WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins
WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins

CHEWING

Note:- When using the word "dog" we mean "puppies" as well. It is never too soon to introduce a tiny puppy to the benefits of chewing items that it is allowed to mouth and chew.

BENEFITS

  • Relieves Long Term Stress
    Chewing is a wonderful way to relieve a dog's tension and stress levels, helping it to relax and unwind. Over a period of time the build up of tension and long term stress in a dog's body is stored in and around its jaw muscles, causing soreness, stiffness and general discomfort. This build up of tension can also be found in other areas of a dog's body as well (see Bowen and TTouch) which chewing also alleviates.
     
  • Calm Exercise
    Chewing also acts as a very calm, controlled exercise, allowing the dog to use various muscles in its body in an efficient and natural way without releasing high levels of adrenaline brought about by more traditional "fast" exercises. Not only are the muscles around the mouth used, but also the neck, shoulder, back and leg muscles, as the dog maneuvers the chewing object, tearing, ripping, biting and chewing it.  
  • Natural Behaviour & Develops Skills
    One of the drawbacks of modern processed dog food is that it offers dogs very little opportunity to use their natural instincts to rip, tear and chew their food. It also prevents them from developing the skills to hold and gnaw the food that their ancestors naturally ate over thousands of years. By supplying your dog with high quality chewing items (see Good Chews below) that also stimulated their sense of taste, smell, and touch, you can fulfill these neglected areas of your dog's life.
     
  • Keeps Them Busy & Stops Boredom
    Giving your dog something to chew is a great way of distracting your dog, particularly when it is going to be left on its own. "Who needs other dogs or humans around when I have got my very own "activity centre" to keep me amused for hours on end? Off you go, you lot, and leave me in peace!" says the dog...
     
  • Helps Puppy Teething & Prevents Adolescent Chewing
    Between the ages of approximately 3-7 months puppies have a strong desire to chew so that they can relieve the discomfort in their gums, dislodge their puppy teeth, and encourage the adult teeth to come through.

    However, the desire to chew anything and everything in sight does not suddenly stop at 7 months (unfortunately!) - it can continue until they are well over 12 months old and destructive chewing can even become a behavioural trigger all its adult life. The main reason for this obsessive desire to have things in their mouths is the universal insatiable drive of all young animals - to explore, experiment with, and learn about, their surroundings. These young "explorers" learn to develop their amazing senses and store the results of these oral experiments in their memory. If it is a rewarding behaviour they will repeat it, if it is a bad result they will become frightened or stressed by it (which of course we want to avoid), or if it is a boring result they will not repeat the behaviour. Therefore, by offering puppies very rewarding chewing items in special places (see PLACE below) they will soon be bored with chewing "out of bounds" items (eg. Furniture, carpets, bedding, clothing, car interior, door frames, etc). They will show little or no interest in destructive chewing as they are relieving their tension and stress by chewing on items that really satisfy them both physically and mentally, and in a place where they will not be disturbed.
     

GOOD CHEWS

  • Raw Meaty Bones (NOT COOKED BONES!)
    This is the most natural, satisfying and cheapest chew item you can give a puppy or dog. Just go along to your local butcher and ask for some chicken wings, lamb, rabbit or pork bones. Try to avoid large leg bones as these are the strongest and toughest bones for dogs to chew.
     
    By the way, dogs who are fed raw bones do not associate LIVE ANIMALS as a food source - there is no memory connection for the dog between a human giving a dog a lamb bone and a the dog seeing a sheep running around in a field. Dogs will only associate "sheep = food" if they are given the opportunity to chase, wound and KILL the sheep and then begin to eat it. Then, I am afraid, there is absolutely no way of preventing a dog from chasing a sheep again - the consequence for the dog is just too rewarding.  

    There is a great deal of conflicting advice about whether or not to give dogs raw meaty bones (RMB). Read these links for a cross section of opinions and also do a Web Search on the Net for "dogs raw bones" to read further comments on the subject.
    http://petcaretips.net/eating_dog_bones.html
    http://www.barfworld.com/html/learn_more/barf_pups.shtml
    http://www.barfworld.com/html/barf_diet/barfdiet_specific.shtml
    http://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?aid=242#answer_1

    A lot of these comments are about feeding dogs bones as part of a "natural nutritional" balanced diet. I am not necessarily advocating that dogs should be fed on these "natural diets" - I am not a qualified dog nutritionist and therefore could not possibly comment on the subject. All I can do is give you my own personal opinion after feeding Raw Meaty Bones to my dogs for over 10 years, and also the recommendations of a large number of friends and acquaintances (from all over the world) who also give Raw Meaty Bones to their dogs.

    Trust your instincts (and listen to the advice of your vet) and then make your own decision as to whether to use Raw Meaty Bones as a chew item for your dog or not.
     
  • Kongs
    See our Kongs web page for full details. These are the next best thing to raw meaty bones. The dogs have to lick, manhandle and chew them in order to get at the tasty morsels at the top of the Kong. Frozen Kongs are particularly useful for teething puppies as the cold rubber helps to alleviate the soreness in its mouth.  
  • Nylon Chew Toys -
    There are a variety of different flavoured plastic type "bones" on the market - some dogs enjoy them while others find them very unexciting. One reason why some dogs do not enjoy them is that they take a very long time to "destroy" and some dogs get disheartened by their lack of chewing "progress". One thing is for sure - if a dog has had the opportunity of chewing on a REAL raw meaty bone it will certainly turn its nose up at these!
     
  • Rawhide Chews
    Ideal for soft mouthed dogs and medium to strong chewers. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit dogs abaility to chew (eg Chips for tiny dogs and puppies, Rolls for the serious chewer). Please make sure that you throw them away when there is only a small piece left (or there is only the knot at the end) - some dogs can swallow and choke on these small bits.
     
  • Stagbars
    These are pieces of antlers from British Deer. They are particularly strong and are ideal for dogs with powerful jaws who usually destroy anything they can get their teeth into in order to relieve the build-up of tension in their jaws. The different breeds of terriers, mastiffs, Rottweillers etc find these really help them "de-stress" themselves and work off their adrenaline. However, I feel they may be too strong and daunting for dogs with "soft mouths" who prefer to chew and achieve something in a short space of time.
     
  • Dental "rasks"
    These are manufactured by pet food companies that recognise that dogs need to have some opportunity to chew when they are unable to do so with their normal processed diet.....

BAD CHEWS

NEVER EVER
GIVE A DOG OR PUPPY A COOKED BONE
  • The process of cooking any type of bone makes them very brittle. Cooked bones are very dangerous when chewed by a dog, as they will easily splinter and can become lodged in the dog's mouth, throat, and intestines, causing life threatening injuries.
     
  • LARGE BONES
    Do not give your dog large bones, particularly bones of animals that would be far too large for a dog to naturally kill (eg. Cow or horse). These bones are far too strong for a dog's teeth and will often result in the tips of the canine teeth breaking off, or tooth enamel being worn away. This will then result in painful dental problems for your dog, which can often be undiagnosed for long periods of time and can cause pain and stress.
     
  • BONES OF OLD ANIMALS
    Similarly, bones of animals which have grown old (eg. Mutton bones) are also often too dense and strong for dog's teeth.
     
  • ITEMS WHICH BELONG TO HUMANS
    It is very important not to give your puppy or dog any chew item, or "toy", which is also used by humans (eg. Slippers, old shoes, socks, tea towels, etc). YOU may be able to tell the difference between an old pair of slippers which can be given to the dog to chew, and the new pair you have just bought - Unfortunately to the dog they look and smell the same! So the environmental photos the dog remembers is that it is OK to chew anything made of the similar material or similar scent. Therefore, it is very important to manage a dog's environment so that it does not have the opportunity to learn these bad habits.
     
  • STICKS AND STONES
    It always saddens and slightly alarms me when I see someone's dog chewing on a stick or stone. These poor dogs are obviously trying to release their pent up stress by chewing these readily available resources. Due to the lack of suitable chew items as a puppy, these dogs have built up a photo that sticks and/or stones are the most satisfying chew items they can find. The sticks help to clean the dog' teeth and are satisfyingly easy to destroy, with the dog ripping and tearing them into splinters. Their handlers do not realise that these splinters and small chunks of wood can injure the dog's mouth, get stuck in its throat, cause internal damage, and can even choke the dog. Meanwhile, the stones offer a cool sensation in the dog's mouth - but they also damage the dog's tooth enamel, causing teeth to chip, and even more worryingly they can be swallowed and cause internal blockages etc.
     
  • NO SMALL ITEMS OR ANYTHING THAT MAY SPLINTER
    Do not allow your dog to play or chew anything that can disintegrate, cause blockages, injury or choke it. Soft toys are suitable for some dogs to play with, but make sure that you remove the plastic eyes and noses, and ribbons, before giving them to your dog to disembowel and destroy.

PLACE
The ideal place to give a dog a chew article is in its Rest Area, where it can be left in peace to concentrate on chewing and destroying its "prize". By only giving your dog chews in his own personal space you are reinforcing that this Rest Area is a calm, happy place to be - not a place of loneliness or punishment.

Some dogs have a strong instinctive desire to bury these high value chew items. See Digging for reasons and solutions to this behaviour.

TIME
There are specific times when chewing is the ideal pastime for dogs, keeping them busy yet tiring them out and lowering their adrenaline levels should they become over excited. When the dog is -

  • Left alone in the house (see Home Alone for further information on this subject)
  • Night time, when you are going to bed
  • Alone in the Car, caravan, hotel room, etc.

Ideally, chew items should not be left around the house and garden for the dog to chew and guard whenever it feels like it - they should only be available in the dog's special Rest Area(s). This helps the dog to unwind in this quiet location and makes the "exclusivity" of the chew item all the more rewarding.

POSSESSION
If you live in a multi-dog household, avoid disagreements over chew items by separating the dogs into different rooms, cages, garden & house, etc when they are busy chewing them. Even if they do not fight over these high value rewards there will be a lot of underlying tension and communication between the pack members and eventually the greediest, or highest ranking pack member, will have a big pile of chew items all to themselves.

Be warned that some dogs will have a tenancy to guard their chew items, particularly if they are in their Rest Areas. DO NOT CONFRONT YOUR DOG - you will not win! A dog's reactions are far faster than a human's. However, its intelligence is not as good as ours.... Therefore, by using a bit of ingenuity it is possible to prevent dogs guarding their chew items and making an "issue" of it. Here are a number of options you can use if your dog has a history of guarding -

  • Never let your dog see you touching its chew items. Distract the dog and take it out the room, then pick up the chew item.
     
  • Offer the dog a new higher value chew item and then quietly remove the "old" chew item when the dog is not around.
     
  • Put your dog on a house line (preferably attached to a well fitting harness) and calmly and quietly remove the dog from the chew item.
     
  • "Flooding". Offer your dog so many different chew items that they no longer seem to be high value life rewards to the dog. "Why bother guarding this when there are so many elsewhere I can have?".
     
  • Ask yourself, do you really need to touch these items? If the item is of high value to YOU then perhaps you should not have allowed the dog to chew it in the first place.
     
  • Train your dog to want to have his chew items touched. This is done by throwing a high value food treat for the dog to run after while you quietly touch the chew item. Do not pick the item up, just touch it and then walk away. Do this over a period of time and the dog will soon WANT you to approach the chew item as he knows you will throw a nice food treat for him to eat, and anyway the chew item is still there when the dog returns. Gradually you can train the dog to allow you to pick up the chew item (perhaps for an exchange of another chew item) and the problem will be solved.

 

This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).

 

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