Dog Behavior - Chewing

We at Family Pooch care about the relationship between you and your dog.  Today we are starting a series of blog posts on doggie behaviors, what causes them, and what to do about them. The topic for this blog entry is Chewing.

No one can look inside a dog's mouth and not understand that chewing is important. It is what their mouths were designed to do.  Chewing is a natural behavior, and is crucial, not only for them physically, but for them emotionally.  The problem is, of course, when chewing causes destruction in your home.

Why Do Dogs Chew?

There are many reasons why dogs chew:  

  • Puppies teething.  Your pup's mouth is filled with 28 teeny tiny razors, and at 3-4 months old they start falling out to be replaced with about 42 adult teeth.  Chewing helps them address the pain.

  • Curiosity (especially puppies).  It is normal behavior for puppies to investigate their environment by sniffing, tasting, and chewing on objects throughout the home.

  • Boredom.  A dog needs their body and brain engaged, or they can get bored and will find games to entertain themselves.  Chewing up the couch may be a game you don't want them to play!

  • Anxiety.  Dogs rarely go to therapy and have few outlets to deal with conflict, anxiety, or even arousal.  Chewing can often be the result.

  • Scavenging.  Sometimes a dog will chew to scavenge for food (getting to the garbage).

  • Natural Urge to chew and gnaw.  Which helps keep teeth and gums healthy.
  • Getting Attention.  If a dog doesn't get attention any other way, they may act out to get some attention (even if it is punishment).  Sometimes owners will even give the dog treats to get them away from the bad behavior, which ends up rewarding the dog for doing something wrong. 

So, as we can see there are many reasons.  Some are easier to deal with than others.  

What to do about it?

Since you know chewing is going to happen, the first important step is to have something appropriate they can chew on.  If there isn't anything available, your favorite chair will start to look good.  Family Pooch had a blog on good, indestructible toys that are good for chewing.

Encourage your dog to chew on items that you select (like the indestructible toys), and keep important things away from them.  If you are not home to watch, consider crating or confining if this is a problem.  When you are home, if you see the dog chewing something inappropriate (i.e. not something specific for him/her to chew), clap or make a sharp noise and then give them a chew toy.

Another important aspect is to exercise their brain and body.  Snuffle Mats and Snuffle Bowls are one way to train them to forage (most dogs need to be trained, so please see our blog entry on this).  Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise which will help with anxiety and boredom! 

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