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Dog chew deterrents: What are they, do they work and are they harmful?

Happy dog surrounded by pillow stuffing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sometime dog chew deterrents seem to be the only alternative to stop your puppy gnawing on what they are meant to. You've littered the floor with delicious long-lasting dog chews and the best dog toys, but the pup keeps returning to your favorite dress shoes or those dangerous trailing wires at the back of the TV.

You are no doubt ready to try anything, but are dog chew deterrents safe? How do they work and will they actually deter doggy destruction in the way you want them to? We explore all this and more below. 

First though, something to bear in mind. Puppies are natural chewers: they explore their new world with their mouth, so what better way to get to know their environment than getting their teeth into it. It's a natural behavior, so it's one that you will not stop if you punish them for it – your puppy will just not understand that it's bad and that's why you are shouting at them.

Adult dogs are also prone fond of chewing and it's particularly common to see dogs chew vigorously when they're feeling bored, stressed, or anxious. If you've come home on more than occasion to find your canine companion has nibbled their way through your clothing or furniture and you've already tried a selection of the best dog chew toys to try and redirect their attention, a dog chew deterrent might be just the ticket.

Sometimes the best answer is prevention but sprays will likely be a last resort – often because you may find the smell awful too! That said, if you've tried all our ways to protect furniture from pets, and tried all out techniques on how to keep dogs off the couch and furniture, then it may well be worth giving them a try. Many trainers recommend them, and we've provided a round-up of a few non-toxic examples below.

How do dog anti chew sprays work?  

Dogs have a sensitive sense of smell, so strong smells can make they uncomfortable. By applying bitter or strong scents to an object, a lot of dogs will avoid it. 

Some sprays use strong chemicals to work, but there are many natural alternatives to choose from which won't hurt sensitive or allergic dogs. Always look on the bottle to check it's non-toxic and safe. 

Do dog chews deterrent sprays work?

The jury is out on this, mainly because different dogs respond to different smells in different ways. For one dog the scents used in these sprays will keep them away completely, whereas others actually find the spray attractive, and it will encourage them to chew more! 

This is why it's good to experiment with a few different smells to see which ones your dog doesn't like. It's also why the reviews on these sprays are often half good and half bad – dogs are individuals, just like humans, and they will respond to scents in different ways.

Some puppies will even still chew on their favorite objects despite the horrible smell – their need to chew overcoming the bitter taste or scent. In these cases it's a case of constant supervision, gating off areas so they can't get at what they want to chew and behavioral training.

How to use dog chew deterrents

Puppy chewing rug

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When using a spray, it's better to apply it out of sight of the dog. They should just discover that suddenly your slippers don't taste very nice, rather than associating the smell with something you are doing.

It's also best practice to supervise your dog in its first encounter with a sprayed item. Then you can see if it's working. You can also check if there is any adverse reaction to the spray – you need to monitor that it isn't causing your pup too much discomfort.

If your dog doesn't seem to be affected by the smell, or even seems more interested in the sprayed item, don't give up straight away. Try applying the spray more liberally in case the original application was just too dilute to deter them. Most sprays advise that the effect isn't instant and may take up to two weeks to have the desired effect. Also remember sprays wear off after time, so ensure you spray the items regularly.

How not to use dog chew deterrents

Never spray the dog in the face as a warning – it should not be used as a punishment. Doing so can cause harm to your dog and the smell will not be linked to what you want them to stop chewing. Similarly, do not spray everywhere, choose specific places and objects, otherwise your dog will not associate the smell as a warning, just a horrible background scent they have to put up with.  

It's also not a good idea to spray yourself with the spray, even if your puppy is using your arm as a chew toy. Puppy biting is natural, and you want to build a bond with your dog. This will be nigh on impossible if your scent is one they find abhorrent. You can see our guide on how to train a puppy not to bite for more pointers on how this can be achieved without anti-chew sprays. 

Best dog anti-chew sprays to buy

Here are a few suggestions for some recommended dog chew deterrent sprays. All are non-toxic and can even be used to stop them worrying away at injuries – but if you do, remember it's always best to keep these sprays away from the eyes and nose.

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Chewfix Extra Strength Bitter Spray (opens in new tab)
This boasts one of the strongest smelling dog repellents ever discovered so you don't need a lot to keep your pup away from your slippers! Be warned though, humans can find it bitter too – so it may not be the best thing to spray on your couch. However, it's great for keeping your fur babies away from electrical wires and table legs.

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Bodhi Dog Bitter Lemon Spray (opens in new tab)
Recommended by trainers and vets as a humane way to keep constant chewers at bay. 100% non-toxic and made with natural extracts to provide the bitter taste, this is one spray you can be happy to put around your home. It's also good for pets with allergies or other sensitivities to strong chemicals.

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Grannick's Bitter Apple for Dogs  (opens in new tab)
This non-toxic and safe spray has had some reported good results in keeping furry friends away from precious furniture and fittings. It is made from water, isopropanol (20%), bitter principles, and extracts. Some users have found that the spray doesn't last that long, but regular application of the spray in places you don't want your pup to chew should help deter them.

Jamie Middleton is a freelance editor and writer who has been editing and creating content for magazines and websites for over 20 years. As well as writing about the pets he loves, he has helped create websites about tech and innovation like TechRadar.com, Innovate UK and TechSPARK, written programmes for music festivals, books on inventions and architecture, TV listings magazines, and edited publications about cars such as Lexus, Toyota and Jaguar. In his spare time he writes fiction books and poetry - or at least he does when he is permitted to by his cat Pirate, who enjoys the warmth of laptops too much to allow being creative to get in the way.