To chew, or not to chew…that is the question.

by Sue on January 6, 2016

It’s normal for puppies and dogs to chew on objects as they explore the world. Chewing accomplishes a number of things for a dog. For young dogs, it’s a way to relieve pain that might be caused by teething. For older dogs, it’s a way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing also combats boredom or relieves mild anxiety or frustration.

Some of the problems that can cause destructive chewing

Separation anxiety
Dogs who chew to relieve the stress of separation anxiety usually only chew most intensely when left alone. They also display other signs of anxiety like whining, barking, pacing, restlessness, urination and defecation

Fabric licking
Some dogs lick, suck and chew at fabrics. Some experts believe that this behavior results from having been weaned too early. If a dog’s fabric-sucking behavior occurs for long periods of time, and it’s difficult to distract them when they do it, it’s possible that the behavior has become compulsive.

Hunger
A dog on a calorie-restricted diet might chew and destroy things in an attempt to find food. Dogs usually do this kind of chewing on objects related to food or smell like food.

Puppy Teething
The discomfort of teething make puppies chew. Much like human infants, puppies go through a stage when they lose their baby teeth and experience pain as their adult teeth come in. This chewing phase usually ends by six months of age. Some recommend giving puppies ice cubes, special dog toys that can be frozen or frozen wet washcloths to chew. Although puppies do need to chew on things, gentle training can teach your puppy to restrict chewing to objects like his own toys.

Normal chewing behavior
Chewing is a perfectly normal behavior for dogs of all ages. Both wild and domestic dogs spend hours chewing bones. This activity keeps their jaws strong and their teeth clean. Dogs love to chew on bones, sticks and just about anything else available. They chew for fun, they chew for stimulation, and they chew to relieve anxiety. While chewing behavior is normal, dogs sometimes direct their chewing behavior toward items they should not chew on. Both puppies and adult dogs should have a variety of appropriate chew toys. However, just providing the right things to chew isn’t enough to prevent inappropriate chewing. Dogs need to learn what is okay to chew and what is not. They need to be taught in a gentle manner.

Lack of exercise or mental stimulation

Some dogs simply do not get enough physical and mental stimulation. Bored dogs tend look for ways to entertain themselves, and chewing is one option. To prevent destructive chewing, be sure to provide plenty of ways for your dog to exercise his mind and body.

Stress and frustration
Sometimes a dog will chew due to stress, such as being crated or getting teased by children when confined in a car. To reduce this kind of chewing, try to avoid exposing your dog to situations that are not normal for him.

Useful Tips

  • “Dog-proof” your house. Put valuable objects away until you’re confident that your dog is trained to chew on his own toys. Keep shoes and clothing, dirty laundry and books out of reach. Without this temptation, training will go faster.
  • Provide your dog with plenty of his own toys and inedible chew bones. Pay attention to the types of toys that are is favorites and only offer him variations of those types. It’s a good idea to introduce something new, swap out the toys, every couple of days so that he doesn’t get bored with the same toys. Only give your dog natural bones that are sold specifically for chewing. Do not give him cooked bones of ANY kind as these can splinter and seriously injure your dog. Also keep in mind that intense chewers can chip small pieces off of natural bones or chip their own teeth while chewing. So if your dog is an intense chewer it’s best to avoid natural bones altogether.
  • Offer your dog some edible things to chew, like bully sticks, pig ears, rawhide bones, pig skin rolls or other natural chews. However do this at times were you can monitor the chewing. Dog have been known to choke on these types of chews by trying to swallow that last bite whole.
  • Identify times of the day when your dog is most likely to chew and give him a puzzle toy filled with something he really likes.. You can include some of your dog’s daily amount of kibble in the toy.
  • Do your best to supervise your dog during all waking hours until you feel confident that his chewing behavior is under control. If you see him licking or chewing an item he shouldn’t, say “NO!”, remove the item from your dog’s mouth, and insert something that he CAN chew. Then praise him happily. When you can’t supervise your dog, you can find a way to prevent him from chewing on the wrong things. For example, if you work during the day, you can leave your dog at home in a confinement area for up to six hours. Use a crate or put your dog in a small room with the door or a baby gate closed. Be sure to remove all things that your dog shouldn’t chew from his confinement area, and give him a variety of toys and chew things to enjoy instead. Keep in mind that if you confine your dog, you’ll need to give him plenty of exercise and quality time with you when he’s not confined.
  • Provide your dog with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. If you have to leave your dog alone for more than a short period of time, make sure he goes out beforehand.
  • Never give your dog castoffs of something you would not normally allow him to chew. In other words. If you don’t want your dog chewing on your shoes, don’t give an old shoe to play with. He does not know the difference.

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