Why do dogs chew?

dog chewingAs lovable as your dog may be, he will no doubt indulge in some instinctive habits that can test the patience of a saint. If he’s a sight hound, he may be unable to resist the impulse to chase small animals when you take him for a walk in the park. It may be that he can’t resist the impulse to bury things under your immaculate lawn. One of the most destructive behaviours he can exhibit, however, is to chew things.

You may be familiar with the Simpson’s episode where Homer splashes out hundreds of dollars on a new pair of ‘Assassin’ trainers, only to have them chewed to bits by Santa’s Little Helper. No doubt you pet has done something similar, whether it’s a shoe, a newspaper or a cushion. The fact is that all dogs chew, but it can become a problem if allowed to get out of hand.

Dogs use their mouths as a way of exploring – if they find something of interest, they will gnaw on it. Most pups will chew if they are teething, and this is something that you will have to tolerate until his teeth come through. Where you can, you need to give your pup something appropriate to chew on – popping a chew toy in the freezer for a short while will give him something to sink his teeth into, as well as being soothing for him. Alternatively, you can freeze some of his favourite treats.

Some older dogs may chew out of separation anxiety, or in an effort to escape a place they have been confined to. As this will happen when you are not around, there is little you can do except consult a dog behaviour specialist, who can use a combination of desensitisation and conditioning techniques to alleviate the problem.

Santa's Little Helper
Santa's Little Helper

If you’re present when your dog decides to gnaw on something he shouldn’t, he should be disciplined straight away – it’s no good trying to tell him off an hour after the event. When you catch him in the act, use a loud verbal command to stop him. When he stops, give him his favourite chew toy, and praise him when he starts chewing on it.

There are some products that can discourage your dog from chewing; they have a smell or a taste that will be unpleasant to your dg, yet inoffensive to you. When choosing one, it’s wise to first consult your vet.

Finally, choosing the right chew toy is also important. Never give him one that looks like something you don’t want him to chew on, and don’t give him an old shoe to sink his teeth into – he won’t be able to tell the difference between that and the brand new pair of Assassins you’ve just treated yourself to…