Your Sheltie and Chewing

 

CHEW ON THIS!

Like a sheltie's predecessor, the wolf, our fur kids have an impressive, chewing apparatus-powerful jaws and 42 permanent teeth designed to grip, gnaw, crush and tear. While this mouthful of teeth helped our sheltie's ancestors survive, today they don't need to capture and shred his food. Yet, driven by instinct, dogs still need to chew and if owners don't channel this instinct, it can cause a huge problem to the dog's health and the household furnishings.

RELIEVING PAIN

Chewing is a part of normal jaw and tooth development. Young puppies chew largely to relieve the discomfort associated with tooth eruption just like human babies. The temporary comfort that chewing provides encourages further chewing.

Although pups tend to chew indiscriminately, you can teach them what's appropriate and safe to chew. Before you bring your new pup home, procure several safe and tooth healthy chew toys, such as resilient Gumabones. Also, comb your new dog's habitat and remove as many household chewables as possible.

Every time your pup chews something you don't want it to chew, firmly say “out” or “leave it” and then remove the object and replace it with an acceptable chew toy. You can also steer your pup in the right direction if you add flavoring to its “chewies” or use them as toys during play sessions.

There are now items on the market similar to children's teething rings that can be frozen and given safely to your puppy under supervision. These do contain water so once it is thawed, you run the risk of a sharp puppy tooth puncturing the toy and causing a leakage.

Confining your dog to it's crate while you cannot supervise him or her is another way of saving your furniture into becoming a chew toy.

CHEWING AWAY STRESS

Some adult dogs chew to relieve emotional stress especially stress caused by separation anxiety or lack of environmental stimulation (boredom). Stress-related chewing almost always occurs when the owner is not present, but even a relaxed dog may chew if it has previously not been taught any better.

To resolve chewing caused by separation anxiety, you may have to try several techniques. None, however, involve punishment, which only makes matters worse. First, take the emotion out of your comings and goings by completely ignoring your dog for 15 minutes before leaving and after returning. “Trick” your dog into thinking you are on your way out by grabbing your keys, your coat, and so on and then sit quietly in a chair. But focus most of your effort on graduated departures. Leave your dog alone for short, then gradually increasing, periods of time. Increase your stay away time only when your dog seems OK with the last separation period.

Some dogs that chew due to separation anxiety go berserk when crated, so confinement may not be a viable option. Dome dogs benefit form anti-anxiety medication. But a few may not adapt to solitude under any circumstances. Then a day care facility for dogs may be the only solution, or a daytime pet sitter.

If boredom fuels your dog's destructive chewing, enliven its “home alone” environment. The simplest form of environmental enrichment is 30 to 60 minutes of daily aerobic exercise. Be consistent with exercise, though, because dogs may turn to destructive chewing when they exercise only sporadically.

PREVENTING PROBLEM CHEWING

You can try to divert your dog from problem chewing by carefully selecting toys and avoiding certain types of games. Never give your dog old shoes, socks, or clothing as chew toys. As savvy as dogs are, they can't tell a worn pair of slippers from brand new dress shoes. For similar reasons, steer clear of toys that resemble household items, like shoe-shaped rawhide chews. And avoid overindulging your dog with too many toys. Tug of wars games also may encourage excessive chewing not to mention aggression.

You can also minimize the risk of problem chewing by obedience training and socializing your dog with people and other dogs so it develops confidence and independence. Additionally, refrain from any behavior your dog might construe as a reward for chewing. For example, don't replace an inappropriate chewable with a food treat. You may be redirecting the dog to an acceptable object, but the dog is getting away with getting a tasty reward for chewing the item it was chewing on.

Although most canine chewing problems involve too much chewing, occasionally a dog will chew less than usual. Take note of your dog's normal chewing habits, and contact your vet if you see any changes one way or another.