Reprinted from www.dogstardaily.com with permission of Dr. Ian Dunbar
Chewing is essential for maintaining the health of your dog's teeth, jaws, and gums. Puppies especially have a strong need to chew to relieve the irritation and inflammation of teething. Dogs chew to relieve anxiety and boredom, as well as for entertainment.
Your dog’s jaws are his tools for carrying objects and for investigating his surroundings. Essentially, a dog’s approach to all items in his environment is “Can I chew it?”
Chewing is Normal, Natural and Necessary
Indeed, most chewing sprees stem from your dog's relentless quest for some form of occupational therapy to pass the time of day when left at home alone. Chewing is a perfectly normal, natural, and necessary canine behavior.
Prevention and treatment of destructive chewing focus on management and education—to prevent your dog from chewing inappropriate items and to redirect your dog's natural chewing-urge to appropriate, acceptable, and resilient chew toys.
Prevent Destructive Chewing
When you return, instruct your dog to fetch his chew toys so you can extricate the freeze-dried liver pieces and give them to your dog. Your dog will happily settle down and entertain himself with his chew toys as soon as you leave in the morning, and he will be more inclined to search for chew toys when he wakes up in anticipation of your afternoon return. This is important since most chewing activity occurs right after you leave home and right before you return.
When you are home, confine your puppy to her doggy den (crate) with nothing but a freshly stuffed chew toy for entertainment. Every hour on the hour (or at longer intervals with house-trained adult dogs), take your puppy dog to her doggy toilet, and if she goes, praise her and play some chew toy games with her before putting her back in her crate with a freshly stuffed chew toy.
The purpose of confinement is to prevent your dog from chewing inappropriate items around the house and to maximize the likelihood your dog will develop a chew toy habit.
Redirect Chewing to Chew Toys
You must also actively train your dog to want to chew on chew toys. Offer praise and maybe a freeze-dried liver treat every time you notice your dog chewing chew toys.
Do not take chew toy chewing for granted. Let your dog know that you strongly approve of her newly acquired, appropriate hobby. Play chew toy games with your dog, such as fetch, search, and tug-of-war.
Chew toys should be indestructible and non-consumable. Consumption of non-food items is decidedly dangerous for your dog's health. Also, destruction of chew toys necessitates their regular replacement, which can be expensive. Compared with the cost of reupholstering just one couch, $70 worth of chew toys seems a pretty wise investment.
Kongs, Biscuit Balls, Big Kahuna footballs, and sterilized long-bones are by far the best chew toys. They are made of natural products, are hollow, and may be stuffed with food to entice your dog to chew them exclusively.
To prevent your dog from porking out, ensure that you only stuff chew toys with part of your dog's daily diet (kibble or raw food). Firmly squish a piece of freeze-dried liver in the small hole in the Kong, fill the rest of the cavity with moistened kibble, and then put the Kongs in the freezer. Voila, Kongsicles!
As the kibble thaws, some falls out easily to reinforce your dog as soon as she shows interest. Other bits of kibble come out only after your dog has worried at the Kong for several minutes, thus reinforcing your dog's chewing over time.
The liver is the best part. Your dog may smell the liver, see the liver, (and maybe even talk to the liver), but she cannot get it out. And so your dog will continue to gnaw contentedly at the Kong until she falls asleep.
Until your dog is fully chew toy trained, do not feed her from a bowl. Instead, feed all kibble, canned food, and raw diets from chew toys, or hand feed meals as rewards when you notice your dog is chewing a chew toy.