While chewing is a natural behavior for dogs and can easily help promote healthy teeth, gums and jaw muscles. There is also a back side to chewing. Sometimes a dog may direct its chewing habits at objects that are deemed off-limits. This destructive chewing behavior can be caused by a multitude of things.
Puppies may chew because they are teething and chewing relieves the discomfort of having the new teeth appear. Adult dogs may chew out of boredom or because they are anxious, want to attract your attention or as a response to fears or phobias.
Puppies, young dogs and chewing
There are several reasons why puppies chew. Chewing can be a part of play. When puppies and young dogs play they may gently bite each other. When a pup is bitten to hard it will yelp and stop playing with the biting pup. This behavior will teach the puppies bite inhibition, an essential part of socialization.
Chewing is also the dogs way of exploring the world around it. Just like human babies. Puppies will explore and learn about new things by putting it in their mouths. This way of exploration can be troublesome as puppies may chew on things that it is not supposed to. Typically young dogs may have great fun chewing on shoes, laces, paper towels and other household items. To prevent this destructive behavior, you should equip the young dog with a proper chewing toy.
When puppies start teething it can lead to a great deal of comfort. Chewing eases the irritation cause by the growing teeth and they will thus seek out object to relieve themselves of the discomfort. Teething in puppies typically occur when they are between 3 and 10 months of age.
Chewing can also help to ease hunger and it can also help the dog relax and feel comfortable with its surroundings.
Younger dogs may also chew in order to establish dominance. It is thus important that you set firm rules for what objects are chew able and which ones are not. Establishing yourself as a leader is important. You should never lead a dog to believe that it is an equal, even though this is how we humans like to treat each other. If a dog believes it nears equality it will try to establish dominance and become the pack leader.
Good and bad chewing habits in adult and senior dogs
Like puppies, adult dogs also chew for comfort. They like to put just about anything in their mouths when they are out and about. Especially if what they find is edible.
Chewing helps promote healthy teeth and gums. By using dental chewing products you can keep its teeth clean and the gums free of infections. You can also give your dog a bone. Not those mass produced bones made out of pigs skin, but a real bone from a cow or a pig. You should however be careful of the type of bone you give your dog. Some bones, like chicken bones, splinter easily. These small pieces of bone can get stuck in your dogs throat and thus become a threat to its health.
While chewing is healthy for dogs of all ages it can also be a sign of boredom or separation anxiety. When this is the case. It can lead to much unwanted destructive chewing. In extreme cases a dog may tear apart your home while you are gone.
Boredom puts you at risk of destructive chewing
A dog may get bored if left alone for extended periods of time, if it does not get to interact with people or other dogs or if it does have an outlet for its energy. This is especially true for herding and sporting breeds as these tend to need more exercise in order to stay happy.
Your can prevent your dog from getting bored by activating him. Activation can take several forms. You can play a game of fetch, you can take him for a long walk or a bike ride. While walking your dog remember to allow time for activities such as sniffing and exploration. Walks are also an excellent time to exercise a few commands and give praise for a job well done.
You can also take the dog to a park where it can meet other dogs. Socializing with other dogs will up its moral and play will help it expend a lot of its stored up energy. If for a period of time you do not have enough time to take care of your dogs needs for exercise and socializing. You may want to consider hiring a dog walker to help you out for a while.
Separation anxiety can lead to unwanted chewing
Separation anxiety can also lead to destructive behavior and chewing. Signs of separation anxiety include an overly strong attachment to its owner. The dog may follow you around even if you are just moving from one room to the next. It may also get anxious when you prepare to leave for work or other errands.
Anxiety can occur for several reasons. If you have recently moved. It will take a while for the dog to get used to the its new home. If your schedule changes. frequently it may break the dogs daily rhythm and it will feel insecure. Anxiety can also occur after the loss of a family member or after a stay at a kennel during vacation time Dogs who have lived in shelters are also prone to separation anxiety.
Treating separation anxiety is not easy. But it can be done. One approach involves leaving for short periods of time. Then gradually increase the time it is left alone as it gets used to you being gone. Start out by leaving the dog alone for just a couple of minutes. Then gradually increase it over time until the dog is comfortable being left alone for an hour or two. When treating an anxious dog in this way it is also important that departures and arrivals are made as uneventful as possible. If you comfort the dog before leaving or greet and praise the dog when you get back. It only encourages the stressful anxious behavior.
Other treatments include anti-anxiety medication. This however can usually not be relied upon as a long term solution.
What can I do to put a stop to my dogs destructive chewing habits
If your dog engages in destructive chewing behavior. Do not yell, scold or punish him unless you actually catch him in the act. Unlike humans dog are not able to connect punishment or scolding with an event that occurred an hour ago. It may look like he understand by displaying a submissive behavior or running away. This however is more of a reaction to your tone of voice rather than a reaction to having done something wrong.
You should instead promote non-destructive chewing by way of promoting good behavior, proper socialization, exercise, chew toys, petting and play time. If you need you can also use anti-chew products on objects that are off limits or you could simply cover them up. So the objects become unattractive or unavailable for chewing.