Why does my dog chew?

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It’s well known that certain breeds are more likely to chew than others and size has little to do with their relative destructiveness. In the top ten for most destructive (compiled by an insurance company so they would know the relative cost!) were the Chihuahua, Dachshund, Boxer, Dalmatian, Bulldog, Great Dane, Husky, Beagle and Pointer.

However, as much as we might prefer our dogs not to chew up and destroy our possessions, they often chew for reasons we haven’t thought of for instance:

  • As puppies, they have a basic need to investigate their environment and part of that is getting anything they can in their mouths.
  • Playtime can often involve tug of war games, again using their mouths and chewing action.
  • Scavenging behaviour often relies on chewing – breaking through food packaging or containers for the reward inside.
  • During the teething stage, they can become desperate to find anything to ease the discomfort of the new teeth coming through.
  • Keeping their teeth clean, chewing is a natural way for dogs to remove debris and plaque from their teeth and the chewing movements help to exercise and keep their jaw muscles strong, which is why they can be happy to gnaw on a bone or chew toy for hours.
  • Some dogs will chew things they shouldn’t just to get attention from you and on occasion a better offer, (a nice bone if they leave the table leg alone for instance).
  • Anxiety – often anxious dogs will use chewing to cope. In particular, separation anxiety can lead dogs to behave in a completely different way to when you’re around. In most cases they are simply trying to find a way through barriers to get to you but chewing and destructiveness can also be an outlet for their anxiety.

There are lots of safe chewing options that you can provide for your dog like rubber chews or plastic bones as well as toys where treats can be hidden inside to occupy your dog’s attention at convenient times (for instance, when you need to go out or make an important phone call). Trying gentle deterrents like calling him away and other distractions for when they prefer your possessions (like your slippers) to their own chew toys, as this can make a big difference to managing this habit.

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