Have you thought about giving bitter apple spray a try to keep your puppy or adult dog from destroying stuff? Well, you’ve come to the right place because today, I’m going to cover how it works, as well as what you should be aware of in order to use it safely and effectively.
Let’s start by defining what bitter apple spray is.
What is bitter apple spray?
Bitter apple spray is an anti-chew spray for dogs that works to discourage a dog’s chewing and other bad habits. It’s essentially a bad, bitter tasting liquid you can spray on furniture, leashes, cables, your hands and dogs’ bodies to get them to stop licking or chewing that area.
It tastes bad, so they tend to avoid it. That said, it can be a helpful tool in dog training as well as wound healing, and it’s also available for cats.
Pros/cons of bitter apple spray
Here’s a quick overview for you before I dive into more detail:
- Quick fix for many problems
- Some sprays can be used for cats as well
- Not a long term solution
- Trial and error
- Can leave stains
How to use anti chew spray for dogs
You can use anti chew spray to stop:
- Biting hands.
- Chewing furniture.
- Biting the leash.
- Licking paws.
- Destroying cables and wires.
- Chewing kids’ toys.
- Licking at wounds.
To do this, spray the item or your hands with the bitter apple spray, and make sure your dog gets a lick of it, too. Observe how your dog reacts to it. If he doesn’t like it, he’ll make “faces”, repeatedly stick out his tongue, and shake his head. You’ll have to reapply the spray multiple times, likely for days and maybe even weeks. Some dogs learn quickly, others are more stubborn.
Tip: Understand your dog’s motivation behind his inappropriate chewing, biting or licking. That way you can combine a long-term approach towards fixing the problem for good with the bitter apple spray as a temporary, quick fix.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is my dog bored?
Dogs need a decent amount of physical and mental stimulation every day, so consider walking him more and giving him access to dog-friendly (chew-) toys. For example, a stuffed rubber Kong toy or a treat dispensing Kong Wobbler toy, a bully stick, a frozen beef trachea, or let him sniff out some treats you hide in a snuffle mat.
Is my puppy teething?
Puppies are looking to alleviate their hurting gums when they’re teething and need appropriate chews and/or chew toys. If they don’t have access to those, they’ll look for anything else they can chew on instead. For example, your furniture, shoes, or your kids’ toys. Stuffed puppy Kong toys and smaller bully sticks will provide enormous relief for your puppy.
Does my dog need to learn impulse control?
Teach him the “leave it” command for when you want him to stop chewing or biting on inappropriate items and human body parts. To do this, offer him a high value treat or a favorite toy when you want him to “leave” whatever he has in his mouth. Alternatively, you can also offer him a favorite toy. Whatever works best to redirect his attention from one item to the other. Also don’t forgot to offer verbal praise for a job well done. You can say things like Good boy!, or Yes!
Is my dog anxious?
Anxious dogs easily get spooked by sudden noises they’re unfamiliar with. They may also not do well with being left alone. As a result, they redirect that fearful energy into chewing on inappropriate things like your furniture. To help your dog cope with this, make sure you exercise him properly before you leave him home alone. A tired dog is much less likely to act up than one who’s full of energy. Also leave him appropriate doggie chews and toys to entertain himself with. Put up shoes, leashes, etc. so that he can’t get to them in the first place. Close your kids’ rooms doors, and consider crating your pup or gating off areas you don’t want him in. Additionally, spray items like furniture legs or cables with the bitter apple spray.
Bitter apple spray ingredients
Now that you know how to use the spray, let’s discuss which one you should buy. After all, there are a variety of bitter apple sprays with different formulas, and some are also available as a gel. My recommendation is to use brands that don’t use harsh chemical ingredients like isopropanol and propylene glycol. It also shouldn’t contain tea tree oil because it’s poisonous to dogs (and cats).
In general, I’d say the shorter the ingredient list, the better. Also look out for warnings that say not to spray it directly on your pet. Instead, go for something that’s safe to spray on your pet and plants, including his skin. For example, the following sprays are safe to be sprayed directly on your pet:
Ingredients: Water, all natural bitter principles and extractives, preservatives.
Ingredients: Bittering agent, deionized water, and citric acid.
Ingredients: Purified water, emulsifier, copaiba oil, bitter agent, preservative.
Bitter apple spray for dog training
The first brand Lindsay tried about 20 years ago was Grannick’s Bitter Apple. She’s the founder of That Mutt and got it for her golden retriever puppy, Brittni, to prevent her from chewing objects, especially her leather leash during walks. It worked, but it is alcohol based. These are its ingredients: Water, Isopropanol 20%, Bitter Principles and Extractive.
Of course, there are other ways to teach a dog not to chew something, but the spray is a quick fix. Brittni did not chew her leather leash again after she got a taste of the bitter apple spray.
Puppies need to be taught limits, like what they can and cannot chew, whether or not they are allowed on the furniture and not to bite hands.
Obviously, a dog owner can’t spray everything in the house with bitter apple. But for an especially difficult puppy that keeps chewing something in particular, or if you need to put a stop to something right away, this spray really does do the trick.
Another plus: Humans can generally not smell it, and most sprays will not stain furniture or clothes. We can taste it though, which you will soon learn if you get it on your hands and then touch your mouth.
Bitter apple spray for wound healing
If you’ve ever had to come up with ways to keep your pup from licking a wound after surgery or a skin irritation, you know how potentially frustrating this experience can be. While rigid cones and clothes are helpful with keeping your pup away from their wounds, they don’t care much for them. And honestly, that’s perfectly understandable because when you think about it, getting dressed is a human thing, not an animal thing.
That said, bitter apple spray can actually be a good alternative to the cone of shame or dog jackets. That’s because you can apply the spray directly onto your dog’s coat to keep him from chewing his fur. Or to keep your other dog(s) to lick your patient’s fur or wound! You can also spray it directly onto the bandage that’s covering a wound.
However, you don’t want to spray it directly INTO the wound. That would sting and be extremely uncomfortable.
Does bitter apple spray work?
Yes and no! Let me explain what I mean by that.
Some dogs immediately react to the spray in exactly the way we want them to. Like the way Lindsay’s golden retriever puppy Brittni did. They taste it, decide it’s gross, and then leave whatever it was they were licking or chewing. In Brittni’s case, her leather leash.
Other dogs don’t seem to mind the taste one bit. As in, they continue to lick or chew although it’s covered in bitter apple spray. I made that experience with my previous Boxer mixes Missy and Buzz. Neither of them was phased one bit by the first anti chew spray I bought to keep them from chewing on the baseboards. However, they hated the second one I tried. In combination with teaching them the “leave it” command and crating them with puppy appropriate toys when they were home alone, this was a winner.
That’s because different dogs react differently to different formulas! So while one dog will be repulsed by Grannick’s Bitter Apple Spray, the next dog won’t mind it, but he’ll dislike Fooey’s Ultra-Bitter Training Aid Spray instead.
That’s why I recommend to try out a few different ones if your pup doesn’t seem to be phased by the first anti-chew spray you buy.
Bitter apple spray for cats
Last but not least, let’s talk about bitter apple spray for cats because, let’s face it, they can be pretty destructive too!
Some chew deterrents are indeed formulated for both dogs and cats, which is great news if you’re looking to stop your kitty from chewing up cables and scratching your furniture.
Apply the spray to inappropriate items and surfaces your cat targets, but also provide your cat with plenty of outlets for her bursts of energy. For example, you could get her a scratching tree or a cardboard cat scratcher, and engage her in playtime with toys like feather toys and rattling mice.
- The Fooey! Ultra-Bitter Training Aid Spray can be used on cats as well, and so can the NaturVet – Bitter Yuck – No Chew Spray and the Rocco & Roxie No Chew Extreme Bitter Spray.
Now we’d like to hear from you! Have you ever used a bitter apple spray? Did it work?
Barbara Rivers writes regularly for That Mutt. She is certified in raw dog food nutrition from Dogs Naturally Magazine and the author of three ebooks about balanced raw dog food. She is a blogger at K9s Over Coffee.
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