Chewing Behaviors in Dogs
Learn about causes and corrective actions for chewing behaviors in dogs.
Signs of Problem Chewing
- Chewing or mouthing people's hands/arms
- Chewing on inappropriate items
- Chewing/ripping things apart
- Chewing at own body, feet
Causes and Corrective Actions for Chewing Behaviors in Dogs
Chewing on the body or feet often indicates allergic reactions in your dog that cause itching and inflammation, sometimes exacerbated when your dog chews the area to the point of creating a moist, infected, furless "hot spot" that requires medical attention.
ALLERGIES Corrective Actions: Schedule a veterinary examination to determine cause. Allergy resolution may involve special diet, frequent bathing in symptom-easing shampoos, topical treatments, natural remedies, antihistamines, steroids.
Chewing offers a dog welcome relief from mindless boredom but when the dog chews inappropriate items, valued objects may end up destroyed or power cords and other dangerous objects can cause injury or death.
BOREDOM Corrective Actions: Provide ample mental and physical exercise through obedience, agility, tricks or other training along with free running in a safe area, swimming, games or other activities. Supply and alternate numerous safe toys such as nylon bones, treat-stuffed rubber toys, treat-dispensing toys and other doggie boredom breakers. When puppy chews something inappropriate, gently tell him "no" so he knows what you don't want and trade him an acceptable chew toy. Supervise dog when loose and confine him when unattended in crate or safe area. Apply bitter doggie taste repellant or chew-proof covers for exposed electrical cords.
Since people usually consider chewing a problem behavior, many overlook the fact that dogs of any age greatly enjoy chewing as a fun pastime.
FUN Corrective Actions: Supply and alternate various safe doggie chews such as flavored nylon bones, rubber toys, dental cleaning strips and other products designed to satisfy your dog's natural affinity for chewing.
Chewing on the body or feet often indicates a nasty parasite invasion that can cause itching, hair loss and skin inflammation which chewing can aggravate into forming infected, moist, furless patches called "hot spots."
PARASITES Corrective Actions: Schedule a veterinary examination to determine cause. Eliminating parasites on the dog may involve topical insecticide, baths in insecticidal shampoo and/or internally taken insecticide along with insecticidal treatment and daily vacuuming of dog's living space to kill non-attached parasites and larvae. Frequently wash and dry dog's bedding. For dogs sensitive to chemicals, a holistic approach might require daily bathing in herbal shampoo, applying herbal sprays, spreading diatomaceous earth powder around the home and yard and vacuuming dog's living space every day until the infestation is eradicated.
Food-based reward training offers an effective positive method for encouraging proper behaviors, but failure to reduce treats into randomly given rewards rather than for every performance can result in a dog who expects a treat after each command and ignores subsequent commands until the owner complies
PREY DRIVE Corrective Actions: Give only sturdy dog toys made from rubber or other durable materials that encourage play but discourage attempts to rip apart. Provide exercise and outlet for chasing, grabbing and carrying through frequent games of fetch. Train "Leave it" command that tells dog to stop his current activity and turn attention elsewhere.
From about the age 3 to 7 months your puppy's adult teeth replace baby teeth, resulting in gum pain and inflammation that chewing's massage action helps relieve.
TEETHING Corrective Actions: Provide numerous safe chew toys for your puppy and alternate their availability to maintain interest. If you catch your puppy chewing on something inappropriate, gently say "no" to relay what you don't want, then trade that item for a suitable dog chew and praise puppy for trading. Gently massage gums twice daily using a fingertip doggie toothbrush to help alleviate pain. Cold soothes inflamed gums, making freezable dog chews particularly beneficial — avoid following sometimes seen advice to freeze a wet washcloth for this purpose, puppies should never be offered anything that will be off-limits later.
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