My Dog Is Making Me Crazy!

Destructive chewing is probably one of the most common complaints among dog owners. Understanding the dog's instinctive need to chew, and being able to effectively channel this behavior is the key to preventing much of the damage which can occur.

Puppies need something hard to chew on while their teeth and jaws are developing. The first teething period, which occurs at 3 to 4 months of age, happens when the puppy's teeth are falling out and the permanent teeth are cutting through the gums. The second teething period, at 7 to 9 months of age, occurs when the permanent teeth are settling into the jawbones. At both of these stages, the puppy must chew to ensure normal tooth and jaw development.

The adult dog's desire to chew stems from the need to clean his teeth, massage gums, and exercise the jaw. Often dogs will chew after eating. At other times, chewing can be used as an outlet for frustrations caused by loneliness, lack of exercise, boredom or anxiety.

The need to chew is instinctive; therefore, no matter how hard you may try, eliminating the behavior is impossible! So, let's get your best friend something suitable to chew on. Strong, natural bones may serve your dog's teething needs, but can wear down the enamel on the dog's teeth. Also, the bone can splinter, causing vomiting, digestive upset (and possible death). Rawhide chews do not last and cause an intestinal blockage if eaten in large pieces. Reaching down a dog's throat to retrieve a soft sticky blob of rawhide that he's choking on isn't pleasant either! The best recommendation is to provide your dog with a Nylabone or Nylaball. There are many different shapes, sizes and flavors there days. They last a long time and do not splinter. Make sure that you choose the proper size for your dog so that he will not be able to swallow it.

If your dog has a hold of your favorite sneaker or hat, trade him for his Nylabone toy and say "Thank you for finding my sneaker!" Be positive while showing him what is acceptable for him to chew on. It will work! Of course, puppies and young dogs should not be left unsupervised in the house. Even just 10 minutes of shut eye in the morning could be the end of a new jacket! Placing your puppy in a crate when you are unable to watch him is the best means of confinement. Shutting a teething puppy or young dog in one room will only mean damaged furniture, woodwork and an owner with high blood pressure!

Whether you have a young puppy or mature dog, consistent, positive reinforcement will result in a friend who is more than willing to learn. Obedience instructors have many, many more tips on how to have a super relationship with your dog. Don't wait for behavior to get out of hand. It's never too early to start training. Call the shelter or your veterinarian for instructors near you.

Lori Smith is a dog obedience trainer and currently serves on the Board of Directors of CVHS