Inappropriate chewing or mouthing can manifest in a number of different ways, such as play biting, chewing objects, grabbing or ragging on clothes or leads. How you handle the situation can have an effect on whether the behaviour is repeated or escalates; remember, negative attention (shouting, telling the dog off or pushing a dog away), is still attention to a dog.
Why dogs chew
- Relieves stress
- Gives pleasure and comfort (releases endorphins)
- Releases pent up energy
- Alleviates boredom
What to do
The golden rule is: ‘Stay calm and redirect’
- Dogs will pick up on your cues and behaviour, so don’t allow the dog to turn this mouthing or grabbing into a game and don’t get dragged into a game of tug-of-war – redirect your chewer/grabber onto more appropriate items such as a dog toy.
- Teach your dog a ‘Leave’/’Drop’ command.
- Some dogs will enjoy being giving something to carry on walks - this is especially useful for retrievers who like to have something in their mouth.
- Encourage swap games with toys, engage in lots of non-contact play, e.g. Fetch.
- If you wish to play tug games make sure you have boundaries and rules for the game so play does not get out of hand and make sure everyone sticks to this.
- Have an end to the game; you can put in a cue word for your dog so they know the game is over.
- Avoid rough hands on play.
Toys and training
Dogs need to chew so make sure they have appropriate toys such as chews and Kongs. Rotate toys to help prevent them becoming bored.
It is very important to provide both mental and physical simulation for your dog:
- You can do some basic training with your dog and research more advanced training.
- You can work alongside a trainer and do clicker training.
- If you have an active dog, you can take your training as far as you would like, up to agility and doggy dancing.
- Just remember, all training should be fun for both you and your dog.
Your walks with your dog can provide much needed mental and physical simulation – take your dog for different types of walks, it can be great fun discovering new areas together and around the country there are many dog activity trails (see forestry.gov.uk).
You can also play games on walks with your dog, such as tracking games - there are lots of ideas you can research online.