Some dog owners have a really big problem: their dog chews everything. This can be anything from the odd little nibble at the table leg to the seriously destructive dog that destroys your best shoes, the leather settee, chews up the dog lead and almost always chews its dog bed.
This causes great frustration and various degrees of cost. Obviously, most people with a really destructive dog will keep him or her in a crate when left home alone and overnight, which saves the furniture, but not the problem of giving the dog a bed. Many such dogs simply have to live on a wooden or rubber floor.
Another consequence of chewing dogs is the danger to the dog. A lot of chewing dogs will chew, but not swallow whereas some can get into terrible trouble if they swallow the pieces, which can create blockages or twisted intestines. Expensive vet bills follow and ultimately there is a limit to how often you can open up a dog and perform invasive surgery.
So Why do Dogs Chew?
Instinctively, the young puppy will, like small children, put anything in their mouth as a way of investigating the world. The investigation involves testing out how hard the object is, but it is also training for the future, where the mother, in the wild, brings home larger pray as food for the litter.
The puppy has to learn how to tear the meat off the bone and how to chew up even the toughest sinews in a carcass.
Our domesticated pups, brought home at eight weeks old, will be fed a mere shadow of that natural food and most new puppy owners help the puppy to satisfy its need for chewing by giving it various chew-toys.
As the puppy starts to lose the puppy teeth, the gums get itchy and chewing really takes hold then. This is the point where you as an owner can satisfy the puppy’s needs, but at the same time try to manage the chewing, so that it does not become a lifelong habit.
Let’s firstly be clear: some dogs grow up to become chewers no matter what you do, so it is not always your “fault”. But there are things that can help the puppy in the right direction towards growing out of the chewing stage.
When a puppy chews, it is a comforting action for him and he is relaxed in his happy occupation. If he finds himself in a stressful situation, he will calm himself by chewing things (this is why many owners will find that they have handed their perfectly behaved dog over to the boarding kennel for the holiday, only to find, on their return, that the dog has chewed up its bed…. for the first time ever). Being in this strange situation can trigger the need to chew for comfort.
Many owners also find that the dog chews at home if left alone. The way to prevent this is to teach the dog from a young age that it is OK to be alone! So called separation anxiety is an extremely common cause for destructive behaviour.
What You Can Do
Here is what you can do: get into a good routine of leaving your young puppy alone for short periods of time to make sure he gets used to this. A great way of making this separation-time a pleasure is to give the puppy a toy with food (e.g. hollow toys in which you can place mince or biscuits), which will take a good long time for the puppy to extract. By the time the puppy has struggled to get the titbits out, it is sufficiently exhausted and falls happily asleep. On your return, in the beginning after just five minutes, take the toy away from the puppy so that this remains a special treat for being alone. You can even substitute one of the young dog’s meals with the food toy, enjoyed in a crate in a room away from you.
As you extend the time away from puppy, you train him to accept the wait for your return and he will see it as a time to eat his treat and then sleep. No problem.
Below is a picture of a dog, having totally minced up his soft bed. If you have a dog like this and you cannot see a way to cure it, there are warm and chew-proof dog beds on the market, which will keep him safe and keep your sanity intact too.
About the author: Luise works her four dogs and runs a company that designs and manufacture strong, durable dog beds in Scotland.