Thursday, March 15, 2012

Encouraging your dog to chew

Liam the pug posing with his chew toys
Two chew toys are (apparently) better than one.
Like most little dogs, Liam loves to chew. When he's feeling anxious, tired or just plain bored, he grabs a handy chew toy and gets to work. Personally, I love to see him chew. I know it's incredibly good for him.

Little pugs like Liam can develop serious tooth issues. Their muzzles are incredibly compressed, and yet they have all of the teeth that a fully snouted dog would have. As a result, their teeth are incredibly crowded and crooked. Open up Liam's mouth and it looks like he's endured some earthquake beneath his gums. His teeth point every which way. When he chews, he's performing a form of brushing. The toys bump up against his teeth and his gums, removing tartar and stimulating the blood flow to the gums. It's pretty beneficial.

If all of this weren't enough, chewing is an activity Liam can do completely alone. I don't have to throw a ball or hold the other end of a toy for tugging, and he doesn't rely on other cats or dogs to chase him around. He can handle the task on his own. For this reason, I always leave Liam with one or two chew toys when I leave the house. I know he'll entertain himself while I'm away.

Now that you're sold on the idea of chewing, it's time to discuss what in the world you should allow your dog to chew on. 

Some people swear by rawhide chews. I'm not a fan. For starters, rawhide can become gummy pretty quickly, and a dog slobbery pile of rawhide can stain carpets and furniture.

I don't like Greenies, either. I've heard too many stories of dogs who tried to eat bits of Greenies whole, and they choked as a result. Since I like to leave Liam alone with his chew toys, I can't leave him with anything that he can choke on.

Dogs that don't chew now can sometimes be coaxed to pick up the habit with well-filled Kong toys. These toys are basically indestructible, and if you fill them with peanut butter, dogs will chew and lick for hours to get the remnants out. Liam also simply adores these keys made by Nylabone. These sets are made for puppies, but he seems to like their semi-soft consistency. I always keep plenty around the house.

Have great ideas now? I hope so. (And you're welcome!)