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Having a dog or puppy that chews everything in sight is a relatively common problem for many dog owners, and dogs have a natural propensity to chew that cannot and should not be completely discouraged. However, teaching your dog or puppy to be able to differentiate between appropriate chew toys and things he should not touch is important, both for your dog’s wellbeing and for the protection of your property! Most dog owners will face the problem of inappropriate chewing at some stage, often during the puppy phase up to the age of around nine months old. This often corrects itself naturally as your dog matures; however that is not to say that a young dog may not cause an inordinate amount of damage during that short time! It is also important to use that window of time while your dog is young to teach them about their possessions versus things they should not touch, plus getting them used to commands such as ‘leave it!’ and ‘no!’
Chewing is a natural behaviour in dogs, and it is very important to enable their need to chew in all of the right ways. Dogs and particularly growing puppies explore the world around them with their mouths, and the taste, smell and mouth-feel of objects are important tools in establishing the world to your dog and how he deals with it. In young puppies, teething takes place in the same way as it does in babies, and as your dog begins to lose their puppy teeth and develop their adult set, pain, pressure and soreness from the new teeth breaking through the gums can make the urge to chew overpowering. Just as with babies, it is important to provide chews and toys that can help your dog to cut their gums and ease the descent of the new teeth, and to help them to relieve the pressure of the teeth coming in.
The most obvious explanation for why inappropriate chewing in dogs and puppies is a problem, is because of the large-scale and often expensive destruction that chewing can cause to your property and possessions. A dog or puppy that chews up a favourite shoe or slipper is likely to be regarded in a very dim light, but if your dog chews your carpet or the legs of your furniture, this can be even more costly and irritating. However, as well as the inconvenience that inappropriate chewing can cause to you as the dog owner, it is important to remember that chewing or eating unsuitable materials can also be harmful to your dog. Eating or swallowing non-digestible items is one clear cause for concern, as is your dog potentially absorbing harmful toxins or poisons from paints and dyes that may be used in anything from fabric to furniture. Finally, splinters and shards of wood or other materials may cause puncture wounds and cuts in and around your dog’s mouth, as well as leading to even more serious issues if ingested.
1. Rule out health or wellness issues Nutritional deficiencies, feeding an inappropriate diet and some conditions and illnesses can lead to your dog seeking unusual sources of nutrition, not all of which are food. If you are concerned, have your dog checked over and tested by your vet to rule out the presence of any underlying cause that is not behaviour-related. Also, stress, unhappiness and anxiety can lead to dogs acting out in a variety of different ways, including inappropriate chewing and the destruction of your things. It is important to take a holistic view of your dog’s wellbeing and behaviour and ensure that there is not an underlying environmental issue causing them to deliberately act out. 2. Dog-proof your property While you are trying to train and divert your dog away from inappropriate chewing, it is also important to ensure that you do what you can to protect your things from your dog (and your dog from your things)! This means not leaving small items such as shoes or children’s toys lying around within reach of your dog, and restricting your dog’s access to areas of the house where he has a propensity to chew things when left unsupervised. 3. Make sure your dog is appropriately stimulated Chewing is often, but by no means exclusively, related to boredom , and keeping your dog’s chewing urges under control requires ensuring that your dog is appropriately stimulated, and has enough variety in his day to occupy his time. Ensure that he is walked often enough, spends the majority of his time with his family and not left alone, and that he has a range of toys and diversions available to him to keep him busy when he is on his own. 4. Encourage chewing of the right things Provide a good range of toys for your dog that he is allowed to chew, and ensure that they are suitable and do not have small parts that may become detached. Offering a range of textures and styles of chew toys is important, as is teaching your dog about what is his and good to chew. Keep your dog’s toys of all types in his crate or a specially designated toy box when not in use, so that he can learn to differentiate between what is his and what is yours by virtue of whether the item in question lives in his territory or not. 5. Discourage and train your dog away from chewing the wrong things As mentioned in point four, keeping your dog’s toys in your dog’s territory can go a long way towards helping him to discern what is his and what is not, but you will also have to address the issue of keeping unsuitable items away from your dog while he learns to tell the difference. Keep unsuitable items out of your dogs reach and line of vision where possible. If you find your dog with something he should not have, command him to leave it, and continue to do so until he complies. It is important to not get into a physical tug of war with your dog over any item, or to chase him until he gives it up, as he will come to view this as a game and it will be totally counter-productive. Reward your dog for giving up an item that he should not have, and never cave in and let your dog keep or take possession of an item he has been chewing inappropriately, even if by the time he has finished with it, it is totally unfit for any other purpose! This sends a mixed message to your dog and can help to delay training in the end. Remember to stay calm, be patient, and that these things take time. Good luck!
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