The Chewing Habits of Dogs

by Jenny Newberry, Demand Media Google
    Keep your canine’s canines in great shape by providing toxin-free chew toys and brushing his teeth twice weekly.

    Keep your canine’s canines in great shape by providing toxin-free chew toys and brushing his teeth twice weekly.

    If your favorite pup is gnawing on your nerves with his destructive chewing habits, making few simple changes may improve his behavior. The trick is to figure out what his payoff is for chewing up stuff and give him acceptable alternatives to meet those needs.

    Teething

    Like babies, puppies chew on anything they can get into their mouths. Chewing soothes their gums and helps their teeth break through. Puppies also chew as a means of exploring their world and fighting boredom. To save yourself a great deal of frustration, puppy proof any areas you intend for your puppy to play unsupervised. For a small indoor dog, you can use a play pen or pet gates to keep him out of trouble. Outside, pick up anything that you don't want him to chew on, and give him plenty of toys to keep him busy and his gums happy. While gentle reprimands given immediately may begin to teach your dog what not to chew on, scolding Mighty Pup after the fact isn't helpful since he won’t understand why you are unhappy with him. He may look guilty, but actually this is just a submissive response to you barking at him.

    Stress

    Even grown dogs can have some pretty tough chewing habits. If Fido only destroys things when you aren't around, it’s probably because he is stressing out about where you are and when you will be back. This behavior is increased if he feels trapped. Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety will often chew on articles of your clothing, shoes or other items with your scent as a way of calming their nerves. Try leaving one of his toys in your laundry basket for a few days to give him as a replacement item that satisfies his need to feel close to you. You may also want to leave a TV or radio on to give him a sense that there are people nearby.

    Escape

    Dogs who are kept in a kennel or penned up in their yard may chew as a means of escape. You can reduce this panic chewing by providing your furry friend with plenty of attention when you are home, and giving him a lot of opportunities for exercise. Only leave him penned up unattended for short periods of time. If you have to work long hours, find someone who can give him a break by taking him for a walk while you are away.

    Boredom

    The urge to chew comes naturally to dogs and you will find them mindlessly chewing on things just because they have nothing better to do. Fido can be trained to chew only his own toys, just be sure you don’t confuse him by giving him ordinary household objects, shoes or clothing to chew on. Instead, give him plenty of non-toxic rawhide, nylon and rubber toys. Be sure to spend time playing with him with these toys so that he knows it’s acceptable to chew them. Because nylon and rubber are sometimes distasteful to dogs, tempt him to get used to them by rubbing them with bacon, peanut butter or other tasty foods he likes.

    Unhealthy Chewing

    If you notice that your dog seems to have lost his mind and is chewing on odd things such as cement, sheet rock or gravel, he may be experiencing a nutritional imbalance and you will need to consult a vet. Don’t be alarmed, though, if he is eating poop or grass. This is a common habit for dogs, and though disgusting, it’s seldom harmful. Some dogs also chew at their own skin. This often begins as a reaction to fleas, a skin irritation or an allergy, but it can turn into a compulsive habit. If you notice hot spots, hair loss, scaly skin or sores on your dog, you need to see a vet as soon as possible. Left untreated, these skin conditions can develop into bacterial infections that are much more difficult to take care of.

    About the Author

    Jenny Newberry, a former teacher with 25 years of experience, is a professional writer and photographer and holds a B.S. and a M.Ed. in elementary and special education from the University of South Alabama. She is also a history buff, praise and worship pianist, pet enthusiast, avid crafter and hobby gardener.

    Photo Credits

    • Chris Amaral/Photodisc/Getty Images