Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Do you have a chewer?

From time to time even the most well behaved dog falls for the temptation to chew on something, and it's hard not to yell at the poor pooch when coming home to find a favorite pair of shoes, the TV remote control, or a pair of headphones chewed to pieces. Of course, disciplining a dog after the fact has no impact besides scaring the dog - and possibly causing new problems - so there's nothing to do but clean up the mess.

Why is chewing on shoes, sofa cushions, and other things so irresistible to dogs?

When talking about puppies, they explore the world through sight and smell, but also through putting things in their mouth. They're much like human babies, and tasting and chewing things is one of their favorite ways to learn about the big world around them. It is also important to know that puppies teeth for about six months. Chewing helps the teething process, and makes the sore gums feel a little better.

If you have problems with a teething puppy chewing your things, try to freeze a wet wash cloth and offer it for chewing. Just remember to keep an eye on the dog so he doesn't swallow any of it.

Doggy adolescence takes place right after the puppy stage, and this phase can last up to two to three years of age depending on breed. At this time there's a lot going on in a dog's body. Doggy teenagers have a lot of energy, get bored easily, and might even want to try to bend the rules. It's a hard time in a dog's life, and many humans are unprepared for it.

Many young dogs are surrendered, because their owners aren't ready for coping with a large, furry teenager. The cute little puppy they brought home is gone, and while the dog might have an adult body, it's not yet mature.

Of course, adult dogs sometimes chew as well. When a pair of favorite shoes are gone, or a piece of furniture gets a new design-by-dog, it's easy to think they do it to spite us. That's not it.

Common reasons for chewing include:

  • The dog was never taught what's acceptable to chew
  • The dog is bored, or insufficiently exercised
  • The dog suffers from separation anxiety
  • It's a fear related behavior
  • Chewing can be a call for attention

Whatever the reason, remember the dog doesn't do it to spite you. Take responsibility for your things and keep them out of reach. Books, shoes, clothes, remote controls, trash, and smilier must be stored out of reach. See it from the bright side - this is a great opportunity to declutter!

Invest in some good chewing toys. Many dogs love to chew antlers. They're expensive to buy, but if you get a good size antler it will last for a while. If the dog loses interest, soak the antler in some broth and it will be as interesting as when it was new.

Regardless of what type of chewing toys you choose, make sure they don't look like forbidden objects. That is, don't pick toys that look like shoes, and don't offer old socks and shoes as toys. Set the stage for success and make it easy for your dog to understand what's allowed.

Many behavioral problems, not just chewing, stem from boredom, lack of interaction, and lack of exercise. Spend some extra time with your dog. Time with you will give mental stimulation, and help your doggie learn what's acceptable. If he or she tends to slink away and chew on things, use a leash and confine your dog when you're busy.

Is your dog getting ample exercise based on age, fitness level, and breed? Do you provide something to do and think about? Consider investing in puzzle toys, spend some time learning tricks together, go jogging, or enroll in a training program. A tired dog is a good dog, but exercise alone won't do the trick. Dogs need both physical and mental stimulation.

If time is a problem, use the things you normally do with your dog as entertainment. Mealtime can, for instance, become exercise. Try mixing kibble with some soft dog food, peanut butter, some mashed banana, or even some Greek yogurt and freezing it in a Kong. Instead of gobbling down the food your dog will have to work for it, which will make doggie tired.

Some behavioral problems might require professional help. If your problem is with separation anxiety, consider seeking a behavioral specialist.

If you catch doggie chewing on your best shoes, interrupt through making a loud noise. You can, for instance, put some coins in an empty plastic bottle and shake it. Then, offer a suitable toy, and give plenty of praise when your dog takes it.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

2 comments:

  1. Well, we have a true teenage girl on our hands, named Bailie. As a little one she never cause chewing problems, but as a teenager she is so into shredding beds and pillows. She gets tons of mental and physical exercise and is often worn out, but still has energy to shred. Mom never had a dog that did that, so it is all new and with three of us, she can't leave stuffed Kongs, etc out or we may fight over them.

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    1. High energy teenagers can be quite a handful. She'll grow out of it, but that's little comfort right now... When my first Border Collie was a puppy/teenager, he shredded everything. He "read books," re-designed furniture, even the baseboards along the walls. I tried giving him limited access to the house when I was at work, but he was too smart - he was quite an escape artist. Then he settled down, almost overnight, and became the best dog anyone could imagine.

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