Entertainment for a Smart Chewing Dog?
November 27, 2012 6:56 PM   Subscribe

What can we provide our chewing-obsessed dog to keep him happily occupied? And will he outgrow the desire to chew everything in the house?

Our newest addition is an incredible fun, awesome dog - but is easily bored, and obsessed with chewing. He has destroyed a pair of shoes, glasses case, several books, cardboard boxes in the past week...

Main question: What are the best toys, diversions, tricks and games to keep him occupied, happy and distracted from the illicit chewing?

Bonus question: does this go away at a certain age or comfort in our house?

Relevant details:
- He is about a year old.
- We take him out for high energy walking/dog park running for at least two hours a day and lots and lots of indoor playing with him (ball tossing, tug of war) I think he's getting enough exercise
- I tried the Kong with peanut butter and he is not at all interested in peanut butter. He does like the Kong stuffed with dog food/treats/cheese - other ideas?
- Toys he likes: bones, stuffed animals with squeaky parts, tug of war rope, games involving work (like hunting for things or pulling things out of a box, etc.)
posted by rainydayfilms to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is gross, I am not a meat eater, but my friend gives her dogs dried pig ears (I think they are easy to get at the pet store). It usually keeps them occupied for some time.
posted by nanook at 7:00 PM on November 27, 2012

Bully sticks are great for chewers.
posted by trip and a half at 7:10 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it usually goes away - my guy just hit 7 months and his destructive phase is already slowing down, but yeah we lost slippers, socks and bath robes between 4 and 6 months of age.

Pigs ears are great, cheap and will keep him busy for 20-30min apiece. also, puzzle toys like this one.
posted by mannequito at 7:10 PM on November 27, 2012

Mostly chewers grow out of it, it is a phase!

1) You need to restrict your dog's access to things he can chew. In my house, after we finished crate training, we used a baby gate to keep our dogs in one room that was dog proofed. That means nothing on the floor to chew, chewing appropriate toys all around.

2) When he begins to chew something that he shouldn't, make an unpleasant or startling noise while he is in the act. We use "EHH! EHH! EHH!" with loud clapping and move in front of the thing he was trying to chew. This must be done only when he is actively chewing the thing.

You could also try Bitter Apple spray on things like couch legs that can't be removed.

3) Toys! My dog likes braided bully sticks. Just letting you know right now, those are made out of bull penises and smell like them too. Stinky but last longer than rawhides.

I don't buy compressed rawhides anymore because one dog swallowed a soggy one that was too big and got sick from it. I also use dog puzzles by Nina Ottosson. The one I have is called Casino but you must supervise use because the dog can just chew up the puzzle otherwise.
posted by dottiechang at 7:11 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Antlers are supposed to be good and very long-lasting. They are pricey though. I got one for each of my 2 dogs, neither of which were interested.

If you want 2 very slightly used small antlers, memail me your address and I will send them to you.
posted by Fig at 7:17 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

FWIW - one year old is pretty much still a puppy. Our dogs got a lot more chill after two or three.

We have samoyeds that like to chew. Nylabones and BIG long rawhide chews. Like these, maybe? Not finding the best examples online. They should be large pieces - nothing that could get pull off and choked on. Take them away when they get small enough to choke on - pretty much when they're getting hard for the dog to hold and chew at the same time..
posted by maryr at 7:30 PM on November 27, 2012

Another vote for antlers. Also sterilized beef bones. They won't splinter. They're the white ones in the store, either filled with gunk or hollow - we buy hollow in deference to our rugs.
posted by cecic at 7:31 PM on November 27, 2012

Definitely antlers. My dog was only interested in them once I boiled them for a couple of minutes in chicken broth.

I buy my dog Gerber's baby food (sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, bananas, beans) and layer a Kong with kibble/treats and the baby food. Freeze it and give it to the dog the next day. I sometimes split up my dog's entire dinner amongst frozen Kongs to keep her occupied. They like having to work to get their food.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:38 PM on November 27, 2012

Another vote for bully sticks, the thicker the better. They smell pretty gross but what can you do.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:40 PM on November 27, 2012

Also, how and when is he getting the stuff he chews? Is he left alone to roam the house all day? If yes, consider crate training him and/or a couple of days at doggie day care.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:41 PM on November 27, 2012

It's easy to keep a dog from chewing socks, shoes, books, cardboard - keep him away from that stuff! My dog is a big guy (70 pound German Shepherd) who can get into everything, and I restrict his access to the house and dog-proof the rooms that he has access to while I'm gone. He'd eat all my underwear if given the chance. "Restricting access to the house" could mean crating, or it could mean closing him in the kitchen - whatever makes sense for your family. Dogs don't care about square-footage, and in a way, free-access to a house can be stressful for a dog, especially if it's a new situation.

If your dog is chewing stuff like couch cushions, or the walls, or something else, I think that might be a sign of more serious behavior problems.

Seconding sterilized beef bones. If you don't mind a little mess, my dog loves licking the stuffing out of those more than anything else. It usually takes him a week or two to get really into a new bone, though.

My dog can destroy a bully stick in under ten minutes, so if your pup is a super chewer, you might want to supervise bully stick time. Too much bully stick can clog up the digestive pipes. Same with rawhide bones.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 7:46 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it can just depend on the personality of the dog. Bella, my 5-year-old bichon/poodle mix is a constant chewer, which I think is unusual for her breed(s). She only weighs 12 lb, so I have to keep her lots of small chewable things around. If she doesn't have anything to chew, she will lick obsessively, so she may just be weird in general.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 7:56 PM on November 27, 2012

We adopted our rescue terrier when he was about a year old and he was a chewer. He has mostly grown out of it a year later. I still try not to let him wander anywhere alone for too long (and I have to keep him away from garbage cans!) but in general I don't have to worry about my shoes anymore.

Basically at this stage you just need to keep everything chewable away from him, and you need to be watching him all the time. I had to adjust my routines and rethink the way I stored things. For instance, I ended up getting an over-the-door shoe holder and keeping my shoes on there. Purse no longer gets dropped on the couch or chair. Etc. If I can't supervise him, he goes in his crate (with a toy).

There are some good "durable" toys that are harder to destroy. I like the "Tuffy" brand, and I've found them at discount places like Marshall's. Just be careful with any toy that has a squeaker, as they can choke on the squeaker when it gets pulled out.
posted by radioamy at 8:44 PM on November 27, 2012

One of our dogs spent his first 6-8 months chewing. He'd chew in his sleep. He ate a sofa and a chair.

First off, we had to restrict him to a room with nothing in it when he was unsupervised. We also used a Buster Cube (note, these things are godawful loud, so it was only for when we left the house) to keep his tiny idiot brain occupied, and spent every non-work waking moment exercising and walking him - before going to work, my husband would walk him for 45 minutes and then hand him off to me for another 30. (For "walking" assume a nearly invisible blur on the end of a leash. He basically levitated the entire time.) We did give him chewable items, but only supervised for fear he would choke.

We just replaced a 9-year-old Everlasting Fun Ball (do not taunt Everlasting Fun Ball), not because they destroyed it but because it was dry-rotting. Three dogs, 9 years, Texas and California sun. "Green ball" is one of the phrases he knows. It's a very, very fine toy.

Time eventually did its job. Also, we got him his own puppy. Four hours after we brought her home, something clicked in his peanut brain and he was suddenly a big important dog with Responsibilities. It was the damndest thing I've ever seen. He'd still eat the remote control or my glasses if someone accidentally left them within reach, but he stopped eating the furniture.

Young dogs just don't have many ways to interact with and explore the world yet, and you just have to put only stuff they can have in their way until it passes if they are especially determined. I think with our dog a lot of it was a massive growth spurt - during his worst months, he was outgrowing his collar every 2 weeks, going from about 5 pounds to 50 in six months. It probably made him mentally unbalanced as well as chronically hungry.

He's a fantastic dog now, exactly as wonderful as he was horrible then. It does pass.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:58 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our dog is also a chewer, and can go through rawhide like her life depended on it.
Nylabone: the "for powerful chewers" one was too hard. I bought a twin pack for moderate chewers, she destroyed the dental one (blue, with nubs) within minutes and it had to be thrown away. The silicone one is still putting up a fight.

Tided rope: she gnaws on the sides quite happily.

Her newest toy: a big 3-ring rubber thing. Used for both tugging and chewing. I don't know if it's just a stronger material or if she's going easy on it but she hasn't really damaged it much. She does chew on it.

I gave her a lamb shank bone from a local farmer, with plenty of marrow. She's in heaven. She ate the ends easily and has been working on the denser middle for days.
posted by Neekee at 9:10 PM on November 27, 2012

FWIW, we had a pair of samoyeds who were non-destructive adults, but who ate the cushions out of the couch as puppies.

They also ate a hole in the kitchen floor.

They also ate the vinyl siding of the outside of the house.

They also chewed all the branches from roughly waist high and lower off of all of the trees in the backyard.

That's without counting all the shoes and kleenex and untended sandwiches and other usual dog consumables they ate. They were expensive puppies. But they didn't have particular behavior problems as adults. They were just big on chewing as puppies. If you think about it, humans under a year old are apt to put everything in their mouths as well - they just don't have such big teeth.
posted by maryr at 9:12 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is this a Finnish Spitz? He's adorable. Spitz breeds tend to have an extended puppyhood, but the crazy chewing should eventually diminish in both ferocity and longevity. However, all dogs need to chew things--their mouths are like our hands, used to explore and manipulate their environment.

So, the essentials.

1. Provide an environment where it's easy for the dog to be successful at not chewing. Crate when unsupervised, keep dangerous and unacceptable chewables out of reach, and provide a variety of acceptable chewies. Never give a dog anything to chew that looks like something you would *not* want them to chew. "Toy" shoes, etc. Never give a dog anything old of yours to chew on. It's too hard for them to figure out why one thing is ok but another isn't.

2. Don't bother correcting a dog after chewing has already happened. He won't have any idea what you're babbling on about. If you catch him in the act, correct the behavior using noise or whatever your favorite method is, remove the object, and then give him an acceptable chew toy *after* you have gotten him to successfully follow some kind of command. Sit, down, something like that. It's kind of like hitting reset on your dog. You don't want to get into a situation where your dog will chew just to get a new chew toy handed to him.

3. Teach the dog "leave it." Leave it is an awesome command for all sorts of situations, and is one that should be in every dog's repertoire.

4. Make acceptable chewies "high value" toys. Soak bones in chicken broth, stuff the kong with cheese and liver, that sort of thing.

5. When you see the dog chewing on his own toys, praise him with your excited voice and occasionally treat him.

We also trained our dog with a new behavior when he did manage to pick something up--a remote, a shoe, eyeglasses, whatever. Instead of chasing him around or trying to wrestle with him, we trained him to bring us the thing we forgot in exchange for a treat. He knows he won't get a treat if the item is injured in any way, and he's developed an incredibly soft mouth. He trotted around with an ipad in his mouth once and you'd never have known it except for the drool. So he'll bring me a shoe, and I'll say "Go get the other one!" and he'll round out the pair and get a cookie. It's just much easier to teach a dog to do something else than it is to teach a dog to just *not* do something.
posted by xyzzy at 9:18 PM on November 27, 2012

Thank you! He is a shiba inu.

He is crated at night and when we leave the house - these incidents have been a split second of looking away - so short, but destructive.

The bully sticks are on their way! Any other savory kong filling ideas?
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:46 AM on November 28, 2012

And make sure you have a variety of textures to suit all his chewing needs. My dog only tries to chew furniture, cushions, etc, when she doesn't have something of similar consistency to chew on.
posted by Neekee at 6:45 AM on November 28, 2012

Our 6-month-old Akita does like peanut butter stuffed kongs. But, she also likes frozen bananas and frozen canned pumpkin.

A word of caution about pumpkin, it's like a doggy intestinal fixer. If they're constipated, it will make them poop; if they have diarrhea it will firm their poop up. If they have normal poops it might not do anything (which was our result) or it might do something bad. Start small.

In any case, mix some kibble or similarly sized treats in with the stuffing before you freeze it and you'll get more mileage out of it.

The thing I really like about the peanut butter/kibble/treat mix is that it doesn't have to be frozen and tends to last a lot longer because of it. Once she gets it down about halfway, it takes her a week to finish it off (working on it for about an hour at a time several times per day).

I'd try and figure something out that will be similar to peanut butter in that it will be a thick paste at room temp and won't mold or rot if left out for a week or two at a time.
posted by VTX at 8:29 AM on November 28, 2012

Just a warning about bullies - our 15-pound dog will go through a 6-inch straight one within a half hour, and a braided one within 45 minutes or so. So if you have a very motivated chewer, they might not buy you much extra time. And might make your dog fartier than usual.

The antlers last much longer (but are possibly lower-interest). Also good are churpi chews (a rock hard cheesy block).
posted by twoporedomain at 9:07 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

My dog is a champion chewer. She can demolish any toy mentioned in this thread in under an hour. She just eats the bully sticks like they're peanut brittle. Expensive peanut brittle. Once she ate a ski. However she has stopped chewing on non-dog related things. Part of it is age, chewing is nervous energy, but most of it is that she leads a structured life and her anxiety became manageable for her so no more chewing. I leave and come home at the sane time, things happen on schedule, she has a perch where she can look out the window and see the street but no one can see her (v. important when you're paranoid), she gets several things per week she can destroy (branches, huge raw bones, Costco rawhides- buy in bulk!) etc. Until then I totally locked her in a reinforced metal cage in the basement though, I'd call it a crate but it was more of a tiger proof cage by the time I was done reinforcing it.

These days she accepts changes to her routine with aplomb and is even fine being left alone on unfamiliar place because I worked so hard to make her a self confident dog and give her coping skills like sleep on fshgrl's stuff and guard her socks till she gets back. She's super proud of her "jobs". It's important for anxiety. And anxious dogs eat your shoes.
posted by fshgrl at 11:45 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dog only likes: sticks, bones, antlers, and things hidden in my old throwaway dirty socks. Sticks leave a mess, but it vacuums easily, so, eh.

Antlers, BTW, are free if you harvest them from roadkill or from a hunter (and the season just started).

Also, dogs prefer fresh antlers & bones, as they are softer and easier to crush. They harden with time, become more like concrete and less like a chew-stick.

The time-honored rule is: EVERY SINGLE time your dog chews on something inappropriate, immediately replace it with a chew toy. Carry one, if necessary.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:06 PM on November 28, 2012

Our 18-pound terrier can eat a bully stick in under 15 minutes and a rawhide in less than 10 minutes. He likes cow hooves - but I hate the smell. I echo the praise for antlers; our dog stopped chewing on our rugs, blankets & couch once he received his first elk antlers.

To help satisfy the chewing/need-something-to-do instincts of our two mutts, we changed how we feed them. We now divide up their daily calories up into 3 main parts: 1/3 at breakfast (bowl of their dog food), 1/3 calories as kibble that we serve throughout the day as training treats & in food toys; and 1/3 as a mix of meat & vegetables that we stuff and freeze into Kongs. From the late afternoon to early evening, the dogs earn their dinner by receiving Kongs as rewards for good behavior (such as a good long stay, or for staying out of the kitchen, or for a good recall). Once or twice a week we also give them each a raw meat bone (beef, bison or lamb). It keeps them occupied for a very long time (1 - 2 hours, plus follow-up chewing sessions).

One of our favorite Kibble toys is homemade: fill a clean, used plastic container with a small amount of kibble (yogurt containers are great). Then wrap the container in a rag & tie it up with lots of knots. Each dog will happily chew away on the knots and then break into the plastic to get to the Kibble surprise inside.

FWIW, we use small-sized kibble (such as Fromm's or Solid Gold Wee Bits) to make it last longer. Our dogs behave as if a small piece of kibble is equivalent to a large piece of kibble (both are 1 gulp), so we can do a lot more training for the same calories.
posted by apennington at 7:15 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

He's gotten much better and has picked up the rules of the house.

And bully sticks are amazing - he'll do anything to get one and immediately calms down to focus on it. Thanks!
posted by rainydayfilms at 10:08 AM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older How do I best restore a WW2-era Navy peacoat?   |   Creepy talking houses that gave children chocolate... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.