Naughty Gnawing

By Mary Kirkland

Naughty Gnawing

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. Tamara Prince of Montclair, N.J., was surprised when Jake, her 4-year-old cocker spaniel mix, started snacking on clothing from the hamper as soon as she left the apartment. "I would come home to find him looking like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He clearly looked guilty, but chewed up my clothing as revenge for leaving him alone all day.” Tamara eventually had to use a regiment of crate training to break Jake of the chewing habit -- and be more careful with her laundry placement.

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 on The Dog Pack website.) 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.

Mary Kirkland is a freelance writer with a specialty in animal issues and needs.

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Posted on September 18, 2007

Krista Reznik says: Mary, Our dog chews on our baseboards and trim around our doorways. We can't take these items away from him and I do NOT want to put him in a crate. Any advice?

Posted on July 7, 2008

Patrick Repper says: The most interesting part about this article is the way Mary Kirkland never called me or my wife for a quote. Instead she lifted a massive chunk of Donald Vaughan's original story about us, rewrote a few bits and called it her own. Not very hard to do, but not very professional either. I suggest next time she wants to interview someone, she call them herself instead of practicing plagerism. Or try using a footnote next time.

Posted on July 14, 2008

Crystal Lemon says: I am shocked I got on here to ask the exact question the lady has already asked above about what to do with our Chihuahuas that have chewed all our base boards and trim around our doors. I also can't completely potty train them. they are almost 1 yr. old and they will go if I am down stairs to let them out otherwise they go on the carpets upstairs. It is so frusterating can you help us.

Posted on October 20, 2009

jarrod w. says: i have a beutiful boxer that is about 9 months old. my wife and i found him covered in grease with cuts on his face. you could tell when we first brought him home that he had been abused. now he has gotten used to the family and is a wonderful dog. the only problem is that every time we leave he chews up anything he can get to, including cell phones.

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