Just because your dog is no longer technically a puppy, dogs still have the urge to chew. But chewing can be dangerous. Chewing electrical cords can lead to shocks and electrocution. Eating drugs and poisons has led to the death of many dogs. Although eating paper currency is an expensive habit, swallowing a single penny can be more expensive; unless it is removed, the penny may stay in the stomach and release zinc, resulting in zinc poisoning. Swallowing stockings and socks can lead to intussusceptions, in which the intestines accordion upon themselves, requiring surgery. Chewing can also be expensive and frustrating, as favorite items bite the dust.
You need to remove everything chewable from your dog’s reach. Things made of wood, leather, and rubber are favorites, and there’s nothing to match the glee of de-stuffing upholstered furniture. Even doors and walls are not safe. Put things out of reach, and don’t leave your dog unsupervised around anything you couldn’t stand to see chewed or destroyed.
You can slather bitter tasting products (available from your veterinarian or pet supply store) on objects you don’t want your puppy to sample. Even spraying underarm deodorant on surfaces will dissuade most dogs from tasting items twice.
As with puppies, giving your dog something acceptable to chew will help. Only bring out a few chew choices at a time, rotating them every few days so he has the excitement of new chews and toys. Don’t give him old shoes or anything that resembles items you don’t want chewed. Your choice of chews will depend on your dog’s chewing power; some dogs chew with such gusto that they swallow big hunks, which can cause a potentially fatal impaction, while others have tender mouths and need smaller, softer chews. Rawhide, for example, is fine for some dogs, but others gulp down large hunks and can become very ill from it. Real bones can cause slab fractures of teeth that can bring hefty dental bills. Consider using interactive toys, such as those that can be filled with soft cheese, dog bones, or peanut butter. You can freeze them after filling to make them last even longer.
Some dogs chew out of boredom. Most dogs do not get enough exercise, and since they can’t watch television or read a book, they turn to their doggy entertainment center, which is too often your closet or new chair. Give your dog more exercise, both mental and physical. A sleeping dog can’t chew. And again, be sure to provide him with more enticing acceptable things to chew on and play with.
Many cases of adult chewing stem from separation anxiety. Chewing that occurs when the dog is left alone, especially if it occurs around doors and windows or if accompanied by scratching and digging, may be a sign of separation anxiety. Such dogs are stressed about being left alone; they spend the time panting, drooling, and trying to find ways to escape and come find you. They also often urinate and defecate out of anxiety. Separation anxiety can occur in dogs of all ages. Punishing the dog only makes it worse; instead, you need to work on a program of gradual desensitization:
- Downplay departures and returns: No long good-byes or any cues you’re preparing to leave, and no emotional reunions.
- Use a safety cue: Just as your dog can learn to associate your unintentional departure cues with your absence, they can learn to associate new cues with your imminent return. You can spray some novel air freshener in the room, turn on a radio (if you don’t usually have one on), or put down a special bed, all cues to tell your dog you’ll be right back.
- Graduate departures: For these cues to work, you need to come right back before your dog has a chance to get upset. Work up to longer times gradually, repeating each level several times before moving to a longer period of absence.
- Consider anti-anxiety aids: If he’s not getting better, talk to your veterinarian about using anti-anxiety drugs that may help him cope during the initial stages.
Some dogs chew on themselves. The habit may originate from boredom, or from a spot that itches or is painful, but for whatever reason, the dog won’t stop chewing. You can try anti-chew preparations, but often the urge is so strong that they don’t work. Ask your veterinarian for help if your dog won’t stop chewing; drugs or bandages may help.