Long Lasting Chew Projects:
Chewing is a very natural, hard-wired behavior in canines. While it is true that chewing activity often peaks with young dogs and puppies - especially when they are teething - long lasting chew projects can and should be offered as enrichment to dogs throughout their lives. Every dog is an individual, and some adult dogs have a stronger desire than others to work on chewing projects, but if you find the items your dog enjoys for chewing, it is a satisfying enrichment opportunity that helps meet their behavioral needs throughout their lives. Remember, consistently finding ways to meet your dog's behavioral needs and give them opportunities to "act like a dog" makes for a calmer, more relaxed, and more fulfilled dog who is much less likely to exhibit undesirable behaviors.
PLEASE NOTE: The chew item suggestions listed below are all personal recommendations based on what I have used for my own dogs and other clients' dogs with great success, and at the recommendation and approval of my own veterinarian.
You should never feed cooked bones to your dog. I have had great experiences with giving weight-bearing, large, raw bones as recreational chews. I have also had great experiences using the harder, more durable chews listed below to allow my dogs to exhibit natural dog behavior and hard chewing. I personally feel they can be a good form of enrichment for many dogs, and they allow dogs to exhibit species appropriate behavior on the appropriate item (i.e. satisfying their urge to chew with the bone, not by chewing your belongings).
You will, however, hear differing opinions on providing hard chewing items, and there is always an inherent risk of a dog injuring or chipping a tooth. For me, the behavioral benefits of providing long-lasting chew projects for dogs outweighs the risk, and as such I choose chewing items carefully and supervise closely when appropriate.
That being said, I am not a veterinarian, and I have encountered differing opinions from veterinarians on the merits and safety of giving raw marrow and knuckle bones and other hard recreational chews. Please speak to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.
Long Lasting Inedible Chewing Options:
In addition to the feeder toys we discussed in other Week of Enrichment posts, and in addition to the edible chew options provided below, I encourage you to also provide your dog with plenty of his own durable and inedible chew toys. Pay attention to the types of toys that keep him chewing for long periods of time (ideally really getting into the chew using his back teeth) and continue to offer those on a regular basis - around the house, in crates, in the yard, etc.
"But my dog has SO many chew toys and he ignores them!"
I hear so often from people who tell me they have countless chew toys for their dog, but the dog "ignores them all." Here are a few tips and tricks:
It’s ideal to introduce something new or rotate your dog’s chew toys every couple of days so that he doesn’t get bored with the same old toys. So for example, in my house we probably have a dozen various durable/ non-edible chew toy items. I typically only have four or so of them out and available to the dogs at any given time; the others are put away in a closet of out of reach of the dogs, and I bring them out and rotate the toys every few days.
If you are using Nylabone chew toys, you can soak the Nylabone in beef or chicken broth for twenty minutes and then give it to your dog. Soaking it in the broth adds extra smell, flavor, and interest, and will usually peak the dog's interest enough to get them chewing. Often times they will continue chewing even after the smell and flavor fades because they become invested in the chew project.
You can also foster some interest in chew toy that has gone unchewed for some time by doing a toy swap and allowing a friend or family member's dog to borrow the chew toy for a few days, then give it back to your dog. The toy will be "pre-chewed" by the other dog, which means new grooves, ridges, and smells which can then actually make the toy a lot more appealing to your own dog.
Here are some of my favorite durable non-edible chew toy options for dogs who love to chew:
Long(ish) Lasting Edible Chewing Options:
In summary, in my behavior work with clients and with my own dogs, routinely giving dogs long lasting chewing toys and projects has a tremendous effect on their overall behavioral health. With proper outlets for natural behaviors like hard chewing, I see a significant reduction in destructive and anxiety-related behaviors.
Happy chewing! Stop back tomorrow for Day Six of our Week of Enrichment!