Chew This, Not That!

Chew This, Not That! Dogs need “occupational therapy.” So says Dr. Ian Dunbar, DVM, animal behaviorist and puppy guru. If you don’t give your dog something to do, your dog will find something to do.

If you don't give your dog something to do, your dog will find something to do! Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Kronenberg and "Bailey".

Although dogs are genetically hard-wired to chew, some dogs like to chew more than others. You can help encourage your dog to be a happy, busy, lifelong chewer who enjoys chewing appropriate items rather than your stuff. Habits develop early and quickly, so start your training on the first day home regardless of your dog’s age.

The joy of chewing

Chewing is a natural canine activity that relieves stress and teething pain and is a great outlet for pent-up energy. Lucky for you, your dog can exhaust herself chewing on a great bone. Favorite chew-toys act as pacifiers. Chewing also helps distract your dog from engaging in other, unwanted, activities.

Chew-toy training

A. Puppy-proof your home. Remove access to valuable items.

B. Design a Dog Zone using an x-pen and crate, or baby-gated area so you can run errands and sleep.

C. Use Bitter Apple, a nontoxic taste aversive, for items that cannot be protected.

D. Supervise and redirect your puppy to her own chew toys if she gets off track. Praise her for playing with her own chew toys.

E. Provide a Doggie Toy Box and rotate three or four favorite chew items every other day.

What to chew

Safe chewies should be as close to 100 percent digestible or 100 percent indestructible as you can find. Provide chew-toys stuffed with high-value foods. You may feed all food from chew toys, until the dog is chew-toy trained. Long-lasting chewables include “bully sticks,” marrow and soup bones. Newly popular on the chew scene are antlers, the adorable tuff chewies, Caviar Buffalo Jerky, duck, pork or chicken air-dried strips. Choose Made in the USA labels for higher-quality-control standards.

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: [email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at

Originally published in the U~T San Diego, Scratch n' Sniff. Chris Ross, Editor, 2012.

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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.

  • Great article, it hits every important aspect on how to divert your dog from chewing, and it's wonderful to hear the recommendation for 100% digestible or almost 100% indestructible. It's important to consider our dog's health while training it to chew the proper things.

  • Evelyn Haskins

    Sorry -- a bit OT for here, But Victoria, I would really like to read your web site and blog, but whiit ype on a black background makes it too difficult for me.

    I get tired of copying,pasting and then changing text colours.



  • Pingback: Chew This, Not That! | Dog Training articles()

  • Great points! And as always, the moment the pup puts it's mouth on the ultimate of non-chew-toys (that being the humans in the room) all fun/play stops immediately. 🙂

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