Labradors love to put things in their mouths. Unfortunately for us, they don’t always use discretion when choosing what to chew on. One moment they’re grabbing a stick, and the next they’re running off with your sneakers.
What can start off as a cute quirk can quickly add up into hundreds or thousands of dollars in chew damage. When your lab is out of control and chewing everything in sight, taking action becomes a necessity. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can lessen or entirely stop your lab’s chewing habit.
Keep your stuff out of reach
The number one way to keep your Labrador from chewing stuff is to store that stuff in a place your lab can’t get at it. Sure, behavioral change should be the ultimate goal ‒ but that kind of change can take a lot of time. If your lab is on a chewing warpath, you and your belongings don’t have that kind of time.
The easiest way to keep stuff out of reach is to store it in a room your lab doesn’t have access to. This eliminates the need for extra shelving or some other means of securing your stuff.
This isn’t always feasible though. Some items need to be taken stored in certain areas because moving them to some designated chew-free room just takes too much time.
Shoes are a great example of this. Many people take off their shoes as soon as they walk in the door. It would be annoying to walk all the way across the house just to store your shoes in some closet. And when you wanted to leave the house again, you’d have to retrieve your shoes from that inconvenient location.
In this particular instance, your best bet for keeping shoes out of reach of your lab’s teeth would be a door-mounted shoe rack (available on Amazon). While these shoe racks typically run the length of the door, you can place your shoes in the higher slots to keep your lab from getting at them.
Give your lab chew toys
After moving your stuff out of reach, giving your lab chew toys is the best way to keep them from chewing on your stuff.
Most dogs have an inmate need to chew on something. If you don’t give them the option of gnawing on a chew toy, you’re basically forcing them to find something else. As they live in your house, that something else is inevitably going to be something you own.
Although any chew toys will work, I recommend going with a toy specifically created for aggressive chewers (available on Amazon). Your lab will have a more enjoyable time chewing on a toy made for heavy chewing, which means they will spend less time eating your stuff.
Use a taste deterrent
If you have some specific belongings you want to protect from chew damage, it might be a good idea to spray a taste deterrent on them.
A taste deterrent is a non-toxic spray that will make whatever you apply it to taste bitter to dogs. The taste isn’t long-lasting, so it won’t bother your lab for an extended period of time. It just works in the moment to stop your enthusiastic lab from going to town on your stuff.
If you want to try a taste deterrent, I recommend Grannicks Bitter Apple Taste Deterrent (available on Amazon). It’s inexpensive and effective, and most people who have used it have had great success in preventing chewing.
Supervise your lab
Some labradors are uncontrollable when it comes to chewing. This is especially the case if you have a puppy. In instances where your dog seemingly always finds something to chew, one of the only truly effective ways to prevent chewing is to supervise them.
Now, I’m not telling you to sit in the living room and stare at your dog all day. That would be unproductive, and honestly a bit weird. I’m just saying you should bring your dog into whatever room you’re doing things in and have them hang out with you. You can listen for the telltale sound of teeth gnawing on things, and you can also glance over at your lab every once in awhile to make sure they haven’t perfected the art of silent chewing.
If you’re out of the house but still want to check in every now and then, you can install doggie video cameras in the main room of your house. It might be hard to stop your lab if you check the video feed and see them chewing on something, but at least you’ll know what their habits are. In the future, you can use this information to hide certain items or block off certain rooms when you leave the house.
Take your lab on frequent walks
Although we’ve focused on direct ways to stop your lab from chewing, we haven’t really talked about what the underlying causes driving this behavior might be. One of the most common reasons for labs chewing is that they’re bored and restless. And it makes sense, especially if they’re cooped up inside the house all day.
The best way to relieve this boredom and restlessness is to get them on a leash and get them out of the house for a nice long walk. It doesn’t have to be long ‒ 20 minutes a day or so should be enough to get a lot of that pent up energy out and calm them somewhat when the get back home.
If you’ve got a particularly wild lab, you may need to go for a significantly longer walk though. Honestly, it’s best if you take them for a jog instead of a walk, as the increased pace will tire them out more quickly. If you aren’t capable of jogging for a long period of time, consider taking them to a dog park where they can run around with other dogs instead.
Don’t chase your lab when it has something in its mouth
If your lab is currently chewing on something, don’t start chasing them and trying to pull the item out of their mouth. They will only think you’re playing, which will get them even more riled up and increase the chance they do serious damage to whatever it is they’re chewing on.
The smart strategy is to calmly approach your lab, soothingly speak to them and pet them, and gently try to remove the object from their mouth. If they’re possessive, they may still clamp down and resist your attempts to reclaim the object ‒ but this response will be much tamer than if you had tried to grab them and wrestle the object from their grasp.
If you want to work toward a sustainable solution, you need to approach this problem with the correct mindset. Your lab has an innate urge to chew things. It’s an automatic impulse ‒ they don’t know they’re doing anything wrong. In fact, their brain is rewarding them with feel-good chemicals for successfully finding something to chew on.
So when dealing with a lab that chews too much, be understanding that this is not “bad” behavior ‒ they simply don’t know which stuff is okay to chew on.
Don’t “punish” your lab
When you do catch your dog with an object in their mouth that they shouldn’t be chewing on, it can be easy to grab it and start yelling at them afterward. While this may feel cathartic, it certainly isn’t effective. Your lab won’t understand that you’re yelling at them because you’re mad about the chewing. All they will see is anger and aggression seemingly out of nowhere. They won’t tie that to the chewing, so it won’t do anything to curb future chewing sessions.
If anything, yelling at your dog about chewing will increase the likelihood that they continue to chew in the future. It will make them stressed and anxious, and there’s a good chance they will take out that stress and anxiety in the only way they know how ‒ which is chewing on your stuff.