Dr Katrina Warren shares her tips for managing chewing behaviour.
Chewing behaviour in dogs can be a very frustrating and expensive habit and also a dangerous one for dogs. Dogs chew for a purpose and they have no sense of value of the items they chew! You must manage chewing behaviour to minimise the opportunity for your puppy or dog to chew undesirable items and also teach them to chew on appropriate items only. This will take a bit of time and effort but will pay off in the long run when your dog understands that certain toys are OK to chew.
Chewing behaviour is very normal for puppies, as this is a way for them to explore the big wide world. Puppies are inquisitive and will chew, dig and eat pretty much anything and everything they can find. Chewing also helps them relieve the pain associated with teething.
During teething, most puppies seek out hard things to chew on to help sooth their mouths. You must provide your pup with appropriate toys to chew otherwise they will chew items that are not acceptable, such as your furniture and shoes. Make sure you rotate chew toys regularly to maintain your pup’s interest.
Use a playpen to confine your puppy when you can’t actively supervise so that your puppy doesn’t get the chance to make mistakes. Each time you place your puppy in the pen, provide a safe toy to chew on. KONG makes excellent chew toys for puppies. The Puppy KONG is designed for smaller mouths and made with a special teething rubber formula. It soothes sore gums and promotes healthy jaw development and positive chewing behaviour.
Freezing a KONG stuffed with soaked dry food, wet food or chicken necks can also help sooth sore mouths. Chicken soup frozen in ice cube trays also work for something a puppy can chew on to help relieve discomfort during teething. Chewing behaviour usually eases substantially by 12 months for most puppies but some will take longer than others to stop this behaviour and some will continue to chew throughout their life.
Chewing is also normal behaviour for adult dogs- it provides mental and physical stimulation and keeps their jaws and gums healthy. Some dogs will chew when they are bored or stressed. Dog’s who chew to relieve stress, often only chew when they are left at home. Many destructive chewing issues are alleviated with good management, such as providing the dog with more exercise, shorted periods of alone time, and activities to do in your absence. Some very anxious dogs may require medical treatment, so I recommend speaking to your vet if you are worried.
Dogs have extremely powerful jaws and generally the larger breeds have stronger jaws and do more chewing damage. It is important to stay away from cheap plastic toys that can easily break and get caught in your dog’s mouth. With all chew toys you must get the right sized toy for your dog’s jaws to ensure it will not be a choking hazard. If toys become worn or pieces start breaking off, it is essential that you replace them. The KONG Classic and KONG Goodie Bone are great durable chew toys for adult dogs. You can stuff the Classic with wet food and freeze over night to create a longer lasting chew toy. You can place treats in the ends of the Goodie Bone to encourage chewing.