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Q: My otherwise very obedient and sweet 7-month-old puppy, Linus, is a chewer. He doesn't bite, he's sweet with children and dogs, and he almost always obeys commands. But he gets his teeth on everything! He chews his toys to bits, and we worry about him swallowing something. What can we do to get him to stop chewing through everything?
A: Sounds like Linus is a rough chewer -- tougher than the toys you give him. I think it’s time to beef up the chew factor to rubber toys, marrow bones, and tough food toys, and leave the plush toys for the novice chewers.
Some super-tough rubber toys out there are nearly indestructible. Look for those designated “ultra” or “extreme.” If he’s not interested in them at first, you can smear some peanut butter or cream cheese inside to make them more enticing.
Marrow bones (yep, the real thing) are available at your butcher. I do it this way: Give your dog the raw bone (don’t cook it first) for half an hour, then take it away and stick it in the fridge. Give it to him for a half an hour the next day, and so on. Plenty of dogs can spend four hours with a marrow bone and be fine, but those with sensitive tummies can get upset with too much bone all of a sudden. Marrow is rich, and especially if the bone has fat on it (which they often do), he’ll get the runs. When you take the bone away, be sure to give Linus a great treat in exchange so he doesn’t start to wish you would stay away when he’s chewing.
Food toys are designed to hold a dog’s meal, which he has to work to extract. Whenever a dog has more energy than his people (which is almost always the case), I recommend feeding all meals out of a toy instead of a bowl. Think of it this way: If it takes half an hour to eat breakfast and another half hour to eat dinner, that’s one hour of energy-burning that you don’t have to have any part of. As an added bonus, your dog is tired afterward instead of energized, which is usually the case after they finish eating out of a dish. My favorite tough food toy is Busy Buddy’s Kibble Nibble, a chew-proof plexi orb that dispenses dry food or biscuits. Dogs have to roll it around with their nose or paws to get the goodies out -- feeding themselves while keeping out of trouble. Find plenty of other great food toys at petexpertise.com and sitstay.com -- just type “treat dispensing toys” in your search.
Hopefully given the right tools within mouth’s reach, your dog will get a taste of the chewing he wants without adding plastic and cotton to his daily diet.
Erica Nance, MA, CPDT, makes dog training effective, fun, and stress-free for pets and their people at her New York training facility, Dogs of Hudson. She previously owned and operated DogStar Dog Training and Behavior Consulting and worked as the Manager of Operations of the Animal Behavior Department at the ASPCA in New York City. Erica has a master's degree in experimental psychology specializing in evolutionary psychology. She shares her home with a rescued husky named Nova, her husband, and her young son. The household is managed and directed by an 11-year-old border collie named Jack.
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