10 November 2010

To chew or not to chew...

Sock thief in the news. Click to enlarge.

"Come back with that sock!" "Stop chewing on the wires!" "Oh, no, not my favourite earrings!"
If you're a dog owner, you're probably used to saying things like these.

I myself, as the proud owner of a crazy sock thief, say them all day long.

But what drives doggies to steal and chew and make a mess?

Usually, it's boredom. A dog will steal things and play with them. Your brand-new cell phone is just another fun toy for it. Ever noticed the "Wow, look what I found! Great toy!" look on your dog's face, even when you are absolutely furious at having your best and most expensive things chewed on?

We also have the case of itchy gums. Puppies change their teeth when they are about 3 months old and all the process will drive your doggie crazy. They can't help trying to chew on your sofa trying to relieve the itch.

Yes, I've seen them both. I'm also keeping the teeth I could find in a small box, along with bite marks on the legs and corners of tables and sofas. Needles to say, she still likes her lumber, as her name suggests. Old habits die hard.

What can be done about these habits?

Give your dog chew toys, go out and exercise and keep the temptations out of sight. It really helps to play with your dog to calm it down when it gets overexcited and rebellious.

Experts say that discipline is crucial. When your dog is chewing on something it shouldn't, firmly say the usual restrictive word (I use "no") and give them a suitable alternative. Be creative.

For instance, Scorp gave our doggie an old sock (and now she loves all socks) and old shoelaces. We also have a thick rope with rubber handles from the pet store. However, if you use cloth or rope, be careful of falling threads - they aren't so good on the stomach. Another fun toy she has is an old rubber toy with an air valve that makes it squeak when you squeeze it. All are good for chewing.

If you want edible chew material, pet stores offer "cowhide bones". We have also heard that you can feed your dog raw bones (particularly beef), but you must be careful; if the bone proves too brittle, it's better to take it away. One good idea I found while browsing the internet was giving your dog a carrot instead of a bone. Aschiuta really likes them.

Is chewing good for anything?

The answer is yes. Chewing is the best way for your dog to clean its teeth. You can't expect a dog to start flossing or brush their teeth to remove plaque and bacteria.

On another note, take into consideration how dangerous chewing some things can be for your dog. Mine tried all materials and all objects, from wood to concrete and from socks to jewelery. It's not just your things that have to suffer, it could be the dog too. Check for toxic substances and sharp or brittle objects and don't hesitate to contact your vet if your dog has health issues.

So the answer is to chew... on the right stuff.

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