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Dog’s bad chewing habit can be dangerous

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

It seems that some dogs like rocks, sticks, dirt, as well as plastic and chew toys, which they devour in a few minutes. One friend says her dog has eaten and dug holes in her couch and she keeps it just as the dog’s biggest toy.

It depends on the dog’s age when it starts chewing and eating odd inedible things. If the animal is under a year old, it is possible that this eating disorder is just the end of teething. However, the owner needs to be aware that the dog can form a habit that is difficult to break and which may eventually kill —  think of splinters in the esophagus and stomach from eating tree branches, unless the activity is corrected.

The name for this disorder is pica. On checking two of the known authorities on dog behavior, William E. Campbell and Dr. Louis L. Vine, D.V.M., pica is a craving for unnatural food substitutes such as what is listed above and including clothing, golf balls, rubber balls, watches, razor blades and even the grillwork from a car – the latter was found inside a St. Bernard.

Both of the above authorities feel that pica is a neurotic response usually caused by excessive tensions in the dog’s family life or its environment.

A dog left all day to while away the hours before its owners return from work and the children arrive from school, will get bored and lonely unless it has had some stimulating exercise with a family member before everyone’s departure. For an active breed, a two- to four-mile run, or the equivalent in chasing a ball or Frisbee, with a little obedience training thrown in, tires the animal and gives it something to think about before taking a long nap.

Sometimes dogs that eat inedible objects need to be confined on a concrete floor which prevents the animal from having access to the desired indigestible items. Even then the animal must be supplied with toys to entertain itself until the family returns.  

There are several possible chew toys on the market that will take more than a few minutes for the dog in question to devour. Cow hooves are available in pet stores. I used to buy the largest I could find and they usually had the ankle attached. They hold up well to both chewing and burying. Another favorite is smoked or plain sterilized beef bones, stuffed or not. Then there is the “Almost Indestructible Ball” which is 10 inches in diameter and designed for “hard chewers.”  

Finally there are a number of toys you can fill with dog kibble. The dog spends time figuring how to get the kibble out.

For a dog left alone all day, even if it starts the day with sufficient exercise and quality time with a family member, classical music has a calming effect. Maybe setting a timer to turn on a recorder will entertain the dog until everyone returns and it is play and training time again.