Why do dogs chew?

Why do dogs chew?

Chewing is a normal behaviour in dogs and puppies. There are a lot of different chew toys available on the market to help meet your dog’s needs. However, as dog owners might have experienced, some dogs like to test their teeth on things that are not toys. The classic example is the playful puppy chewing on their owner’s shoes!

Chewing helps meet several different needs that a dog might have. A puppy may want to chew and nibble on things because their adult teeth are growing out which can cause some discomfort and soreness. The pressure from munching on a chew can help soothe any soreness a teething pup experiences. 

It is also a way in which dogs explore the world, via taste and texture. Providing your dog with a good quality chew toy can help alleviate boredom and stress.

When is chewing a problem?

There are times when we don’t want our companions to chew on things. Such as furniture, clothing and even their own paws. While chewing can be enjoyable for dogs, it can also be a way in which they try to cope with anxiety around them. A dog suffering from separation anxiety or lack of stimulation in their environment might chew on your favourite armchair. A stressed dog might even chew at their paws which can cause the skin to become sore and infected. Dogs are more likely to ingest things they shouldn’t when chewing on inappropriate items. This can cause them to become unwell.

When chewing leads to negative behaviours or health problems, we need to take a step back and see how we can help our canine friends. 

Healthy chewing habits

In most cases, you can easily redirect your dog’s energy from destroying your property to something more productive with a firm ‘No’ and by offering an alternative chew, such as a chew stick. If this is not enough to deter them, a deterrent spray can be used on furniture. This is often a bitter but dog-safe spray that tastes unpleasant. Deterrent sprays are effective short-term but need regular application. It also does not teach your dog what things they shouldn’t chew as they tend to associate the taste with that particular object it has been sprayed on.

Like we do, dogs can become bored of the same things every day so providing a variety of chews can help keep them focused on chewing the right things in the house. Look for chews that are unlikely to splinter or break and leave behind sharp edges. It is always a good idea to monitor your dog with a new chew toy for a short while to ensure it is safe before leaving them alone with it. Be consistent and only allow your dog to munch on their chew toys. Avoid offering them things like old slippers as this may cause them to see your current slippers as fair game.

With puppies, the constant nipping and chewing can feel problematic for you but rest assured this is a phase. At this age, it is important to set boundaries and stick to them. Gently let your puppy know what they can chew on and what is out of bounds. Placing chew toys in the freezer or frozen treats can help soothe the gums. 

Some dogs might chew on paws when stressed. You should always seek veterinary attention first and foremost to rule out any medical condition and to treat for any injury caused. Once that has been done, a soft cone can be worn to stop your dog from chewing on their paws while you work on any behavioural issues or sources of stress in their environment. Redirecting your dog’s energy into chewing the objects that are safe for them will help maintain a healthy chewing lifestyle.

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