Birds fly, fish swim, and let’s face it, dogs chew. They do other things too, like dig, bark, shed, etc., but we’ll concentrate on chewing for this article.
Dogs chew for many reasons. When they are puppies, they chew to explore the world around them (much like an infant that puts everything in his mouth). At this stage, it is a way for a young pup to “feel” his way around his world and discover what’s in his environment and how to interact with it.
As they get older, chewing can be triggered by teething; the soothing feeling of something in the sensitive mouth with new teeth starting to erupt. While totally appropriate, this is where pups can start to get into trouble in the “human world”. Their propensity to chew to either investigate or to answer a craving will likely lead to chewing whatever is nearby that suits their fancy…even if it is your favorite pair of leather running shoes.
About this age also, dogs are starting to understand how hard they can and should “mouth” or bite things. This is a critical skill that needs to happen to have a safe and well adjusted dog in our world. At this stage, we don’t want to discourage teeth on skin, but help you pup understand how sensitive our puny human skin is and how hard is too hard when it comes to mouthing (or biting).
As dogs get older, their ravenous drive to chew wanes, but many other reasons for chewing start to emerge. Stress relief, boredom, excitement, separation anxiety, dental problems, and attention getting are some of the reasons an adult dog may chew inappropriately. It is important to recognize the cause of destructive chewing if you want to relieve the problem. The best way to start, however, is to not let the destructive behavior begin in the first place. For this, we go back to puppyhood.
While your pup is in its formative stages and has the biological need to chew, there are several key steps to help insure he won’t be a destructive chewer when he grows:
• Control the environment – at this stage, if the pup isn’t supposed to have it, don’t leave it laying around.
• Give him appropriate things to chew on. People laugh when I tell them this, but at this stage (up to almost 1 year old), you should be begrudging the day you got a dog, because with every step you take there seems to be a dog toy in your way. Do not put the toys away, and forget about a pristine house for now. Your dog should look down wherever he is and find something he’s SUPPOSED to chew on at his feet.
• Make sure you have rules—every family and every family member has rules. Your dog should too . . . and he should know those rules. However, don’t just tell him what he can’t do, that’s just not fair. Introduce the rules to him by telling him what he CAN do and redirecting when he doesn’t get it quite right
• Mental and physical exercise – the old saying goes a tired dog is a good dog and that holds true for many instances, this included.
At any stage, however, giving your dog appropriate things to chew on is crucial. Given the proper things to chew on, it can strengthen his gums, clean his teeth, and keep him contented. Some good things to give your dog to chew on are: Kong toys. . .stuffed or otherwise, natural chew sticks, bully sticks, dental chews, etc. SitStay's new product, Brown Beggers™ Chew Samplers is an ideal way to incorporate a variety of chews into your dog's diet.
Always, though, remember supervision. Always be aware of what your dog is doing and the potential hazards that come with every activity.
|By Joann Neve, M.Ed., CPDT-KAPack Leader Behavior & Training | www.packleaderbehavior.com|