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Vet Notes : dogs

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Dogs Love to Chew

Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs.  Dogs have innate behaviors that come naturally to them, without previous experience.  Although chewing is an innate behavior, dogs can be taught which items are appropriate to chew.  
All puppies have the need to chew as part of the teething process.  Puppies are like infants and toddlers;  they explore their world by putting objects in their mouths.  Like babies, they teethe for about 6 months, which creates some discomfort.  Chewing makes sore gums feel better.  

Adult dogs may engage in destructive chewing for a number of reasons:

  • He wants attention
  • He wasn’t taught what is appropriate to chew
  • He’s bored
  • He suffers from separation anxiety or loneliness
  • His behavior is fear-related
  • He is suffering from stress

The key to stopping a dog from destructive chewing is to provide a stimulating environment.  A major part of this stimulation should be playing with owners and training.  When owners are not available, appropriate chewing toys and educational toys are extremely helpful.  Until your dog has learned what he can and cannot chew, it is the responsibility of the pet owner to manage the situation as much as possible, so he doesn’t have the opportunity to chew on unacceptable objects.

Chewing can reduce stress and help minimize other behavioral issues that can develop from boredom; in most cases it is good to provide your dog with safe toys and outlets for chewing.  While some chewing is beneficial for healthy teeth and gums, too much can cause excess wear and damage to the teeth.  

Keep these items in mind to manage the situation:

  • Keep inappropriate items out of your dog’s reach.
  • Give your dog toys that are clearly distinguishable from household goods.
  • Supervise your dog until he learns the house rules.
  • Give your dog plenty of people time.
  • Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise.
  • Have realistic expectations.

There are no completely safe dog chew toys. Puppies and dogs should always be monitored when chewing on a toy. Anything that is swallowed has the potential to cause an upset stomach or even a blockage.  Aggressive chewers can end up with tooth fractures if the toy is not appropriate.  The key to safe use of any chew toy is to read labels and monitor your dog at play with the toy to determine which is best.  Some items that are considered safe include:

  • Large beef leg bones - remove when there are sharp edges or when they are getting too small
  • Soft rubber chew toys for small dogs
  • Harder rubber chew toy for larger dogs
  • Balls (size suitable for your dog)
  • Educational toys – such as balls that need to be manipulated in a certain way to release a treat.

*You should never give your dog cooked bones to chew, especially poultry bones.  These bones can shatter easily into extremely sharp pieces and can cause a nasty irritation in the stomach and on down into the intestines.

There may be behavioral reasons for the chewing that your dog may be displaying.  Such behavior is often your dog’s way of communicating with you.  Learn to interpret the signs and respond appropriately, taking corrective action when necessary.  Sometimes this could mean you may need to modify your own behavior, and other times you may need to take some time to teach your dog what is acceptable.  It is up to you to develop a special relationship with your dog and establish house rules you can both live with.

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