large black and white dog laying on grass with dog chew in mouth

Top 10 Reasons Why Dogs Need to Chew

Understanding Why Dogs Chew Involves Understanding Their Behaviors

Chewing is a common behavior with most dogs. Unfortunately, it can also be destructive. Almost everyone with a dog has at some point come home to find some damage through chewing. Usually, the casualties are random items such as shoes, clothing, and books.

Dogs chew for a variety of reasons. Chewing is a way to exercise their jaws, clean their teeth, and soothe pain when teething. Other possible reasons for chewing include relieving stress, finding food, and testing for food. Since chewing is instinctive, you shouldn’t worry unless it's destructive.

The good news is that you can train your dog to find a healthy outlet for their chewing. However, that is only possible if you understand why dogs chew. Read on to learn the top ten reasons why dogs need to chew.

1. Instinct

Like all animals, dogs like to practice their chewing. You will notice when playing that they play bite. This basic instinct is supposed to help them survive in the wild.  Their teeth are the weapon of choice for hunting and defense.  The more you play with your dog, the more they get fixated on chewing. You can redirect this behavior towards healthy and safer options like chewing toys or natural dog chews.

2. Teething

Like people, dogs lose their deciduous teeth at some point. The only difference is that puppies begin teething earlier than babies.  Dog baby teeth start coming in at week 2.  These milk teeth fall out at around week 12, and permanent teeth come in by six months. Dogs chew a lot when teething as they test the strength of their new choppers.

3. Cleaning

Brushing your dog’s teeth is one way of keeping the plaque at bay. While this is very effective, animals have natural ways of cleaning their teeth to keep up their dental hygiene, and we’re all about it! A daily brushing routine is not exactly in a dog’s DNA. Chewing is a natural way dog’s have always cleaned their teeth. It also strengthens the gum.

4. Hunger   

Most dogs will let you know when they are hungry. They can stare at you puppy-eyed, keep licking an empty bowl, or start foraging around the house.  If they are brilliant, they can even bring you their feeding bowl. 

However, hunger also makes the dog more experimental. They start chewing on things to see what comes of them. Anything that smells good is a fair game.

5. Exercise

In the wild, teeth are a valuable asset. It is a weapon for defense and a knife for chopping food, and dogs constantly chew on things as practice.  It sharpens their teeth and exercises the gums. It takes a lot of jaw strength to crack a bone. 

So, chewing on something else helps strengthen the muscles that control jaw movement. It may not make a big difference to a pet, but it means everything in the wild.

6. Anxiety

Dogs are very social animals.  It is what makes them such great pets. Unfortunately, this also makes them susceptible to stress and anxiety.  Most dogs turn to destructive behavior when fearful or anxious. Chewing distracts dogs from their fears and helps them calm down. 

If you come home to chewed items, chances are the dog is anxious. Look into and find better-chewing toys for your pup, and engage your dog in other activities such as walking.

7. Boredom

What do you do when bored?  Most people turn to their phones, watch a movie, or sleep. Dogs get bored too. However, they don't have all the options that people have to kill time.  Playing and napping are at the top of the list. But what happens when they can't sleep, and there is nobody around to play with. Chewing is comforting and gives them something to do.

8. Seeking Attention

Dogs enjoy spending quality time with their guardians. Unfortunately, we get too busy and forget to play with the dog.  If there is a favorite toy the dog likes or a shoe, they can start chewing on it. This destructive behavior may finally get your attention. It could also be due to anxiety or just pure boredom.

9. They Think It's a Toy

Dogs learn by observing you. They react to the feedback they get from you.  For instance, if a dog chews an old shoe, you laugh about it, and you throw it around for the dog to fetch.  

The message the dog is getting is that chewing shoes is okay. So they start to think of shoes as toys. After a while, every pair of shoes they come across is a play tool to them. 

10. Curiosity

Dogs learn a lot through trial and error. Like babies, dogs tend to put everything in their mouths when they are pups.  By chewing, they learn about different materials such as wood, rubber, and fabric. Eventually, they learn what is chewable and what is not. Even in adulthood, chewing is a reliable way of discovering their surroundings.

Final Thoughts

There is nothing unusual about a dog chewing. Dogs chew to relieve stress, play, exercise their jaws, or clean their teeth.  It only becomes a problem if the behavior becomes destructive. We hope this article helps you to understand the possible reasons for chewing. In addition, it will help you know your dog better.  

 This article was made pawssible by Esther Rebecca.

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