Naughty Gnawing

By Mary Kirkland

Your pooch chomps on your favorite shoes while its favorite toy bone is just a foot away. Is your dog crazy, lazy or what?

Most dogs who chew — whether on shoes, facial tissues or table legs — are just looking for a diversion, says Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, director of Animal Behavior Consultations in Westwood, KS. “Dogs chew to entertain themselves,” says Hunthausen. “Destructive chewing typically occurs between 4 and 18 months, when dogs are the most curious. Thankfully, most dogs grow out of it.

Stopping the “Inappropriate Chew”
A variety of chew toys can help reduce inappropriate chewing, though some dogs will gnaw no matter what. “A puppy may tire of rawhide and want to explore new textures,” says Hunthausen. “Shoes and socks have an organic odor many dogs can’t Separation anxiety can also provoke destructive chewing. Rebekah and Patrick Repper of Sanford, N.C., were surprised when Annie, their 4-year-old Dalmatian/Bull Terrier mix, started snacking on furniture as soon as they left the house. “We used a video camera,” recalls Rebekah. “Later, we saw her gleefully ripping the stuffing out of our couch, like she was punishing us.” The Reppers saved their belongings from further damage by placing Annie in a crate whenever they left.

Inappropriate chewing can also be dangerous, since many household items are harmful to your pet. Some plants, for example, such as certain types of ferns and lilies, are poisonous to dogs. (An extensive list of such plants is posted at: http://www.dogpack.com/health/poisonplants.htm.) Chemicals in furniture, bedding and clothing may also cause harm to your pet, not to mention the mouth splinters your dog might suffer if it chews on anything made out of wood. These household dangers make it even more imperative that non-toxic toys designed for dogs should be in easy nibble reach of your pooch. If you ever suspect that your pet has ingested a poisonous substance, the ASPCA operates a 24-hour telephone hotline, every day of the year: 888-426-4435. (Please note that calls may result in a $55 consultation fee that could be applied to your credit card.)

Breaking the Habit
Save your shoes for walking. Keep these tips in mind to help your dog stop inappropriate, excess chewing:

  • Offer a variety of chew toys.
  • Don’t leave young dogs unsupervised. Crating is OK for a brief period, but a special room or exercise pen is recommended if you’ll be gone for a long time.
  • Never physically punish your dog for inappropriate chewing. Clap your hands when you catch your pooch, then redirect the pouty pup to a more appropriate object.
  • Exercise your dog often.

Your dog may still choose to chew on a regular basis, but at least you can rest easier knowing that it will be less likely to chomp on something undesirable, like your favorite tennies or that heirloom blanket.

About The Author

Mary Kirkland is a freelance writer who specializes in animal issues.

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