The worst time for chewing is usually when a dog is aged between about seven months and a year, when they're 'teenagers'. Their needle-sharp puppy teeth have dropped out and the adult teeth are making their presence felt as they root into the dog's jaw, giving them the urge to chew everything and anything.
Chewing is part of a puppy's voyage of discovery, as they go out into the world and start to explore it. It can also be a reaction to being bored. Many dogs, particularly working breeds that need a lot of exercise and stimulation, develop destructive chewing habits if they're left alone for a long time, as well as separation anxiety when parted from their owners.
Dogs are clever and quickly learn that if they chew the wrong thing it can result in what seems like a game: you chasing them to drop the forbidden object in their jaws! Once they know this gets an enjoyable reaction they'll keep trying to get hold of that same object to evoke the same reaction from you.
Diet can also play a part. Dogs that don't get enough calcium, for instance, may chew the walls or the plaster, so always ask your vet what and how much you should feed your dog if you have any concerns.
Punishing him or her is not an effective deterrent, as all it shows them is that they shouldn't chew when you are there – they'll still do it when you're out. Replacement, distraction and praise are far more effective.
How to stop the chewing
Your dog needs a rotating supply of toys and chews that won't break into potentially harmful pieces when attacked by sharp teeth.
If you want to go out, or need time to relax, give the dog a chew or bone.
Confine your dog to a safe place where it can't chew anything important or valuable to you, or dangerous to them.
Give your dog enough exercise – your vet will tell you what he or she needs. A good walk every day, visiting different areas with stimulating smells, will help satisfy your dog's intelligence and stop it getting bored.
Play regularly with your dog – at least three times a day, for at least five minutes every time.
If your dog is chomping on the wrong thing, swop it for an acceptable chew and then praise him or her. They will eventually get the message.
Revolve your dog's toys, so it doesn't get bored.
Discourage furniture and rug chewing by spraying precious pieces with a proprietary deterrent – Pets At Home has a good selection. Bitter Apple is the traditional one but all these sprays need to be reapplied frequently.
Toys and chews
One of the best chews for occupying a dog is a Kong, a solid rubber chew toy in which you can hide food. This is an absorbing challenge because it takes them a while to get it out. Liver paste is a favourite 'filling', or a few dog biscuits, but beware peanut butter as it can contain a sweetener called xylitol that is toxic to your pet so check labels carefully and look for a brand made from 100% peanuts.
Other good chews that will take a while to get through include dental chews (which will also keep their teeth clean), rusks and activity balls, which the dog has to roll around to extract food you've added from the holes.
Toys are usually designed for you to interact with your dog by throwing, tugging and chasing.
An adult dog should be given chews throughout its life to prevent boredom, exercise the jaw and keep teeth clean.
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