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Why Do German Shepherds Chew on Wood? The Root of the Behavior

You’re relaxing on the couch when you hear a strange creaking sound from somewhere in the house. You search every room of your house for the source of the sound, and then you end up in your kitchen. That’s where you see it: your German Shepherd gnawing on the leg of your wooden kitchen table!

So, why do German Shepherds chew on wood? There are a few reasons that German Shepherds chew on wood:

  • They can get separation anxiety. 
  • They might not have enough solid dog toys to chew on. 
  • They might be bored.
  • They might have too much energy and are trying to get rid of it in an unconventional way. 
  • They may be under-exercised.

If your German Shepherd seems to spend all of his free time chewing on wood furniture around the home, don’t worry. There are concrete reasons that this is happening, and there are some simple actions you can take to prevent this behavior in the future. 

German Shepherd pup chewing a wooden brush. Why do German Shepherds Chew on Wood?

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Let’s get started!

Separation Anxiety

Humans, cats, dogs, and other types of domestic animals experience feelings of separation anxiety when separated from those they care about. This type of behavior usually happens when a dog builds an unhealthy and extreme attachment to its owner. 

When forced away from his owner for long periods of time, the separation anxiety slowly begins to set in. This is when anxious behaviors tend to occur, including excessive barking, pacing, digging, and even chewing on furniture.

To make matters worse, German Shepherds are extremely prone to experiencing separation anxiety. 

What It Looks Like in Dogs

You can always count on your German Shepherd to be right by your side every second that you’re in the house. But, have you ever wondered what he does when he’s home alone?

Well, if he has separation anxiety (which is likely if he’s chewing on wood while you’re gone), this is what he might be up to:

Your dog has built such a strong attachment to you, his owner, that he doesn’t know what to do with himself when you’re gone. He becomes extremely stressed out and does whatever he can to soothe his anxiety and stress.

Why Your German Shepherd Has Separation Anxiety

The German Shepherd is a pretty tough and intimidating dog to the outside world, but all German Shepherd owners know just how soft and clingy their German Shepherd can be.

You might be surprised to learn that German Shepherds are especially prone to developing separation anxiety. The jury’s still out on why exactly they are more likely to have separation anxiety than other breeds, but there is one major reason it happens:

German Shepherds are extremely loyal and protective. 

Your German Shepherd is by your side every second of the day. He’s so loyal that he refuses to leave your side, no matter what happens. If you are a German Shepherd owner you will know just how true this is – my dog will even follow me to the bathroom!

When your German Shepherd is forced away from you for even a short period of time, he feels lost and doesn’t know what to do with himself! This is when he’s more likely to engage in destructive habits like chewing on wood.

To reduce separation anxiety, make sure your German Shepherd has sufficient age-appropriate exercise before leaving him so that he will be tired and less stressed. Make your comings and goings low-key, especially when you return home.

If you are looking for more in-depth ways to stop separation anxiety in German Shepherds, check out this article, German Shepherd Separation Anxiety: Training, Help & Treatment.

The Innate Desire to Chew

It’s completely natural for your German Shepherd to want to chew at any age. Puppies will chew and bite because they are teething and exploring their new world with their mouths.

German Shepherd Puppy with a Stick
My German Shepherd “Willow” at 3 months old playing with a stick

Chewing helps dogs to relieve anxiety and stress, get out their natural instinct to chew, and helps to keep their teeth and jaw clean and functional. They may also chew to relieve boredom – don’t forget, German Shepherds need lots of exercise including play and mental stimulation.

If your German Shepherd is chewing on your furniture, your ultimate goal isn’t to teach them NOT to chew, but WHAT to chew.

Nowadays, dogs usually have a ton of access to chew toys that allow them to get this behavior out of their system! You need to condition your German Shepherd to have a really good chew toy habit so that they know exactly what they are allowed to chew on.

My favorite chew toys are the KONG range. There are so many different ones to choose from, including some that you can stuff with treats to make it fun and exciting for your dog. They are also super strong and ideal for your German Shepherd’s teeth! I recommend the KONG Classic from Amazon as it solves chewing, boredom, separation anxiety and helps with teething.

For more tips on how to discipline your German Shepherd for biting, check out this top article with all the do’s and don’ts.

When dogs have limited access to high-quality dog toys and have immediate access to wood furniture, you can see why they tend to lean toward wood instead!

So, should you let you German Shepherd chew sticks? Below is a picture of my German Shepherd “Willow” playing with her two Boxer dog pals. If you allow your adult dog to chew on a stick like “Willow,” then that’s absolutely fine – as long as they know they are allowed to do it!

In this case, it’s important to ensure that the wood isn’t going to splinter which can cause injuries to the dog’s mouth or throat. It’s also recommended to supervise them during this activity.

German Shepherd and 2 Boxer Dogs Chewing a Stick
“Hey! Come on guys, there’s two of you!”

Lack of Access to Toys

If you tend to come home after a long day of work to see even more teeth marks on the legs of your dining room chairs, you know that your German Shepherd had a little too much fun while you were away.

To understand why your German Shepherd chews on wood, you need to understand why dogs chew in the first place. The most common reasons are:

  • Relaxation and relief from anxiety/stress
  • It’s natural for dogs to have a desire to chew – they enjoy it
  • Chewing keeps their teeth clean and their jaw strong
  • Boredom and/or being under-exercised

If he doesn’t have toys to chew on, that’s where your wood furniture comes into play!

Since it’s completely natural for dogs to want to chew, you need to make sure that you’re giving your German Shepherd toys that he’s actually allowed to chew on. That way, he won’t be turning to the wood furniture in your home instead.

If you see the damage that your German Shepherd has already done to your wooden furniture, it means you need to be making an active effort to get him toys that are strong enough to withstand his chewing habits.

Reducing His Desire to Chew Wood

So, your German Shepherd has developed a habit of chewing on the wooden furniture. You’ve addressed his separation anxiety and loaded the house with indestructible chew toys, yet he still prefers your wood furniture.

Some habits are just hard to break when it comes to dogs, especially if it’s something they’ve been doing for years without the issue being addressed.

Now what?

Well, now it’s time to address the problem behavior and cause him to lose interest in chewing on the wood altogether.

Check out the below 5-minute video from celebrity dog trainer Zak George who describes why dogs chew on wood and other household objects and how to stop it:

How To Stop Your Dog From Chewing!
How to Stop Your Dog From Chewing!

Here are some ways that you can do that:

  • Use positive reinforcement. You need to teach your dog that he shouldn’t be chewing on the wood. Whenever you catch him attempting to chew on your wood furniture or even catch him directly in the act, you need to get his attention initially and verbally say, “No,” or discourage him by using other loud sounds. Quickly distract him with a chew toy and offer a treat as a reward.
  • Train him the “leave it” command. Besides training your dog when he starts to chew the wooden furniture, you need to spend time training him “leave it” and practice this with other household objects like your socks, wallet, or cell phone!
  • Give him a bone to chew on. There are some caveats here: only feed raw bones, beef or lamb, make sure the bone is larger than the muzzle, and always supervise your dog. I have a cool article, Can German Shepherds Eat Bones? which has loads more info on this topic.
  • Use anti-chew sprays. There are tons of products on the market that taste extremely bitter. When you apply these products to your dog’s preferred wood furniture, he’ll dislike the taste and reduce or stop his chewing behavior altogether. This will teach him that the wood tastes bad and that he shouldn’t be chewing on it. These don’t tend to work long-term but can be a temporary measure whilst working on the training techniques. A quick search on Amazon shows the Grannicks Bitter Apple Taste Deterrent For Dogs to be one of the best ones if you try this method.
  • Give him toys. He chews on the wood furniture because he doesn’t have very many options. Stock up on hard chew toys that’ll let him get the chewing out of his system, and you’ll notice significantly fewer teeth marks on your wood furniture!
  • Use dog training spray. Dog training spray (or pet corrector spray) involves spraying a blast of pressurized air to get your GSD’s attention to interrupt unwanted behavior such as chewing. It’s not dangerous, and it quickly gets the point across that your dog needs to change their behavior. As soon as you have your GSDs attention, you then give him a verbal command such as “leave it” and then give him an immediate reward, such as a treat, to reinforce the command further. The Company of Animals Pet Corrector Spray from Amazon gets good reviews; however, please note that you shouldn’t use it on very young puppies and never be pointed directly at your dog.

It’s not necessarily about removing the wood from your home altogether as much as it’s about teaching your German Shepherd not to chew it in the first place. By giving him alternatives (like chew toys) or reducing his interest in chewing the wood (through training or repellants), you can greatly reduce the chewing behavior in your German Shepherd!

Final Thoughts 

Your German Shepherd’s desire to chew on wood furniture seems a little quirky at first. But, there’s a really good chance that he has this desire to chew on wood because of you! Here are the most common reasons that your German Shepherd chews on wood.

  • Your German Shepherd has developed an unhealthy attachment to you and chews on wood to reduce his separation anxiety and nervousness.
  • Your German Shepherd might not have enough access to toys that he should be chewing on, leaving wood as the next best option.
  • Your German Shepherd may be bored so ensure you provide enough exercise, especially before leaving them alone for a few hours.

Remember, it takes time to teach your German Shepherd what he can and can’t chew but if you devote this time you will succeed. Good luck!

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