Are you living with a chew monster? Have you lost clothes, soft furnishings, valuables and just plain strange objects to your dog’s bad habit? Persistent chewing can be difficult to manage, stressful to leave unattended and confusing for your dog to understand new boundaries if set wrongly. Chewing is not unique to young puppies, and can be a deeply engrained life long habit.
Our first port of call, as ever with our dog’s behaviour, is to determine why they are chewing.
Teething puppies, just like human babies, will chew and gnaw to relieve the pain of new and incoming teeth. Similarly, putting things in their mouths is a way for your pup to explore the novel environment around them as they go. This chewing is, in most cases, age related and can pass with time at they mature.
Anxiety can be a big trigger for chewing, particularly if they chew when you are out or away. A nervous chew can relieve stress while you’re gone and it’s the much larger issue of separation anxiety to deal with in these instances to curtail your dog’s chewing.
Chewing out of boredom is another way in which your dog can pass the time while you’re away. A dog left alone in the wrong state of mind without appropriate sources of stimulation will find their own fun and games, and if this is the case, their daily schedule and routine needs to be addressed to see where else you can channel this energy.
Don’t forget that chewing is a completely natural instinct for your dog. Dogs in the wild (just as they should as part of their diet at home) chew on bones to keep their jaw strong and their teeth clean, and as a natural activity, chewing does not have to be eliminated entirely. (FORGET what your vet said about crunching kibble cleaning teeth - it’s a myth!) As with everything, however, even natural behavioural instincts should be practiced in moderation, and if your dog’s chewing has become relentless, inappropriate or compulsive, then there are steps for us as parents to take to redirect and retrain this habit, and to learn what and when it is acceptable to chew, and what and when is not.
Are you allowing your dog to chew as a result of a lack of due attention and monitoring? If your dog is a chewer at any age (but particularly regarding puppies) then it is important that you are watching to see when they start to head for their next victim for their own safety as much as saving your belongings. If your dog has successfully chewed something, were you watching them? Did they have easy access to the item? It’s difficult to blame an unsupervised and unguided pup for chewing, and it’s down to us humans to take the interim steps to prevent “chewability” in the home.
That being said, you cannot physically be watching your dog at all hours of every day - this goes without saying. There are of course periods your dog must be left alone, and you, most likely, have your own stuff to get on with, too. So how do we bridge this gap between supervision and absence? Careful management of their environment if they are going to be left alone (even if you are still in the house) is an important and very effective place to start. “Dog proofing” the space, removing all chewable items from reach, using their crate if you have one or creating a designated zone where it is safe for your dog to go unsupervised can remove the worry and risk from time spent apart. This way you can get on with your day and your dog can get on with theirs, content in the knowledge that both they and your stuff is safe! It’s unfair to leave a slipper lurking within reach and then be frustrated when it gets chomped; by removing temptation you make it easier for your dog to succeed. Beyond the obvious, it’s also important to make sure that absolutely all particularly hazardous items are entirely out of reach, as a persistent chewer might stop at nothing to reach just anything to chew on - chemicals, cleaners, sharp objects and so on need to be entirely inaccessible.
If your dog is just hell bent on chewing no matter what their surroundings, then it’s time to provide them with alternate activities. You can find a selection of toys, natural chews, jumbo sticks and bones in the Pantry at K9 Anytime, a curated collection to help keep mouths and minds busy with an appropriate and beneficial activity. Give your dog something that they are allowed to chew, and something that will ultimately be more rewarding and tastier than a chair leg. This way your dog can have the satisfaction of the chew they want, at no detriment to your home or risk to themselves. Make the distinction clear - do not give your dog an old slipper they can chew on, because they will see all shoes as chewable. Make chewable objects distinctly separate from household and human items that are off limits. Bones (only ever raw, NEVER cooked) are a fantastic natural teeth cleaner and great supplement for your dog’s diet, and hairy chews are a natural worming treatment, as the hair cleans the intestinal tract as it passes through. Tough and long lasting chew toys stuffed with a pizzle or their raw food will keep them busy for hours by adding another layer of puzzle to their chew, taking longer and requiring more brain power in the process. Remember, it’s important to supervise a dog with a chew to ensure they are eating it safely and not attempting to guzzle it down in one go.
ROUTINE & ACTIVITY
Some chewing habits can be overridden entirely by some small adjustments to your dog’s routine. If they are a bored or anxious chewer, this can often be heightened by excess energy and lack of stimulation at other times during the day. A dog who is not getting enough mental, social or physical stimulation throughout the day is much more inclined to channel this “buzz” into something they shouldn’t when left to their own devices, whereas a dog who has had all of their boxes “ticked” and is then left alone is much more likely to simply chill & sleep. Before leaving your dog, make sure that they have had plenty of exercise, and consider taking a ball or their favourite toy out and about to up the tempo, excitement and stimulation. If your dog never gets the chance to walk or run off the lead either alone or with other dogs, you have to consider that it is very possible their physical needs are not being met. Dog Daycare is the ideal solution for parents who don’t have the recall skills that allow their dog to roam free on walks, as it provides a safe, secure and social environment to fulfil their physical, mental and social requirements for hours at a time, which they simply can’t do alone at home. Make sure your dog has had opportunity to go to the toilet, has been fed, has water, somewhere comfortable to settle, and an activity or two on offer in the form of chews or toys. When you leave your dog as content as they can be, they will relish the opportunity for some rest and relaxation!