Deterrent
It might be a bit messy, but you can make a homemade anti-chew deterrent and put it on or near your valuables that your German Shepherd has started to chew.
Some things to try are pepper, vinegar, or Tabasco. You can also use lemon oil or orange citrus. Along with spicy food, dogs tend to steer clear from the smell and taste of sour or bitter food.
The idea is to first introduce the deterrent to your GSD by putting some on a small piece of cotton wool, placing it in his mouth, and seeing how he reacts. If he spits it out and then shakes his head or drools, you know that he doesn’t like it.
He should now associate the smell of the deterrent as something he doesn’t like meaning he won’t go anywhere near it, never mind start to chew it! You may need to experiment before you find one that works on your dog.
11. Purchase an Anti-Chew Spray
If you don’t want to make your own anti-chew deterrent, you can buy an anti-chew spray. They’re relatively cheap online or at almost any pet store. These sprays are non-toxic and will make your GSD gag or cringe when he licks or starts to chew the material, making him never want to do it again!
You can purchase scentless anti-chew sprays, so you don’t have to smell them throughout the day. However, they also come in sour apple and a variety of other scents that you’ll enjoy, and your German Shepherd won’t!
12. Get Everyone On Board
Friends, family, and anyone else who comes in contact with your German Shepherd all need to be on board when training your dog to stop chewing. Different commands and gestures can be confusing and impossible for your dog to hold onto. Instead, make sure that you all use the same motions and phrases.
A simple way to do this is to lay the foundations as soon as the destructive chewing begins. Write down on a whiteboard all the commands that you plan to use and leave in a handy place as a reminder for everyone.
13. Don’t Give Toys That Resemble Items Your GSD Shouldn’t Chew
Some pet owners think that a small shoe chew toy is adorable because dogs are notorious for chewing on shoes. Unfortunately, it’s far from productive towards your cause!
Rather than only chewing on the toy shoe, they may start to chew all shoes in their sight. Who can blame them when you’ve opened up a world of confusion for them? Also, avoid things like fake newspapers, old clothes, and other items that you wouldn’t want them to chew on. It might seem simple, but it’s one of the easiest mistakes to make!
14. Give Bully Sticks to Teething Puppies
When they’re losing their baby teeth in favor of new, strong teeth, German Shepherd pups will start to bite and chew everything. This will usually occur between 12-16 weeks of age and may last until 6 months old. Try to keep them occupied with a delicious bully stick which is a healthy natural chew made from high-protein beef muscle.
Bully sticks can take ages to chew through, and your pup won’t want to put it down! They’re highly digestible, good for cleaning teeth, and soaked with flavor, making them much more appetizing than slippers and other tasteless items! It combines the rewarding treat suggestion with the distracting toy tip!
15. Consider Putting Your GSD in Time-out
Puppies are very similar to children in the sense that they don’t like to be put in time-out. You can put them in a designated area or a separate dog kennel for a few minutes if they start chewing on something that they’re supposed to stay away from. Your German Shepherd will eventually associate the behavior with time-out, making them stay away.
Note: If you use this method, their crate shouldn’t be used or wherever you leave them when you go out. When you designate a time-out space, you can’t leave them there since they’ll become confused and think they’re always doing something wrong. Only use time-out if you have a separate kennel or crate or area specifically for it.
16. Consider the Vet for a Check-up
If you have a German Shepherd puppy who’s excessively chewing on everything around the house and you’ve tried all of the above, seek help from your veterinarian. Some puppies have extra-itchy or painful gums when their adult teeth are coming through. This causes them to scratch them by biting everything they can.
Some vets might prescribe a spray or medicine in case there’s an infection present. Every puppy is unique, and they might have demands that aren’t met by common chewing suggestions. A vet can take a close look to tell you if there’s any other problem.
German Shepherds have plenty of needs, including the need to have something to chew on. Whether they’re teething, chewing excessively from lack of toys, or they crave your attention, you now have everything that you need to get it under control.
Never yell at your German Shepherd for any form of destructive behavior, instead, use a calm, commanding tone and teach him the right way using positive reinforcement as detailed in this article. I hope you’ve found it helpful and good luck with your dog.
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