Original Question: As a puppy he is a chew monster!! He likes to gnaw on the metal bed frame and steel legs of the coffee table. This cannot be good for his teeth and we’ve read that bone antlers and the like are not good for puppy teeth. What can we give him that will satisfy his need to chew that will also be safe for him? Thanks in advance. - Darryl & Nakita
Hi Darryl & Nakita,
Thanks for your question.
It is good that you are paying attention to this problem. Puppies are always at risk of ingesting a foreign body since they explore the world with their mouths. An episode of foreign body ingestion can cost a great deal of money at your veterinary office and put your dog through uncomfortable surgery. If the wrong material gets lodged in the digestive tract, it could be fatal. It would be ideal to resolve this problem behaviour.
My first suggestion is to try and restrict access to the things that he is chewing. At night or when you leave the house, you could consider crating him so that he can’t interact with these things. The crate becomes like a safe den for him but he would likely take a short amount of time to get used to it.
Here are some other strategies that may get his mind off chewing all of these inappropriate items in your home.
Get appropriate toys and products that he is allowed to vigorously engage with that essentially substitutes the inappropriate chewing item with an appropriate one. Focus their attention on it by placing treats in it. This will give them an outlet for the behaviour that is appropriate and tolerable.
Avoid punishment if you can. If you do catch him in the act, try not to be too strict. You could discipline or punish it in the moment, but I strongly recommend not to do this. However, I am guilty of it in a minimal way. My wife and I have made a short, simple, hissing noises to shoo a pet away from doing this type of thing. However, doing this a lot can make the home a scary place and create other problems due to anxiety. One thing you can try is moving him away from the item he is chewing, or command him to go lay down in his dog bed and then give him a treat or chewable item that is appropriate. By rewarding him for stopping the behaviour, he’ll likely learn not to do it in the first place.
Engage them as much as possible. By providing environmental enrichment and consistent stimulation, they may not develop the habit of chewing at all. You can give them lots of interaction and activity to avoid them having to entertain themselves by engaging with your furniture. Use laser pointers, treats, scavenging games (hiding treats) and long exhausting episodes of exercise to keep them as busy as possible. If some of this behaviour is due to stress, you can speak to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety supplements and medication that may help as well but with a puppy, I highly doubt this is part of the problem.
Dr. Clayton Greenway