Bringing a dog into your home environment is a tremendous responsibility. Often new pet owners forget that a puppy is essentially a baby. It isn’t only puppies, however, who can develop destructive chewing behaviors. Dogs of all ages and stages may use chewing for a wide variety of reasons. It’s important to uncover what’s going on to find a way to keep both you and your pet happy.
Cutting teeth is one of the primary reasons for puppies to chew everything in sight. But what about older dogs? There can be other causes behind their chewing that may have little to do with teeth. Some of the reasons your dog may be chewing up everything around him are:
- Stress or Anxiety
Puppies are growing all the time and because of that are seldom put on diets. With older dogs, we sometimes want to watch their weight so they don’t suffer other health problems. What can happen, though, is a phenomenon most of us who’ve tried to diet will recognize: hunger pangs. Chewing can be the result of your dog searching for something to satisfy his appetite. Helping him through the adjustment to a more healthy diet by providing appropriate chew toys that offer him flavor and satisfaction can be the best way to deal with this type of chewing. It’s also good to ensure that the food you’re giving them is of sufficient nutritional value to meet their needs.
Like most of us, dogs can also become bored and use destructive chewing as something to do. Chewing is a natural instinct for them and it’s satisfying. It’s an action that strengthens their jaw muscles and helps them clean some of the tartar from their teeth so it makes sense to them to chew. And if they’re not being offered the right kind of stimulation, they will settle for what they find. Ensuring that your dog gets needed activity by taking them for walks, playing with them or letting them have a really long run with other dogs can be the answer to the boredom pushing them to engage in destructive chewing habits.
Another possible cause for destructive chewing is stress. We don’t often realize that dogs can become stressed in certain situations, causing them to relieve their anxiety with an activity such as chewing. We need to remember that dogs can be affected by change as much as we can. The addition of a new family member, either a baby or another pet, can create anxiety. A change in schedule which results in less activity or more time spent alone can bring on bouts of stress for your dog. Even a change in location can be a stress factor behind chewing. Just as we need to acclimate to new surroundings or life changes, so do our pets need that time to adjust.
Fear can also be a factor behind an increase in destructive chewing. Natural noises such as thunder or man-made noises such as firecrackers can bring on the fear of the unknown for your pet. Not seeing you when they become frightened can add to their need to soothe themselves. They resort to a natural instinct such as chewing to deal with their fears.
There can be other reasons behind a sudden pattern of destructive chewing. Dental pain or problems could be the reason your older dog is chewing. It’s important to remember to have their teeth checked as they age to prevent the possibility of tooth loss. Chewing can be a signal it’s time for a trip to the vet.
The best way to deal with destructive behaviors of any kind is to be aware and interactive with your dog. Watch their behavior under certain conditions, try and remove them from stressful situations and make sure they are getting the physical and mental nourishment they need to remain healthy. You’d do the same for any other member of the family.