Dogs need something to do. And they’ll find something to do. Our job as pet parents is to give them something constructive to focus on when we’re not home so that they don’t take out the kitchen cabinets, like one Lab belonging to an acquaintance. That dog chewed up the lower cabinets so badly that they had to be replaced. Then she chewed them up a second time.
We hear stories all the time about dogs who, in their need to work off excess energy, wreak havoc on their homes. Boxers, Australian Shepherds, terriers and other high-energy or high-intelligence dogs seem most prone to destructive chewing.
This is how many dogs end up at the shelter. But they’re only doing what they instinctively need to do. Some dogs need to be busier than others. Some need to chew a lot while others don’t seem to need it once they’re grown. All puppies and young dogs need to chew.
Using a crate and giving the dog something to chew while in the crate can help not only housetrain the dog, but also teach her to focus her natural chewing desire on approved items. Providing a chew while the dog is in the crate helps the dog associate the crate with something good, and mos dogs will look forward to crate time if given this type of activity.
There are plenty of toys on the market for keeping dogs busy and occupied when they’re home alone. In fact, we’ve created a department on FunStuffForDogs.com called “Home Alone” to offer a collection of these toys. But one of the least expensive and most effective chew toys I’ve seen (and I use it myself) is a natural bone. You can get them at any pet store. Get a straight bone, not a knuckle bone. They usually have a little bit of marrow inside, which the dog cleans out fairly quickly. After that, you can reuse it over and over for years, filling it with spray cheese, peanut butter, kibble, Cheerios or any combination. You can put them through the dishwasher if your dog doesn’t get everything out. After six years, I’ve only replaced mine once for my two large dogs.
And here’s a tip. Don’t leave the bone out all the time. Give it to your dog in a confined area such as a crate when you leave home. When you return, pick it up and don’t give it back to your dog until you leave again. That way, it stays special in your dog’s eyes. She looks forward to having it. And besides, when you’re home, she’s playing with you and doesn’t need a bone to keep her busy, right?