"Virtually all natural dog behaviours - chewing, barking, rough play, chasing moving objects...….are considered by humans to be behaviour problems. The rules that seem so obvious to us make absolutely no sense to dogs" (Jean Donaldson, The Culture Clash).
One of tonight's lessons at Dogs Trust Dog School was all about chewing & mouthing. Normal behaviours to dogs, that without direction from us can become problem behaviours.
Chewing feels good, whether for a puppy who is teething or an adult dog who just wants to chow down. Our dog Dita loves to chew on a Pigs Ear and it keeps her occupied for ages. Chewing can help to calm and relax a dog.
Mouthing in a puppy is normal but those teeth are sharp and we need to help puppies realise that they mustn't bite hard and that there are other rewarding things to mouth/chew on!
If your dog is chewing things you don't want it to, consider the following:
1. Could it be bored/frustrated? If you don't offer an outlet for your dogs energy it will find things to occupy itself. The problem with the dog choosing what to do, is that often it will find things that are not compatible with what we'd like, i.e. chewing your skirting boards!
If you have a puppy it is your job to puppy proof your house. If it's in reach of puppy then it's your fault if it gets it! Crates are a great way to keep your dog safe when you aren't around to keep an eye out. (NB you must train your puppy/dog to enjoy it's crate, consult a professional if in doubt).
Consider are you exercising your dog enough? How much physical exercise depends on many factors, including breed, age, health. Also there are different types of physical exercise. Consult a vet if in doubt as to the amount and consider the breed when working out what to do. Every dog is different, an adult working dog like a Collie will not be convinced with 2 x short walks around the block, whereas an older slower or non working breed might be perfectly happy with this.
No matter what breed, mental exercise is just as essential to stave off boredom. Little 5/10 mins training sessions, working on tricks or obedience can be a great way to settle your dog.
2. Does your dog have things to chew on that are appropriate to you? Puppies will chew hands, feet, ankles...anything at their level. This is normal but you need to teach them that instead of you, they should chew their toy or munch on their kong.
Adult dogs also need appropriate toys/food to chew on and the shops are full of safe dog friendly options.
As I mentioned in my enrichment blog, there are many different ways to feed your dog that can offer an outlet for energy and an opportunity to chew. The ancestors of our dogs were not fed from nice clean bowls, they would have chewed on carcasses etc
If you are having trouble with your dog's mouthing or chewing consult a professional dog trainer who can help find the reason for the behaviour and help you guide your puppy/dog to make better choices.