The sheer power of our large breed dog companions means that chewing can do a log of damage to things you may not even consider. One of the strangest ones that comes to mind is my neighbor’s large mountain dog mix that literally chewed the tips off of every board on his picket fence! Instead of pointed tips, they were all chewed down to different lengths, apparently with no damage to the dog.
Problem chewing is very common, especially in younger dogs. A big reason for this is because one of the primary ways that puppies explore their world is by using their mouth. However, when this exploration of their world by chewing becomes directed towards objects such as furniture, shoes, and clothing, then it becomes a problem that must be corrected, particularly with larger dogs.
Bear in mind that, just like people, puppies first get ‘baby teeth” and as they are gradually replaced by their permanent teeth, it can become quite painful. Chewing is one way they relieve this discomfort. This is the time when inappropriate chewing should be corrected to avoid a more long term problem.
Before you try to correct chewing that has become inappropriate, it’s important to rule out medical problems. Sometimes, gastrointestinal health issues can cause nausea and chewing can be the way your dog tries to cope. So be sure to have your dog examined by a veterinarian before you embark on a plan to correct problem chewing.
Steps to Correct Problem Chewing
- Provide lots of appropriate chew toys for your dog and keep them in a basket in the same place, so that he knows they belong to him. You may have to experiment a bit to find the ones your dog enjoys the most. While beef bones and rawhide bones are some of the most popular chew toys, be aware that larger dogs with powerful jaws can chew off pieces that can be swallowed and lodge in the throat or small intestines. Be sure to carefully supervise your dog if you use these. And the old saying still applies: never give your dog chicken bones, as they can easily splinter into sharp fragments that can damage your dog’s throat and stomach. Our favorite chew toys to recommend are “Nylabones” and various types of “dental chew sticks”. These can be found in any pet store. If you give your dog a ball, be sure the size is appropriate. They should be able to pick it up to carry it, but it should be large enough that they can’t swallow it. And of course, avoid chew toys that look like objects you don’t want you dog to chew on. In other words, don’t give him a chew toy that looks like, say, a slipper!
- Discourage the chewing of inappropriate objects. If you find your dog chewing on something inappropriate, such as shoes, furniture, etc, discipline him by taking it away using a sharp reprimand. Then, give him one of his chew toys and praise him generously when he chews on it. You might even want to follow this with a treat to reinforce the good behavior. You dog will eventually learn what is and is not acceptable to chew on. As a last resort, you can apply a deterrent such as “Bitter Apple” to the objects that should be left alone. The bad taste should prevent further chewing.
- Give your dog lots of playtime. Frequently, problem chewing is a sign of boredom and indicates you need to spend more time with your pet. Also, a tired dog is a well behaved dog. The more time you spend playing with your dog, the more you will bond with him and the less energy he will have for inappropriate behavior – such as chewing!