Problem Chewers

My husband and I are both bombarded with questions about problem chewers with puppies, but also dogs in general. Sadly, this is one of the easiest problems to control, but not enough people can or do dedicate the time needed. This posting is a quick reference for frustrated puppy parents out there. Some of this advice will necessarily be broad, so if you have a question, please don’t hesitate to post below or send me an email directly.

First, have you provided appropriate chew toys for the dog? And I don’t just mean throwing a chew toy on the ground as you leave for work. You need to create the fun in this toy, or the dog won’t differentiate that toy from your shoes! Sometime when you aren’t leaving the house, or just arriving home, you need to play with the pup with the toy. Play a bit of keep-away or tug-of-war, or even better have the dog perform some basic tricks to “earn” the toy. Keep the tricks easy though so you don’t frustrate your pup and so you don’t get frustrated yourself!

One toy that I recommend to all of my clients, friends and family is the Kong. In fact, I’ve been known to buy them occasionally for people just so I won’t have to hear about damaged items any longer! Not only are these chew toys stuffable, and what dog doesn’t love that, but these toys are safe for teeth! While my pups enjoy Nylabones as much as the next dog, I don’t leave them unattended, especially when younger dogs could be teething. Nylabones and other such hard chew toys can be too hard for some teeth. And because I’m not a paid testimonial from the Kong company (though that would be nice if you guys are reading this!), I will only recommend the black Kongs. These are made from a stronger material than the standard red ones and will last much longer. My pit bull, Muttley, has only been able to chew through one of these black Kongs in the years that we’ve had her and she’s destroyed everything else.

Replacement actually involves two types of action. The first is when you catch your dog chewing on something inappropriate, replace it with the toy you want him to chew on. When I found my Springer pup chewing on a French edition of La Rochefoucauld, I quickly got his Kong and made it ever so enticing by oohing and aahing over it. While this did not bring back my book, Flash has learned that I’m much more interested in his Kong than those silly stacks of papers covered in delicious leather. Silly dog!

The second action replacement refers to is a replacement of textures for toys. Does your dog always choose leathery objects? Or soft, plush objects? Then find her a toy that equates! That way the toy will be more likely to be interesting. And the more interesting the toy you choose, the less likely she will find something else to occupy her!

The most important aspect to any dog’s problem behaviors tends to be their exercise regimen. Or, more importantly, the lack of exercise. And most dog trainers, dog walkers, veterinarians, at this point are nodding in agreement. Even pugs are bred to be all muscle. So what can you do to tire out that dog and therefore their mouth? Playing fetch is not enough but can play a helpful role.

Everyday your dog needs to get out. Needs to go sniff stuff, pee on rocks and bushes and to generally just frolic. Imagine if you were confined to your house and maybe the backyard. YUCK! So what can you do? Several options are available and you should give several of them an option or rotation for your dog’s life:

  • Fetch: like I mentioned a bit above, this can be helpful in any routine to tire out a dog. I currently employ this with Flash on busy dog walking days when another three miles would just kill me! This however, cannot be the only solution as it doesn’t necessarily tire a dog out mentally. I highly recommend the Chuck-It for slobbery tennis balls! Herman, a client of mine, after a good session of fetch:

  • Short walks: Can’t do an hour-long hike today? Try three or four walks that last about 15 minutes. While this won’t have the exact same effect as a long walk will, it will definitely help and it is usually easier to fit into the day. Try taking a different path/loop each time as the sniffing won’t be as good if the scents are the same each time out.
  • One long walk/jog/hike: If you can take your pooch out for an hour or longer, then that will be a happy dog! And why are you reading this article? hehe… But really, if you can work one long walk into your weekly routine, your dog will be more relaxed on other days in general.
  • Agility, obedience classes, etc: Anything to work out that mind! That’s half the battle when dealing with a chewer. They are usually bored, and while exercising a bored dog will make them too tired to chew, mental exercise can sometimes cut straight to the chase. Speaking of which, do you have a hunting dog that would love to chase after something? Take them to the hills! Here in Nevada we have tons of space that allows dogs to chase after birds and rabbits at will. Most likely they will never catch anything, but it gives them the thrill of the chase. Even swimming can help a lot with those hunting breeds! Here’s Flash swimming on one of our runs:

  • Dog parks are a last resort! Taking a frustrated dog to the dog park is just asking for trouble. But if your pooch has been on at least one walk for the day, go ahead. But make sure to not just hangout with the other “parents” and please do keep an eye on your little one. If they are being harassed or aggressive, remove them from the area by walking across the park or going home. Remember, this is about them and not you!

Combining the above activities and a good chew toy with encouraging interaction with said toy, will usually take care of most problem chewers. Still having problems? Consider a crate or a dog walker. I recommend crating pups until about age two (depending of course on the dog and situation) but this can help your frustration immensely which is half the problem!

Do you have a problem chewer? Any stories or frustrations? Let them loose!

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