How To Stop Your Golden Retriever’s Destructive Chewing

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You love your Golden Retriever, but their destructive chewing has you feeling at your wit’s end.

Chewing can be a frustrating (and expensive!) behavior to deal with, but luckily there is a lot you can do to tame your dog’s teeth.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Why Golden Retrievers chew
  • Chewing solutions for both puppies and adult Goldens
  • How to prevent destructive chewing
  • Do anti-chew sprays really work?
  • And more!

How To Get Your Golden Retriever To Stop Destructive Chewing

You can train your Golden Retriever to stop chewing by:

  1. Ensuring your dog is getting enough sleep, exercise, and mental stimulation.
  2. Chew-proofing your home so your dog can’t practice destructive chewing.
  3. Giving your dog lots of toys they can chew so they learn to chew on those.

This will help most Golden Retrievers stop their destructive chewing.

But chewing is a complex problem, so let’s dive deeper into it.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Chew?

golden retriever chewing toy

You might be thinking, “I don’t care WHY my dog is chewing, I just want it to stop!”

But in order to find the right solution to resolve the unwanted chewing, you need to understand the reason behind it first.

Here are some of the most common reasons that Golden Retrievers engage in destructive chewing:

Genetics

Chewing is normal behavior for dogs.

Just like dogs bark and wag their tails, dogs also chew.

While your Golden might be served their meals in a bowl two or three times a day, their ancestors had to use their teeth to catch their food.

Chewing on the bones of their meal helped keep their teeth clean and ensured their jaw muscles stayed strong for the next hunt.

So, chewing is part of a dog’s DNA, including your Golden Retriever’s.

But Goldens are also particularly mouthy due to breed-specific genetics.

Golden Retrievers were historically bred to retrieve a shot bird and carry it back to the hunter, even over long distances and through water.

Over many generations, breeders selected dogs that were excellent retrievers.

Basically, breeders only bred dogs that were very good at holding things in their mouths (among other traits, of course).

This has resulted in a breed that really wants to have stuff in their mouths; it just feels inherently good to them.

So while your Golden might not be your hunting companion, that mouthiness is still there thanks to genetics.

Now, it’s not that you can’t do anything about it, but recognizing that chewing is an important need for your Golden Retriever will help you with training them and with your patience.

Puppy Development

Chewing is also an important part of your Golden Retriever puppy’s development.

Just like human babies will pick up stuff and put it in their mouths, puppies will also find things to chew on.

Puppies don’t have hands (shocking, I know!), and so they use their mouths as a way to explore and learn about the world.

If your puppy is chewing, that is very normal.

As your puppy gets older, the drive to chew tends to lessen, though even adult Goldens will enjoy chewing.

Teething

While we’re talking about puppies, let’s touch on Golden Retriever puppy teething.

When puppies begin to lose baby teeth and their adult teeth push through their gums, their gums can feel sore.

This discomfort can push them to become even more mouthy and seek out things to chew in an attempt to soothe their painful mouth.

Teething usually begins at around 3 or 4 months of age, and continues through about 6 or 7 months.

So if you notice an increase in chewing intensity during this age range, teething is a likely culprit.

Boredom

Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent, active dogs.

And if their bodies and brains aren’t adequately exercised, they can become bored.

Bored dogs will often seek out ways to entertain themselves, and what better way for a mouthy breed to burn some energy than by chewing.

Stress and Anxiety

While you might feel like your Golden has a pretty easy life, they can still become stressed out or anxious.

Check out this article to learn more about Golden Retriever anxiety.

There are so many reasons why your dog might be stressed out from sound sensitivity to separation anxiety to changes in their routine.

If you feel your dog has separation anxiety, consult a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, who can help you resolve your dog’s separation anxiety, which in turn will resolve the chewing.

If you feel your dog suffers from anxiety, whether generalized or situational, talk with your vet, or consult a veterinary behaviorist

Sometimes medication or supplements can help ease the anxiety that is causing destructive chewing.

Chewing is a great stress-reliever for dogs, so your pup might chew up your stuff as a way to feel more relaxed.

Hunger

Puppies are undergoing a lot of growth, both physical and mental.

Sometimes they need more food to nourish their growing bodies, and if they are feeling “hangry”, they might start chewing things as a result.

Adult Golden Retrievers who are undernourished or on a calorie-restricted diet might also resort to chewing in an attempt to feel satisfied.

Fun

Chewing might also simply be a hobby for your dog.

It’s fun, it feels good and there are plenty of things around the house for them to put their mouth on.

Why Is Your Golden Retriever Chewing?

Now that we’ve gone over the main reasons why dogs chew, it’s time to figure out why your Golden Retriever is chewing.

You’ve got to be a little bit of a detective to get to the real issue of the chewing.

Is your Golden Retriever a puppy?

Well, then that could be your answer — puppies chew a lot and they don’t know what’s allowed to be chewed on and what’s not.

Does destructive chewing only happen when you’re not home?

Perhaps there is some separation distress or separation anxiety at play.

Setting up a camera is a good way to observe your dog’s behavior while you’re away from the house, to give you more insight into what might be going on.

Or maybe you’ve been extra busy, so your dog hasn’t been getting enough exercise lately.

Assess the situation and see if you can pinpoint what the issue might be.

How to Resolve Destructive Chewing

Once you have an idea of what may be causing your Golden Retriever’s destructive chewing, you can make a plan to resolve the issue.

Let’s start by looking at some basic steps that are important to take for any dog that is destroying stuff through chewing.

Remember, if your dog is chewing destructively because of separation anxiety, or another type of anxiety, it’s best to seek professional help to resolve the issue.

Ensure Your Dog’s Needs Are Met

Excessive chewing can sometimes be an indication that a dog’s basic needs are not being met.

Meeting a dog’s needs might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth assessing the situation because often unwanted behavior, like destructive chewing, stems from an unmet need.

Sleep

Dogs that are overly tired are more likely to engage in behavior humans label as “naughty.”

This is especially true for puppies, who need a lot of sleep for proper physical and mental development.

But adolescent and adult dogs also need a lot of rest.

For dogs who chew because of stress or anxiety, sleep is key to helping them relax and decompress.

Puppies generally need about 18 to 20 hours of sleep per day, while adult dogs need between 12 and 14 hours.

It’s common for young puppies to need some help when it comes to getting enough sleep, as many struggle to settle themselves down if given too much freedom.

But even older pups and adult dogs might need your guidance as well.

Using crates, pens and baby gates can help your dog get quality, uninterrupted sleep.

It might sound crazy, but for some dogs, solving destructive chewing is just a matter of making sure they are well-rested so they don’t get cranky or overstimulated.

Exercise

Golden Retrievers are an active breed and they need outlets for all that energy.

If you as their human don’t provide ways for them to burn their energy, then they will often come up with their own activities, such as destructive chewing, digging, and barking.

Most Goldens require 60 to 90 minutes of exercise per day, and it’s best if you can break that up over several sessions.

Puppies will not need as much, as their bodies are still growing and they tire more quickly.

Young pups do best with shorter periods of exercise broken up throughout the day.

When you think of exercise you might imagine a leashed walk around your neighborhood.

And while that can be a good option for some Goldens, for others it may not quite scratch the exercise itch.

When you think about the historical purpose of Golden Retrievers as hunting companions, this involved a lot of running out in fields and through water.

As much as possible, provide opportunities where your pup can move their body freely, especially in nature.

If you have access to safe and legal off-leash areas where your dog can run, hike, or swim, that is ideal.

Check out the Sniffspot app for spaces you can rent to allow for more freedom.

If you don’t feel comfortable letting your dog off-leash, or there aren’t good options near you, get a harness and a 20-foot leash and hit up a local trail, soccer field, baseball field, or even empty business park.

This allows your dog to sniff and move around more freely than a typical 6-foot leash, which will help them feel more content and tired.

While you may not be able to do this style of walk every day, adding it into your weekly routine can be surprisingly effective at helping your dog be more settled and well-mannered around the house.

Playtime in the yard or living room can also be great for exercising your Golden.

Flirt pole, tug-o-war, fetch and hide and seek are popular games with Golden Retrievers.

There may be days where you’re sick or life happens and your dog doesn’t get their usual amount of exercise.

But it’s on us as owners to consistently meet their exercise needs.

So if you’ve got a chewing problem, really assess the quality and quantity of exercise your dog is getting.

The solution to your pup’s destructive chewing might be giving them some free time in nature to just be a dog, or an extra playtime session in the afternoon.

golden retriever puppy with tennis ball

Enrichment

Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent dogs and so mental enrichment is crucial to meeting their needs.

And, to reiterate, meeting your dog’s needs is key when you’re trying to resolve destructive chewing.

Enrichment is all about finding appropriate outlets for natural dog behaviors like sniffing, foraging, shredding, digging, and (of course) chewing.

These are all innate behaviors that dogs have to do.

So rather than waiting for them to shred your belongings, you can be proactive in offering fun outlets so they feel satisfied.

Because if they feel satisfied, they’re much less likely to engage in destructive chewing.

Training is a fun way to engage your dog’s brain and help them feel mentally fulfilled.

Whether it’s brushing up on manners, working on some fun tricks, or diving into some cool dog sports like agility or nosework, training will tire your dog out in a way that purely physical exercise can’t.

There are also many puzzle toys available that are excellent for mental enrichment.

Here are some favorites:

Additionally, there are tons of simple DIY activities you can do to give your pup a mental workout.

Try chucking a handful of kibble or treats in the yard and letting your dog sniff them out.

Roll up some treats in an old towel or bedsheet and let your Golden forage to find the food.

There is also an excellent book called Canine Enrichment for the Real World, which is a great guide for making enrichment part of your dog’s day-to-day routine.

Enrichment can help resolve destructive chewing that is due to boredom, as well as stress, because engaging in behaviors like licking, chewing, and sniffing helps calm dogs down.

Nutrition

Some dogs may be motivated to chew in a destructive way because their nutritional needs are not being met.

As puppies grow, sometimes they need more food in order to nourish their growing bodies.

If they are underfed, they may seek out things to chew in an attempt to satisfy their hunger.

Adult dogs can also be underfed, and the feeling of hunger may drive them to destructively chew.

It’s also possible for a dog to be fed enough food, but it may not be the right food for that specific dog.

They might be deficient in certain nutrients, or the food might not agree with their tummy, and that can also create discomfort that pushes the dog to chew.

Consult your veterinarian to determine the quantity and type of food that your specific Golden Retriever should be eating.

You can also consult with a veterinary nutritionist if you need some extra help in sorting out your dog’s dietary and digestive needs.

Though it seems so simple, you want to rule out the possibility that your dog’s diet isn’t a factor in their chewing habit.

golden retriever puppy with toy

Prevent Chewing From Happening

Prevention is key when you’re trying to resolve an unwanted dog behavior.

The more your dog does something, the more ingrained it becomes, and the more they will want to do it.

So you need a plan to prevent your Golden Retriever from engaging in destructive chewing.

Without prevention, there is nothing keeping your dog from continuing the unwanted behavior, and you’ll never fully solve the problem.

Here’s how to prevent your dog from practicing destructive chewing:

Chew-Proof Your Home

A key step in resolving destructive chewing is to set up your home environment so that chewing can’t happen.

You’ve probably heard of puppy-proofing.

Well, this same concept can be used for adult Golden Retrievers as well.

Start by tackling the things your puppy or dog tends to chew that can be easily removed from your space.

Maybe shoes need to live in the closet for a while.

Put your purse on the counter, instead of hanging it from a chair.

Perhaps the rug can be rolled up and stored in another room.

Find the houseplants a new temporary home in your home.

There also might be things that your puppy chews that aren’t easily removed, like furniture or cords.

In this case, you might need to do some creative rearranging to prevent your puppy from reaching things.

If you push the couch over, then maybe they can’t access the cords anymore.

Or maybe you use an exercise pen to block off the couch that they just can’t resist chewing.

Depending on your home space, you may also want to use confinement strategies, such as crates, gates, pens and tethers to prevent your pup from accessing these things.

Crates are great for naps and shorter periods of time where you can’t be watching your dog.

Pens can also be a good option to confine your dog to prevent them from accessing things they may chew.

A pen gives your dog more space than a crate, but still avoids any unwanted chewing.

Gates can keep your dog from going into certain rooms where they might chew things up.

Setting up gates can help you create a chew-proof area for your dog where they won’t be able to cause destruction.

These days, there are very wide gates that will work even for homes with an open floor plan.

Tethering is a very adaptable method of keeping your dog from chomping on your stuff.

Simply attach a leash to your dog’s collar or harness, and then loop the other end to something heavy.

But don’t attach them to a piece of furniture if they are likely to chew it!

Try something like the refrigerator, loop the leash around a sturdy door handle, or simply close the leash in a door.

Whatever method you use to confine them, you’ll want to provide them with plenty of appropriate chewing options, which we’ll talk about soon.

Supervision is Key

When you’re working on breaking a chewing habit, you have to be actively supervising your dog any time they have access to destroying stuff through chewing.

By supervising, I mean your full attention is on your dog.

If you’re working on your laptop and your destructive dog is loose in the house, that’s not supervision.

If you’re cooking dinner, and your dog has access to the coffee table legs that they find delicious, that’s not supervision because your dog could easily start chewing when you’re not looking.

Supervision is a big part of prevention, but no dog owner can be in supervision mode all the time.

That’s where the confinement strategies — crates, gates, pens and tethers — come into play.

If you cannot be fully attentive to your chewy puppy or dog, then they need to be confined in some way or else nothing is stopping them from chewing.

That means if you need to shower, your pup goes somewhere they can’t be destructive.

If you need to get work done and can’t keep both eyes on your Golden, then they need to be confined.

So you’re either supervising your chewer, or you’re using a confinement strategy.

This can seem intense and maybe even overkill, but it’s the only way if you’re serious about resolving the chewing issue.

golden retriever puppy chewing stick

Offer Lots of Chewing Options

As we’ve established, dogs have to chew.

So a key step in resolving destructive chewing is to offer your puppy or dog a lot of appropriate things that they are allowed to chew.

Without this, they might resort to finding their own chewing outlets, which might also happen to be things you’d like to keep free from tooth marks.

It can help to keep multiple options out on the floor, where your dog can access them at all times.

Here are some great chew toys and treats for Golden Retrievers:

Another tip is to take note of the kind of materials your pup tends to gravitate towards and give them something similar to chomp on.

For example, if your dog is drawn to leather shoes and purses, a dog toy made from leather might do the trick.

If your dog loves chewing wooden stuff, perhaps a wooden stick alternative or Gorilla Chew could appeal to them.

If you poke around the internet, you’ll find that there is a lot of debate about chewing options for dogs.

The truth is that there is a risk to everything.

If you don’t give your dog things to chew, the risk is that you’ll deal with behavior issues like destructive chewing (and possibly even other frustration-related behaviors).

If you do give your dog things to chew, there is the risk that they could swallow something or injure a tooth.

Each owner has to strike a balance between these risks for their unique Golden Retriever.

Some Goldens will rip a toy to shreds but have no interest in eating the pieces, while others will quickly gobble down inedible materials.

Knowing your dog’s personality and tendencies can help you make the best choices for their chewing options.

Talk with your veterinarian if you’re worried about the safety of chewing options for your puppy or dog.

As always, it’s recommended to supervise your dog when they’re chewing to minimize the risk of choking or swallowing things they shouldn’t.

No toy is indestructible, even the ones that are advertised as such.

Experiment with different chewing options to find what your dog really enjoys, and then provide them plenty of opportunities to chew on those things.

Getting them hooked on allowed chewing materials will help them stay away from things you don’t want them chomping.

Redirection and Time Outs

If you find your pup mouthing something that isn’t theirs, try to redirect them to something that is.

Ideally, the need to redirect chewing should be rare because you’ve chew-proofed the space, but sometimes it can still happen.

It can help to keep a lightweight drag leash on your puppy or dog’s collar or harness around the house. 

If your dog will chew through a nylon or leather leash, you can try a coated cable leash.

When you see them chewing inappropriately, you can try calling their name or making a kissy sound to get their attention and interrupt the behavior.

If needed, you can gently guide them away from whatever they’re chewing using the leash.

Then try to entice them with an appealing chewing option.

Sometimes moving the toy or bone around can get them interested in it.

If after three attempts of redirection, your Golden is still going back to chewing something off-limits, calmly guide them away for a time out.

Maybe you put them in their pen or behind a baby gate in a chew-proof space.

After 5 minutes or so, they can come out and try again.

Keep in mind that overly tired puppies and dogs can be extra mouthy, so consider if they actually need a nap and not just a break.

Understand Your Golden Retriever’s Developmental Stage

Chewing is normal for dogs of any age, but it’s usually more intense for puppies and adolescent Golden Retrievers.

Around 2 years old is when the need for chewing typically starts to lessen.

For some Goldens, it might happen sooner, and for others, the intense chewing might last another year or even two.

If you’ve got a puppy or a young dog, it is critical for you as their owner to manage the environment to prevent them from chewing up your stuff.

Puppies don’t know the difference between their toy, a shoe, and your kid’s stuffed animal.

As they mature, they can start to understand what is theirs and what isn’t.

But puppies and young Goldens are going to need a lot of management to keep them from chewing your belongings.

It’s not realistic to expect a puppy to simply not chew.

And if your puppy is in the teething stage, their need to chew can be even stronger.

So keep in mind where your puppy is at in their development, and provide the level of structure and management necessary to help them develop good habits.

Reduce Your Dog’s Stress

If your dog is chewing because they’re stressed out, see if you can come up with ways to make their life less stressful.

Again, if your dog is having separation anxiety, sound sensitivity, or other types of anxiety, you should seek professional help from your vet, a veterinary behaviorist, and/or a positive reinforcement trainer.

But maybe you recently moved or your routine has changed and your dog is a bit stressed out.

And this stress is causing them to engage in some destructive chewing.

Perhaps some extra attention and petting, or a nice massage can help your dog decompress.

Maybe a playdate with their doggy friend can help ease some of their stress.

Get back into a solid routine so they have more predictability in their schedule.

Stress-relieving strategies like this, alongside the steps above, can help eliminate destructive chewing caused by stress.

Adding in Freedom for Chewy Dogs

Once you’ve had a good streak of no chewing on your stuff, you can start to think about giving your dog a little more freedom.

By now, you’ve got your dog hooked on some favorite chewing options, and it’s been a while since they’ve engaged in chewing things that are off-limits.

You can start to play with increasing the amount of freedom your dog has.

This might mean you let your puppy chill out loose while you’re on a phone call, rather than having them tethered.

Or perhaps you remove a baby gate so your dog has access to more furniture.

Maybe you put some books back on the lower shelf, where your dog could reach them, but you’re pretty sure they won’t try to chew them.

You want to do this in a strategic way so that your dog isn’t falling back into their chewing habit.

Remember that supervision is also important as you open up their world bit by bit.

So if you’re letting them have access to the dining room, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them initially to make sure they aren’t chomping chair legs.

If you find your dog is engaging in destructive chewing with more freedom, you can try using redirection and time out.

But they also might simply not be ready for that level of freedom quite yet.

With time and guidance, your Golden Retriever can learn how to live in your home without engaging in destructive chewing, as you gradually add in more freedom.

How Do I Stop My Golden Retriever Chewing Outdoors?

golden retriever puppy chewing outdoors

Supervision is very important when trying to resolve chewing that’s happening out in the yard.

Keep lots of fun chewing options they’re allowed to chew on available for them outside.

Letting your Golden drag a light leash around the yard can help you interrupt unwanted chewing as you redirect them to something they can chew.

And don’t forget to chew-proof your yard too.

Exercise pens and temporary fencing, such as snow fencing, can be great to block off landscaping or objects that your dog wants to chew.

Some dogs just can’t handle being in the yard unattended without resorting to ripping out landscaping and chomping on your patio furniture.

If your Golden Retriever puppy or dog is destroying stuff outside with their teeth, all the same tips and tricks mentioned earlier in this article apply.

Do Anti-Chew Sprays Work To Stop Destructive Chewing?

There are some anti-chew sprays available which are applied to things that your dog likes to chew.

They are often bitter tasting, with the intent of discouraging your pup from putting their mouth on the object.

If your dog only chews one or two off-limits things, this could potentially work for you.

But, if your puppy or dog is mouthy in general, it probably won’t work.

It’s just impossible to spray everything your pup might think to put their mouth on.

So what often happens is they start chewing, they don’t like the taste, and then they move on to something else that doesn’t have the spray on it.

And there are some weirdo Goldens out there that actually like the taste of these sprays, which completely defeats the purpose.

So the spray can definitely work for some dogs, but it’s usually not a long-term solution.

If you want to use the spray, it’s also a good idea to implement the other steps discussed above so that your Golden Retriever learns how to live in your home without destroying stuff even if there isn’t spray being used.

And make sure you’re applying the spray to the surface of the things your pup likes to chew, and not spraying your dog with the spray as a punishment.

That’s not a humane use of these kinds of sprays.

Chewing is Normal, But Needs to Be Channeled

Chewing is not a behavior that you can get rid of.

Like we’ve talked about, it’s a completely normal, natural behavior.

But you can absolutely channel chewing into appropriate outlets, so that it’s not destructive in nature.

If you’ve got a destructive chewer, remember that they’re not trying to frustrate you or waste your money.

They’re being a dog, and they need your guidance.

If you’re struggling to resolve this behavior, reach out to a positive reinforcement trainer, who can help you come up with a plan that works for you and your dog.

P.S. Want to raise your Golden Retriever puppy into the dog of your dreams? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook.

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About the author:

Alisa Healy is a professional dog trainer in the Chicago suburbs, with a wide range of training experience from shelters to in-home training to dog sports. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and is passionate about helping people and dogs live fulfilling, harmonious lives together.

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