Is Your Older Dog Chewing Suddenly? This Is What It Means and What To Do About It

May 07, 2019 19 Comments

Is Your Older Dog Chewing Suddenly? This is What it Means and What to do About it


By Alli Wittbold

As dog owners, it goes without saying that when you get a puppy you’re signing up for some degree of chewing. We work hard to train our puppies from the start what’s okay to chew and what’s not.

That’s why when you come home one day to find your usually well-behaved adult dog has chewed (or even destroyed!) objects in your home, it can seriously throw you for a loop!

You’re left wondering, why is my older dog suddenly chewing? What’s going on with them that would cause this sudden change in behavior? And more immediately, what can I do to stop my older dog’s sudden chewing?

When an older dog suddenly starts to chew, it’s usually a clue that something is up with them. The most common culprits are a sudden increase in boredom, new or returning separation anxiety that is brought on by age, or a response to pain.

Below, we’ll discuss the root cause of your older dog’s sudden chewing, and address what you can do to help curb the behavior when your dog needs to be left alone.

Why is my older dog suddenly chewing?

Sudden chewing in older dogs is usually brought on by an underlying cause. It might be as simple as boredom, more complicated like separation anxiety, or a direct response to pain. Whatever the case ends up being, any significant change in your older dog’s behavior is worth a call to the vet.

Because our dogs can’t tell us what’s going on as they age, behavior changes are our best clues that something more serious could be going on. Hopefully, your dog’s sudden chewing isn’t indicative of a larger issue, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution. It’s best to schedule a vet visit in addition to the troubleshooting tips we’ll discuss below.

Chewing as a response to boredom

Has your dog’s daily physical activity time decreased?

Your older dog’s sudden chewing might be a result of boredom. Take a minute to think about your dog’s daily routine for a minute. Has there been a recent decrease in your dog’s usual physical or mental stimulation?

As our dogs age, they make it easier for us to skip a day of walking, or shorten their off-leash time because they can handle it occasionally. But sudden chewing may be your dog’s way of letting you know this “new normal” isn’t providing them with enough stimulation.

As our lives get busier, kids enter the picture, or jobs change we often let our dog’s needs fall by the wayside. Take this chewing as a reminder to recommit to your dog’s needs, or consider hiring some help.

Need some fresh ideas? Check out: 10 Ways to Exercise Your Dog 

What about when you have to limit their daily exercise?

You may need to decrease your dog’s physical stimulation or activity due to health reasons, but their chewing might be letting you know they are bored and need stimulation in another form.

For example, our husky suffered a bad accident at age seven.  This forced us to limit her to on-leash, short walking pretty much permanently after the fact. She certainly let us know that even though her body couldn’t handle more than that, her mind was going nuts with boredom!

We found that allowing her more time to be outside on a line, or in a confined area helped her fulfill her mental stimulation needs significantly.  Additionally, we do a lot of mentally stimulating games with her in the house.

What to do about boredom chewing in older dogs?

  • If they can handle it physically, increase their exercise time before you leave them alone
  • If exercise needs to be limited for health reasons, give them time outside for mental stimulation and spend time playing training games in the house to get their brains working (more specific ideas listed below)
  • Provide them with interesting and challenging chew toys when they are alone (but be sure to supervise them safely with their dog toys)
  • Rotate toys so that your dog doesn’t get bored with their options
  • Take a safety check of your dog’s space and go back through the dog-proofing you might have done when they were younger

Destructive chewing due to separation anxiety

Some older dogs start chewing because of new or recurring separation anxiety. As your dog ages, fear associated with their ailments can make them scared to be away from you. This can be especially true in dogs that develop blindness, deafness or have pain that makes it difficult for them to get around.

It can also appear in dogs that are developing hormonal imbalances with age (hypothyroidism for example). In some cases, changes in behavior are our only indication that something is amiss.

If your dog had a history of separation anxiety that you’ve handled in the past, age can definitely bring it back to the surface. Other reasons older dogs develop separation anxiety are because of new dogs joining the family, new babies or children, and less one-on-one time overall with you, their number one.

Chewing may calm your dog’s nerves

Interestingly, chewing serves as a stress-reliever for dogs. This is why a dog suffering from separation anxiety might suddenly turn to chewing. Dogs also know how to get the attention of their owner, and might use chewing as a way to tell you somethings up.

How to help your dog cope with separation anxiety and stop unwanted chewing?

  • Spend intentional one-on-one time with your dog before leaving every day
  • Don’t make a big deal about leaving the house or returning, you want to normalize coming and going. In fact, it’s actually best to not say goodbye at all
  • Switch up your routine and the order you do things before leaving, your behaviors are what put your dog on high alert
  • Try to leave your dog for shorter lengths of time and increase gradually as you reestablish trust
  • Talk to your vet for more specific advice and possible medication in extreme cases

Note that this is a very brief overview of separation anxiety. This can be a serious challenge for many dog owners and their furry friends. Please don’t take this issue lightly.

Sudden chewing as a response to mouth pain

As your dog ages, more and more ailments might start to pop up. One of these might be mouth pain. Gum disease, swollen gums, tartar build-up, infections, and even cavities might be plaguing your dog. Chewing can provide temporary relief from mouth pain.

You might be able to take a peek into your dog’s mouth and see what’s going on, or it might require a professional. Either way, if you think pain could be the culprit, don’t wait to contact your vet.

General tips to stop my older dog’s sudden chewing

While you are working on addressing the root cause of your older dog’s sudden chewing, there’s no doubt that you have some responsibilities that can’t be put on pause.

Here are some immediate things you can do to help the chewing situation:

  • Confine your dog to a dog-proofed area of your home by using gates or shutting doors
  • If your dog was crate-trained in the past, or the situation is severe, consider using a crate
  • Hire help to come in to help with your dog, this might be to provided exercise, mental stimulation, or simply shorten the time they are alone
  • Leave your dog with things they can chew.  Dog toys that can be filled with treats or peanut butter will keep their mind occupied.
  • Antlers and Monster K9 toys are both options for tough chewers that will last and last

When you are with your dog refocus your efforts on stimulating your dog when you are together, and especially before you leave. If physical exercise is no longer a safe option for your older dog, try to start introducing more mental stimulation.

Mental stimulation ideas for older dogs:

  • Hide and seek for treats or toys throughout the house (this is a go-to with my dogs, especially on really cold days when it’s hard to run them)
  • Maze feeding bowls or scattered feeding
  • Revisiting base command training or working on new commands and tricks
  • Increased time spent outside, even if it has to be in a confined area or on a line

For more advice and information related to destructive chewing, don’t miss my other article, A Step-By-Step Guide: Stop Destructive Chewing When Left Alone.

Don’t worry, you’ll get your older dog back on track!

It might take some time and extra energy, but your older dog’s chewing can be curbed. Getting to the root cause of the problem, addressing health and medical issues, and reconnecting with your canine are all steps toward the solution.

In the meantime, start implementing the general tips mentioned above to protect your home and belongings.

Are you dealing with an older dog that’s suddenly chewing like a 16-week-old puppy? Feel free to chime in below with your story so that we can troubleshoot together!

 

Complete Guide for Large Dog Owners



19 Responses

jessica
jessica

October 02, 2020

Hi there,
My 9 year old dog Schnauzer/Jack Russell used to chew on shoes but hasn’t in a long time. Now all of a sudden she is chewing my fiance’s shoes. It’s his dog and he said she used to do it all the time. But why all of a sudden again. She doesn’t chew mine? He is on the road a lot with his job so she is with me alone a lot. I take her out to play.

Alli Wittbold
Alli Wittbold

May 09, 2020

Hi Olive,

Thanks for taking the time to share your story. It’s so frustrating when older dogs are suddenly being destructive. It seems like she is getting lots of attention and her needs are met, do you think she could be experiencing mouth pain? Sometimes chewing is a way to counteract the pain. Alternatively, some dogs begin chewing things as a sign of mental decline. This has been true with our senior husky. In those cases, careful dog-proofing and a watchful eye is really all you can do. I recommend getting in touch with your vet to rule out anything serious!

Best of luck!

Alli | Writer for Monster K9

Alli Wittbold
Alli Wittbold

May 09, 2020

Hi Chibi’s Mommy,

Sorry to hear that you are going through this! My best guess is that your Shitzu-mix may be feeling threatened by his spot in the pack or feels like he needs to compete for your attention. A little extra love, attention and one-on-one time with you may go a long way. Additionally, having your boyfriend give Chibi lots of positive reinforcement when he’s not being naughty will help. Have your boyfriend give lots of treats and praise when Chibi isn’t chewing or causing problems.

Best of luck!

Alli |Writer for Monster K9

Olive
Olive

May 08, 2020

Our working collie is nine years old she isn’t left alone she is always with my husband or I take her out walking but she has started ripping up her bed and any blankets I give her,she scrapes at the door mat as well she can come in or go out as she pleases.

Chibi's mommy
Chibi's mommy

May 08, 2020

My boyfriend moved in. I have 2 pups Max is a 8 yr old Pom-Collie mix and my 2 year old Shitzu-Mix Chibi. Chibi has been eating his underwear and work clothes. Lately, when he tries to move him from between us, he has started nipping him. But it’s only him. And now we adopted a 6 yr old Poodle mix. What can we do to make my Shitzu- mix stop this new behaviour?

Alli Wittbold
Alli Wittbold

March 05, 2020

Hi Pitbull,

I’m so sorry to hear you are going through this with your 10-year-old Pitbull. It’s hard to see our dogs take on new behaviors in their older age—it’s frustrating for us and sad to see their decline! I think you are on the right track by crating your dog when you’re out for the day.

The fact that he’s going for one specific area in the house tells me it’s probably a kind of “compulsive behavior” which is basically just a repetitive behavior in dogs. Dogs tend to exhibit these kinds of behaviors when they feel stressed, pain/discomfort, or have cognitive dysfunction brought on by age.

The best way to help your dog is to help him feel safe when you’re gone and if possible take steps to leave him for shorter amounts of time. Maybe you can test out what his threshold is of how long into being alone it takes before he goes to chew?

I definitely don’t have all the answers, and sometimes getting to the root of why, especially in older dogs, is impossible. But hopefully, these ideas will help a bit!

This is an article on another site that may be helpful: https://www.rover.com/blog/obsessive-dog-behaviors-help/

Good Luck!
Alli | Writer for Monster K9

Pitbull
Pitbull

March 05, 2020

I have a 10 year old pit bull who has just recently started chewing. He will be 11 this year and up until these last couple weeks hasnt really chewed anything except when he was a new puppy. BUT it is only one area that he will chew and he will do whatever he can to get to it when we arent home, so we have been kenneling him when we are out of the house. the area he is chewing is the floor outside of my bedroom door, its linoleum and the seam was starting to come up so i taped it down until it could be fixed. Well he decided to get to it and pulled it all the way back and started ripping little pieces of it up. so i then taped it down again and covered it and started putting him in the kennel when i would leave, i gave him the benefit of a doubt yesterday and left him alone for 1.5 hrs but gated the hallway and put things over the spot on purpose to deter him. That didnt work and he busted through the gate, pushed the basket over and pulled the rug off and tried getting at the spot!!! even chewed on my door by it… HELLLLLPPPP! I don’t know what else to do…i cant have him destroying my house. He’s not kenneled at night and never bothers it, im at a loss

Alli Wittbold
Alli Wittbold

February 14, 2020

Hi Cindy!
It’s definitely weird that this is happening out of nowhere. My best guess is that she needs a little more attention or exercise. Especially if she’s doing it right in front of you guys. Try to add in an extra exercise session or give her a little more love in the house if possible and you may see the behavior improve. In the meantime, you might need to train yourself a little. Push things far back on the counter or keep them as clear as possible. My dogs are total counter surfers—I know how annoying this is!! And when your dog is alone, confine her to a dog-proofed space or area if possible.
These other articles might help:
https://www.monsterk9.com/blogs/the-monster-k9-blog/destructive-chewing-when-left-alone
https://www.monsterk9.com/blogs/the-monster-k9-blog/common-dog-behavior-problems-the-causes-what-to-do-about-them

Alli Wittbold
Alli Wittbold

February 14, 2020

Hi Elyse,

First of all, congratulations on your (soon to be) baby! I think you are totally right that your dogs are feeling some anxiety. Your dogs likely sense that a big change is coming. Your house has probably undergone some changes to prep for the babe (baby items, maybe setting up a nursery) and you guys are (maybe unknowingly) putting off different energy as your due date approaches. The fact that they’re targeting you and your daughter’s things is also a tip off that it’s jealousy related. It’s natural for dogs to act out in these kinds of situations, but doesn’t make it less frustrating for us as the owners.
My best suggestions:
-Continue to put things away and be diligent about confining them to a dog-proof area when they’re alone
-Really try to stick to their routine and make sure they’re getting a little extra love, attention and exercise
-When baby arrives, and even around your daughter, give them lots of positive attention when they’re exhibiting “expected behavior” to reinforce how you want them to act
Also, check out my full article about introducing your dog to your newborn (I just had a baby in October!)
https://www.monsterk9.com/blogs/the-monster-k9-blog/how-to-introduce-your-dog-to-your-new-baby

Good luck!
Alli | Writer for Monster K9

Cindy
Cindy

February 14, 2020

Hi my 4 year old boxer is a very well behaved dog. Up until now she has started getting into stuff and chewing it up. As stuff like food on the counter and yesterday my daughters slipper while she was right in the next room. She has NEVER did this at all. What can be going on?

Elyse
Elyse

February 14, 2020

So my boyfriend had two older labs (9&10) before me. He didn’t slot of time with them prior to us, but he still gives them slot of attention. He is pretty dedicated to taking them hiking everyday, playing ball and giving them love.
We moved in together about a year ago along w my 5 yo daughter, We continue to hike and be active but i got pregnant right and we are expecting a baby boy in 13 days time.

We don’t get a lot of time together, but when we do get to go do something, we get back and there is usually something chewed up of mine or my daughters.

I just started shutting the doors and putting things away that he couldn’t get, and he still finds something.
I def think it has something to do with anxiety. But what can we do? Things are going to get more stressful when the baby is here.

Alli Wittbold
Alli Wittbold

February 07, 2020

Hi Cane Corso,
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and share your story. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this! Given that your dog is only just 2 years old, I don’t think this is a case of “older dog chewing”. It’s interesting that he’s targeting your things specifically and doing it while you’re sleeping or right when you leave, even when others are home. Given those details I’d say it’s definitely an attention-seeking behavior and very well may have to do with the baby on board! Our husky (who’s super attached to my husband) frequently pulls tools and materials off of his work bench that he was recently using and destroys them. Or target’s my things (seemingly out of spite!). My best advice would be to give him a little extra love and attention right now. If you feel confident it’s not an exercise issue, then just make more time to cuddle and pet your Cane Corso and you’ll hopefully see a decrease in the chewing. Your right to be addressing this now, because if it’s attention-based (which I’m pretty confident it is) the behavior may get worse when you bring your new baby home.
Check out these other articles which may help:
https://www.monsterk9.com/blogs/the-monster-k9-blog/destructive-chewing-when-left-alone
https://www.monsterk9.com/blogs/the-monster-k9-blog/how-to-introduce-your-dog-to-your-new-baby

All the best,
Alli Wittbold | Writer for Monster K9

Cane Corso
Cane Corso

February 07, 2020

My male cane corso just turned two years old in November. All of a sudden he’s been pulling stuff (papers, markers,) off my desk and shredding them as well as eating them. He ignores everything else in the house that can go into his mouth. He’s targeting only my work space!! He (solo) chills with me every day in the garage with his favorite bone while I do my workouts. And he lays next to me while I do my stretches after. I take him outside daily and let him run around the yard with his two year old English bulldog brother. Whether during the night or right when I walk out the door to leave the house, he’s pulling stuff off my desk!! Even if someone else is still home, he’s still getting into my stuff? Our dogs roam the house at night, they’re our security alarms. What’s his deal? I’m also 6 months pregnant, can that be it?

Allison Wittbold
Allison Wittbold

January 23, 2020

Hi Carol!
Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear about your Goldendoodle’s cancer. It’s so tough to watch our animals go through painful disease. Given your story and the vet’s bewilderment, I can only guess it’s gotta be related to her pain. Poor girl. Maybe enticing her with some rubber chew toys filled with peanut butter or filled with frozen chicken broth would work as a special treat and deter her from the unwanted chewing of strange objects. Keeping you guys in my thoughts <3
Alli Wittbold | Writer for Monster K9

Carol Stump
Carol Stump

January 23, 2020

I have a 10 yr old Goldendoodle with bone cancer 6 months now ,,, she’s just started chewing paper ,, even a ink pen or two left on table with puzzle book ,, Vet doesn’t know what it is and she’s always been best girl ever , I’m home with her and spend lots of time with her so do you think it’s from the pain she probably has ? She’s on pain meds from vet along with antibiotics from infection that’s constant from tumor in her head area .

Alli Wittbold
Alli Wittbold

November 21, 2019

Hi Scott,

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and share your story. I’m sorry to hear that you and your Shepherd are going through this! It sounds like you made the right move by going to the vet and addressing underlying pain. In addition to the tips in this article, I can suggest noting the time of day and the situations surrounding her chewing episodes. This might help you understand more about the underlying cause and how to prevent it.

For example, is she upset to be alone because she’s in pain? Is the pain preventing her from getting other sources of stimulation? Is she frustrated with the younger dog? Does she not have access to other things to chew? Often dogs act out to let us know they are dissatisfied with some aspect of their life. It can take a detective to figure out what thought… Just throwing some thoughts out there. I wish you good luck and hope you can get the chewing under control!

Alli | Writer for Monster K9

Alli Wittbold
Alli Wittbold

November 19, 2019

Hi Joe,

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and share your story. I can totally relate because our 11-year-old husky does some pretty destructive things around here when she’s not feeling the love or getting enough stimulation. This breed is especially known for negative attention seeking…and they are total escape artists!

My best advice you can try to implement right away is finding the time to exhaust your husky mentally and physically before leaving her alone for the day. This might mean starting your day much earlier, but I suspect a lot of your dog’s negative attention-seeking behavior (the destructive chewing) will go away or at least diminish. If you can’t achieve this yourself you may need to consider hiring a dog walker or getting her involved in doggie daycare.

Definitely keep us posted!
Alli | Writer for Monster K9

Scott M Morrison
Scott M Morrison

November 21, 2019

Thank you for this advice we have a twelve year old and a three year old German Shepard . The twelve year old [female] just started destroying things like a puppy about a month ago .We took her to our vet and got some medicine for her pain but the chewing has gotten worse and to beat it all she never chewed anything up when she was younger even as a puppy she was very well behaved . This just started and she has already chewed a hole big enough to get through a bedroom door. for some reason she chews on doors to that room. even put up a baby gate and she got through that.Any additional advice would be very helpful.The three year old male was the one we thought was doing this but I caught her in the process while working night shift.

Joe Bagwell
Joe Bagwell

November 14, 2019

My fiancé’s 7 year old Husky has recently been destroying things via chewing. The crate option was a bad idea as she chewed her way out of the metal rods, chewed up the end of the couch from “Inside the crate” chews up carpet or anything paper when she gets out of the crate or when we don’t leave her in the crate. We want new furniture bu have realized that’s a bad idea until we get this under control. We are taking your advice on a vet appointment. Hopefully this will help her. She’s been a great dog and we feel really bad for her (although the initial reaction to her behavior is a bit of fussing at her) I think we also recognize that she is left alone by day quite a bit. My honest opinion is that she has acquired separation anxiety. Thanks for the great article! Once we get this issue nipped in the bud, we will share our story of the steps we took to correct.
Thanks again!
JB 11-9-2019

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