Destructive chewing is one of the most common, and most frustrating, problems that dog owners have to deal with. Your dog can do a significant amount of property damage, and possibly even cause himself a good deal of harm, by chewing on the items you keep outside your house and in your yard. Fortunately, destructive chewing is often a fairly simple behavioral problem to correct.
Natural Chewing Behavior
Your dog's chewing behavior is natural, and therefore it is something you will have to deal with as a pet owner. Puppies are well known for chewing on pretty much everything and anything they can get their teeth on. They do this because they are teething and because they tend to have a desire to explore the world with their mouths. If your dog is relatively young -- less than 6 months of age -- give it some time. He may very well outgrow his behavior as time progresses.
Why Dogs Chew
If your dog is a mature adult and still engages in destructive chewing, he may be bored, anxious, fearful or even hungry. Determine the reason your dog is chewing to figure out how to stop the problem behavior. Observe your dog's behavior to determine when he is chewing and what other factors may be playing a role in his desire to chew. Pay attention to the types of outdoor items he's chewing to learn which items entice him. If your dog has recently been put on a diet or experienced a change in diet, he may be chewing because he is hungry and looking for food.
You need to pay attention as to whether your dog engages in destructive chewing when you are present or only when he is left alone. Dogs are social animals, and if your dog is spending a significant amount of time outside alone, he may be chewing in an effort to entertain himself as well as relieve anxiety. Note that if you think your dog is suffering from separation anxiety or fear, you may need to enlist a professional dog trainer with experience in behavioral modification if you want to find a long-term solution to the problem that is causing the chewing as well as stop the chewing.
Dog-Proofing Your Yard
The first thing you need to do is dog-proof your yard. Some common outdoor items your dog may chew are rocks, sticks, pine cones, hoses, outdoor furniture, childrens toys and garbage. While not all of these items can be removed entirely from your yard, you can save yourself and your pet a lot of trouble if you make a point to keep your yard free of items he'll be tempted to chew. Put up toys, hoses and other miscellaneous items in a safe location your dog can't access. Rake up and dispose of naturally occurring items such as pine cones and sticks. These items can splinter when chewed and may pose a choking hazard. It may seem like a hassle to keep your yard dog-proofed, but removing temptation will help eliminate your dog's ability to chew up potentially hazardous items.
Stop Your Dog's Chewing
You can spray down all your outdoor items with a bitter-tasting spray designed to prevent dogs from mouthing items it has been applied to. Provide your dog an ample supply of chew toys. Encourage him to chew on those items and reward him with ample praise when he does. Provide your dog plenty of exercise; play with him regularly to burn off excess energy. Do not leave your dog outside unsupervised while you are attempting to train him not to chew outdoor items. You need to supervise him and verbally correct him if he becomes attracted to something inappropriate. If you can not supervise him, provide a safe area to stay in where he can not get into trouble or chew anything he is not allowed to chew, such as a kennel.