There are Tons of Good Reasons for Dogs to Chew
It’s a rare dog that doesn’t like to chew some of the time. While some dogs can be satisfied with mouthing a favorite toy, most prefer something they can chew and consume. And there are tons of good reasons for dogs to chew–chewing is pleasurable, good for teeth and mentally stimulating. So, if your dog doesn’t have a few favorite chews, they might be more likely to use other things–toys, furniture or your personal items–as chewing substitutes.
But even though chewing is a great activity for almost every dog, there are some dangers to know about. Some dogs are chompers or gulpers that could hurt themselves with the wrong chew. And rarely a dog may have dental work or something else that makes it inappropriate for them to chew anything at all. In these cases, a quick call to your veterinarian’s office can clarify any special restriction for your dog.
Why Your Dog Loves to Chew
Chewing on something for minutes or even hours at a time may seem incredibly boring to you, but for your dog, spending some time with a favorite chew toy is an incredibly rewarding activity. To adequately annihilate a bone requires a significant amount of concentration from your dog, which provides great mental stimulation. Chewing also releases tons of endorphins, so it’s a lot of fun and feels good.
There are tons of physical benefits for chewing, too. Regular chewing provides a workout that keeps jaw muscles healthy. Plus, chews can keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy. Pair regular chewing with brushing, and you’ll cut the risk of periodontal disease.
So before you lose your temper when your favorite pair of shoes suddenly has a few tooth marks, it’s important to remember that appropriate chewing is a good thing. Figure out how to channel your dog’s urges to chew on good options, and you’ll both be happy.
Reasons Why You May Have a Super Chewer
Every dog may love to chew, but you may notice that your dog seems to love chewing a bit too much. Sometimes this love of chewing is unhealthy, but many times it’s just their preferred activity. Here are some common reasons why your dog might chew more than normal, and what it might mean:
Your dog is a puppy. Puppies love to chew. Not only do they get all of the positive feedback from chewing that older dogs get, but they’re also teething and trying to soothe sometimes irritated gums.
Your dog is a Labrador retriever, golden retriever, beagle, or other breed known for chewing. Anecdotally, some dog breeds seem to like chewing more than others. Be prepared to load up on chew toys to accommodate this common breed characteristic.
Your dog is frustrated often. If your dog doesn’t get to go for their mid-morning walk, or sees another dog outside the window, they might become frustrated and take their feelings out on a chew toy.
Your dog is bored. When your dog doesn’t have many other activities to try, they might while away the hours by chewing. If you add other pastimes to their daily routines, the chewing should lessen.
Your dog has separation anxiety. This complicated condition may require the help of a dog behaviorist or prescription medication to completely solve. For dogs with separation anxiety, we recommend professional help.
How to Address Destructive Chewing
When your dog chews what they shouldn’t, there are a few ways to address it. Don’t wait to try all of these tips in sequential order–you might not have any possessions left if you do. Rather, try all of these tips to curb unwanted behavior before your dog has a chance to add a few teeth marks to your favorite shoes.
One, you should try to dog-proof your house as much as possible. Certain items, particularly items that smell like you, are enticing to your dog and should be kept out of their reach.
Two, try confining your dog when you can’t watch them. Using a baby gate to restrict them to one part of the house can reduce their chances for mischief. If they are crate trained, try putting them in their kennel if you’re not there to supervise them.
Three, you should work on training them not to chew items that aren’t theirs. When you catch them chewing on illicit items, try taking them away and giving them a chew toy instead. It’s important that they know that the activity of chewing isn’t a problem, just what they are choosing to chew that’s not okay.
Four, find some chew toys that they really like and rotate them often. Four or five chews rotated on a daily basis gives your dog one novel item to chew every day.
Five, try a spray deterrent, such as Bitter Apple, on items you don’t want your dog to snack on. Be forewarned that some dogs actually don’t mind–or even like–the taste of certain sprays. So watch your dog carefully to make sure you haven’t added a delicious condiment to their chair leg of choice.
Six, retool their exercise routine. A quick jaunt around the block works great for some dogs, but others need plenty more exercise to chase away boredom. Commit to some heart-pounding activity–such as running, playing fetch, or tug of war–to make sure your dog is really ready to relax when they are unsupervised.
Picking a Chew That Works
Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal perfect dog chew. Finding your dog’s one true chew may take some trial and error. But if you know something about your dog’s chewing style, you can eliminate what will probably not work for your dog. At Mud Bay, we’ve developed five general categories to help you determine what type of chew your dog might love.
Gummer: Is your dog more of a licker than a chewer? Are they content to slowly gum their favorite treat until it slowly dissolves? Then look for the tortoise icons to find toys that will appeal to their stately method of chewing.
Treats to try: beef trachea, pig ears, beef taffy
Nibbler: Do they like to take a couple of bites here and there but are content to leave a chew alone for a while?
Treats to try: lamb rolls, tripe twists, chew bars
Gnawer: If you suspect your dog could be part beaver, you might have a gnawer on your hands. These dogs tend to quickly whittle away chews by starting on one end and munching until the chew is completely gone.
Treats to try: bully sticks, chew bones
Chomper: When your dog gets a chew, will they continue to gnaw and crunch until the chew is destroyed–no matter how long it takes? Chompers are usually champion chewers, so finding a chew that withstands their love of chewing can be a difficult challenge.
Treats to try: dino bones, large center bones
Gulper: Is your dog more interested in swallowing things whole than actually chewing on anything? Dogs like these can easily get in trouble with chews that are too small, so be sure to size up when picking chews for these types of dogs.
Treats to try: antlers, saddle knuckles
Risks of Chewing
Chewing is a healthy, normal activity for dogs, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some risks for dogs. The biggest danger is when your dog swallows a chew whole, which can lead to choking, a blocked airway or potential suffocation. Another possibly fatal problem could occur when your dog swallows a piece that is too large to successfully pass through their intestines. When this occurs, a timely diagnosis and surgery to remove the chew is the only remedy.
Some dogs are such aggressive chewers that they can break their teeth on very hard chews. Fractured teeth can be very painful and may have to be removed. If your dog chews indigestible parts of toys or other items and swallows them, they can also upset their stomach and possibly lead to vomiting.
The way to minimize all of these risks is to watch your dog closely when they have a new chew. If they are aggressively chewing it and taking off big hunks with every bite, take it away. If they are only holding it in their mouth, and not also with their paws, it’s probably too small for them, and rule out that chew as well.
A good chew is one where your dog holds it in their paws and manages to remove small pieces of the chew slowly. Even so, once the chew is small enough that they no longer use their paws to chew, it’s time to take it away and replace it with a new one. The only exception to this rule are yak milk chews: Microwave those end pieces for 30 to 60 seconds until they puff up, and then cool them for 2 minutes. After they’ve cooled, you can give them to your dog as a quick snack to enjoy.
When to Talk to Your Vet
Most dogs have no adverse reactions to chews, but there are occasional accidents that warrant talking to your veterinarian. If your dog swallows a large piece of a chew, it could cause an intestinal blockage. Choking, even if your dog removes the chew, can damage the throat. Once again, use your good judgment and call your veterinarian for advice if you’re unsure. Learning to spot the signs that could indicate a problem could also put your mind at ease.
Occasionally a hard chew can chip or crack a tooth. If your dog regularly damages their teeth, it’s time to discuss alternative chewing options with your veterinarian. Dental work or tooth extractions may also make most chews not appropriate for your dog. Again, your best bet is to discuss these rare dental-specific cases with your veterinarian, who knows the medical specifics of your dog’s teeth.