What Is Bitter Spray—& Will It Stop Your Dog's Destructive Chewing Habit?
If your dog likes to chew on everything but its toys, you probably know how challenging it can be to stop it. Like any compulsive behavior, it won't be easy to kick Fido's unwanted habit—and it will take a whole lot more than a scolding to keep his teeth off your home furniture. To send a message home, you might want to consider using bitter spray (also known as a taste deterrent). Like bitter nail polish for serial nail nibblers, the bitter spray works to discourage canines who have the constant urge to chew on anything and everything.
For those who've never heard of bitter spray or are intrigued about trying it, we've broken down what you need to know about this unique formula. We tell you what it is, whether you should use it for your dog, and if it genuinely works—plus, a 3-step recipe to make a DIY bitter spray at home. Curious? Scroll on!
What Is Bitter Spray?
Bitter spray deters pets from destructive chewing. It comes in a spray format that you may spritz onto items your dog isn't supposed to sink its teeth into, like furniture, door or window frames, or a beloved pair of sneakers. The concoction has pet-friendly ingredients and, as the name implies, is formulated to be bitter to the taste. When your dog's mouth comes into contact with the formula, it coats the tongue with an unpleasant flavor.
Should I Use Bitter Spray for My Dog?
If your dog treats everything as its teether, then yes, a bitter spray is worth consideration. A destructive chewing habit is a problem among pups, adults, and senior-aged dogs that love to chew. If you don't nip the issue in the bud, it may lead to a persistent case of destruction in your home. A bitter spray is a tool that can help teach your dog which items it can and cannot place in its mouth. With that said, it has its limitations—it's not a magic potion that works to remedy your pet's chewing habits overnight.
Does Bitter Spray Work?
While a bitter spray is a potent repellant, it is a temporary solution that lasts for a week or less. Once it wears off, you either have to respray the same item or hope your dog avoids it at all costs. Some dogs could even develop a palate for the taste of bitter spray, rendering it futile. And for seriously determined chewers, the acrid tang of bitter spray may not be enough to keep their fangs off your stuff. If you want to remedy your dog's chewing habit once and for all, you must understand why it's occurring in the first place.
Many reasons may propel your dog to chew on things. Many times destructive chewing is symptomatic of boredom or loneliness. Other times, it happens as a result of separation anxiety. For all you know, it could be an underlying medical problem that needs treatment. Once you're able to rule out the potential cause, you will be able to take the appropriate course of action. If not a problem that requires veterinary care, your plan will often involve more than just bitter spray.
How to Handle Destructive Chewing
Teaching your dog what it can and cannot chew is a process. Until it learns to develop better habits, a bottle of bitter spray will take you a long way—but not all the way.
As mentioned, it should be used in tandem with a training routine for the best results. First, you must provide chew toys to curb your dog's natural propensity to chew. You may provide your dog with food-dispensing chew toys or, similarly, a toy that you can stuff with dog-safe foods. If not a food-dispensing chew toy, there are also options your dog can eat, like bones or hardy rawhide strips. Just look for an option that is safe for your dog. Otherwise, it may pose a hazard for your pet.
If chew toys are new to your dog, it might take a while for them to come around to the idea. They might still, for example, prefer your rubber shoes to its Kong.
Enter the bitter spray. Spritz it onto items or sizable objects, like furniture, that you want to deter your pet from chewing. Keep this up for several weeks or until your dog breaks its habits and establishes new ones. Don't forget to use positive reinforcement to make the process smoother for both you and your dog. If you catch your dog in the act of chewing what it shouldn't, correct the behavior immediately and turn it onto the appropriate items by providing an incentive—a treat, for instance, is hard for most, if not all, dogs to resist.
Make Your Own DIY Bitter Spray in 3 Steps
For anyone with a chewy dog, a bitter spray is a must-have. Luckily, there are many available options in both online and offline pet stores—or you can make one yourself out of ingredients you probably have in your kitchen pantry. All it takes is three easy steps!
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- ⅔ cup white vinegar
- ⅔ cup water
- Spray bottle
- Optional: Kitchen funnel
Step 1: Pour the ingredients into the spray bottle. You may also use the funnel to transfer the liquids into the bottle.
Step 2: Screw the lid on the spray bottle and shake to mix the ingredients until well incorporated.
Step 3: To use, spritz it over the items you would like your dog to stop chewing. Respray every few days.
Note: If you are using a bitter spray, whether homemade or store-bought, you must be careful not to let any enter your dog's eyes or nose. You should also avoid using it on your dog's skin, as this may cause your dog to bite, lick, or scratch its skin and result in lesions, which in turn may require veterinary attention if they become infected or sore to the touch.
A Final Note
While the bitter spray is a pet-safe product, you might want to speak to your veterinarian to determine if it's appropriate to use for your dog and whether he or she has any particular recommendations in mind. As mentioned, you must use it alongside a proper training regimen for the bitter spray to work. The process will take some patience, but over time, it will pay off.
Should your dog's excessive chewing habit persist, however, it's worth bringing it up to your vet again. From there, you can work together to rule out any potential causes for the issue.