Gnawing on things is a natural part of a dog’s life. Like babies, puppies explore the world around them using their mouths. While chewing behavior in dogs is entirely normal, it’s important to set limits for your chew-happy pooch before his mouthy habit becomes as dangerous as it is destructive.
Chewing for Relief
Chewing helps your dog cope with the teething stage. Chewing on people is a habit most commonly seen in young dogs who are in the process of losing their baby teeth. When puppies start teething (usually between the ages of 3 and 10 months), gnawing on objects helps to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by the new teeth as they grow in.
Chewing for Information
Chewing helps your dog learn more about certain objects. Since he can’t simply pick up an object with his paws to check it out, your dog has no choice but to use his mouth to explore the things he’s curious about. Whether he munches on your fingers or a pair of old socks, Fido may just be trying to discover something new.
Chewing for Fun
Chewing helps keep your dog entertained. Fido may love the act of chewing so much that he uses it to avoid boredom or perhaps just as a way of letting loose and having fun during playtime. Whether he gnaws on other dogs, his toys, your toes or even his own tail, your furry friend may simply be chewing for the fun of it.
Chewing for Dominance
Chewing helps your dog establish rank. Since lower-ranking members of a pack would never chew on the pack leader, Fido’s habit of munching on your arm might be his way of trying to tell you that he’s boss. Teaching your pooch to respect the difference between you and his chew toys can help reaffirm your position as leader of the pack.
Setting Appropriate Boundaries
Chewing on people should not be acceptable canine behavior regardless of the reason. Even if you think it’s endearing at times, allowing your dog to chew on you or other people when he is a puppy can lead to injuries as he grows bigger and stronger. When your dog chews on you or someone else, clap your hands, yelp or make another loud sound to get his attention. Once you have distracted him, give your dog a chew toy or a treat and praise him enthusiastically for chewing on a more appropriate object.
Kristina Barroso is a full-time teacher who has been freelance writing since 1991. She published her first book, a break-up survival guide, in 2007 and specializes in a variety of topics including, but not limited to, relationships and issues in education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University.