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Chewing: All Dogs Chew

Chewing is a very normal and necessary part of every dog’s life. Puppies between the ages of two and six months chew to relieve the pain of teething. Dogs, especially young dogs, are very oral when investigating new items. Some will start chewing all of a sudden because of dental problems. A trip to the veterinarian will take care of dental chewing. What starts out as a dental problem or investigative chewing can soon become a habit. There are a variety of other reasons why dogs chew, from the dog being bored to having fun to relieving stress. The problem is not a dog that chews but what a dog chews. The problem occurs when the dog chooses to chew our couch instead of his rawhide. Until the dog proves he will chew only acceptable items, he should not be given the free run of the house. The dog should be confined to limit the damage to your items. Confinement is not the cure to inappropriate chewing, but breaking the habit is essential. Confinement is also not forever; it should only be used until the dog is trained to chew acceptable items. To help speed up the process, a healthy supply of chew toys should be left in the confinement area. Rotate his toys weekly so he does not get bored from the same toys week after week. Some dogs are very particular about the items they chew. Instead of buying tons of rawhides only to discover your dog prefers Nylabones or Kongs, buy one of each different type of chew toy. Offer each type to your dog and see which type he prefers. Once you see what your dog prefers, go buy lots of that type. Put
chew toys in every room of the house, especially the room in which your dog has chewed on inappropriate items.

The single most important thing you can do to teach a dog to chew appropriate items is to reward the dog when he chews acceptable items. A lot of people believe their dog doesn‘t like chew toys because the dog doesn’t pay much attention to them. Just buying a lot of chew toys and presenting them to your pooch is not enough. Teach the dog that playing with chew toys is fun and makes you very happy. Praise should be lavished on the dog every time he approaches and picks up the chew toy. Make the chew toy part of your play sessions. Get inventive – tie a string to the chew toy and induce your dog to chase it and pick it up. To make the chew toy more appealing, you might try soaking it in chicken broth. You may want to teach your dog to look for chew
toys. While playing with your dog, put the chew toy behind the couch or under a chair and instruct your dog to find it. When your dog retrieves the toy, lavish praise and attention on him. The purpose of this exercise is to teach the dog to look for his chew toy even though one is not in immediate sight.

The first thing to say about a reprimand is when not to do it. Many owners come hope to find that Fido has chewed something inappropriate. They angrily call the dog over to show him what he did wrong. Many times the dog will approach us head down, tail down, body close to the ground, showing all the classic signs of being guilty. We then reprimand him because he “knows” he did wrong. Dogs don’t understand the concept of being guilty or doing things out of spite. Guilt and spite are human concepts, not a dog’s. So the bottom line is that if the dog is not reliable being left alone with free run of the house, he shouldn’t have free run of the house. If you catch your dog in the act of chewing an unacceptable item, then this is an excellent opportunity to correct and redirect. Your voice reprimand should be short, sharp, and immediate. “Off, find your chew toy” is enough of a reprimand. Through your tone of voice your dog knows you’re upset, but also will learn how to get out of trouble. Continue to direct your dog to his chew toy. Once he picks it up, immediately lavish praise on him. Within a couple of repetitions of this exercise, the dog will start seeking out acceptable items to chew on. If your dog has chosen a particular item to chew on that’s not acceptable to you, try booby-trapping that particular item with something that the dog finds distasteful. Hot sauce or a commercial product like Bitter Apple might do the trick. But the solution still lies in teaching the dog to choose acceptable items to chew on.

Please note, articles in the Animal Resource Library are for reference only, and are not meant to diagnose or treat any medical or behavioral issues your pet may be experiencing.