2. Puppy proofing. Look around your environment for possible dangers to your inquisitive puppy. Place household cleaners and chemicals out of reach along with potentially toxic plants. Electrical cords should be covered or made inaccessible to prevent chewing on them resulting in electrocution. Remove objects of curiosity that might appeal to your puppy such as shoes and socks, children’s toys and the like. Block access to rooms that have not been puppy proofed and consider crate training your dog for the times when he cannot be supervised.
Some conditions cannot be prevented but some can. Dogs should be on monthly flea and tick preventative medication. This will prevent flea allergy reactions and irritated skin. It is important to prevent your dog from being exposed to toxic chemicals. If you spray your lawn with pesticides, your dog should not be allowed to walk on the grass until the chemical is dry. The same thing goes for recently cleaned floors or carpets. Dogs should be provided toys, attention and daily exercise. Additional activities may help prevent a dog from feeling bored or anxious.
Dogs who chew to relieve the stress of separation anxiety usually only chew when left alone or chew most intensely when left alone. They also display other signs of separation anxiety, such as whining, barking, pacing, restlessness, urination and defecation. To learn more about separation anxiety and how to treat it, please see our article, Separation Anxiety.
The truth is, although some chews are better than others, it’s important to know the potential problems associated with each type of dog chew or toy. Even if you’ve never had an issue, and have friends who say the same, many vets and other dog lovers have seen these problems first-hand. The following breakdown is not meant to scare you. Instead, we hope you will keep these warnings in mind so your dog can enjoy their chewing, and do so safely.
I’ve been known to put my foot in my mouth. But dogs do it on purpose. So, why do dogs chew their feet? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Sure, there’s a simple explanation for the behavior. “A dog is essentially trying to scratch the itch,” says Christopher Pachel, DVM, owner of the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon. But finding the cause of foot chewing can be complicated. “It can be multiple different things,” Dr. Pachel says. “This is not one size fits all.”
Confine the chewing dog in his crate whenever you are unable to supervise his activity. Leave him with a couple of acceptable chewies. ACCEPTABLE CHEWIES are toys that are not easily consumed, ones that may change their form as the dog gnaws at them. Nylabones, beef marrow bones, large rawhide knots all become more interesting to the dog as he works on them; the chewing action creates all sorts of lumps and depressions that keep most canines enraptured for hours. KongTM toys can be stuffed with a variety of goodies including some of the dog’s breakfast, challenging him to work for his meal. Old shoes, towels, scrap wood, or phonebooks are not acceptable chew toys. Dogs cannot differentiate between old shoes and new shoes, or scrap wood from kitchen cabinetry. Don’t confuse your dog by giving him anything that may be mistaken for a forbidden object.
Some chews and toys can provide additional benefits for your dog; like mental stimulation or help with keeping their teeth clean. However, it's also true that chew toys have the potential to cause problems. Always closely observe your dog the first few times they’re playing with a new chew toy or eating a new type of chew. And, even in the long-term, keep watch and if you’re at all worried about a particular toy, don’t leave your dog alone with it, or just take it away and try another.
It’s natural for a dog to greet people by jumping up. But that can scare away guests. Turn away if your dog jumps on you. Don't give your dog attention unless he has his front paws on the ground. Then you can greet him and pet him. Or tell him to sit and wait until he does before you pet him. Try to keep your greetings low-key. That helps your dog learn to control his own excitement. Make sure he doesn’t bother or scare people who aren't used to him.
Size Matters: An important warning about choosing the correct size toys for your dogs, including when you have multiple dogs of different sizes. This photo (inset) is an X-ray of a dog’s abdomen. The three snowman-shaped objects you see in the middle of the image are Kongs within the dog’s stomach! They wound up there, not because the dog’s owner intentionally gave their dog the wrong sized Kongs, but rather because their kiddo didn't supervise closely enough while this dog’s puppies were playing with their food-stuffed Kongs! Mom perhaps decided that her pups were having too much fun and wanted in on the action. Or, maybe it was as it so often is, the kids just left their mess laying around for mom to clean up … and clean up this mom did! She had to be taken to surgery to have these three Kong toys removed from her stomach. She’s doing well and lesson learned for everyone.
Other animal parts: These may be good or bad depending on the source. When in doubt, ask your vet about the safety of a chew. As a general rule, safer animal part chews include aortas, tendon, gullet, and tripe. Ears are more controversial as they are closer to rawhide as far as digestibility goes (plus, pig ears especially tend to contain a lot of fat). Some animal horns will soften when chewed and fray into small pieces that are digestible, but these should be used with caution.