My Dog Chews my Stuff

I shouldn't leave anything where she can reach it

Published: July 16, 2018
Zita chewed up my hearing aid because I fell asleep and left it on the end table. Photo by Phyllis DeGioia.

My dog persists in chewing my stuff. At six, she's not a puppy, and she's not a brat, but Zita does enjoy a good chew. She has hard toys to chew on, dental chews, soft toys to play with, attention and kisses, and usually has enough exercise. 

When she arrived here, she was about one year of age, and she chewed a ton of stuff, some of which was expensive. For me, that means she chewed shoes. (Yes, go ahead and call me Imelda.) 

So if Zita gets her sharp little dog teeth on a pair of shoes I dearly love, a ball point pen that she dearly loves, or one of my hearing aids, whose fault is it?

What? Speak up, I can't hear you.

Exactly. It's mine. It's not her fault. If I don't want her to potentially chew my expensive hearing aid that costs big $$$$ to replace, I shouldn't have left it where she could reach it. Doesn't matter if it was late at night (or technically, very early in the morning) and I practically sleepwalked to bed. I left it within her reach because I didn't want to stop watching a movie long enough to put it away, and then fell asleep on the couch. It's a good thing she didn't swallow the battery because there is a scary risk that the alkaline or acidic material could be released and provide some nasty corrosive injuries - even the little disc type that is used in hearing aids. Notice that Zita left a tooth mark on the battery.

Her fleece blanket, which a friend gave her about five years ago, has been covered with saliva while she gently chomps and chews it to the point where it could walk upright by itself despite a hundred washings in hot water, but it doesn't have one tiny hole in it. Nope, not one. That's her blankie and she has 24/7 access. 

But that's her stuff, not my stuff. Her toys are in a box in the living room to which she has easy access. My stuff is far more appealing.

She grabs every pen I leave on an end table, takes it to her crate where she takes all her treasures, and gnaws on it — and yes, it's entirely my fault she chews those things. She takes my empty smoothie cups from lunch to her crate and pre-rinses them for me, destroying only the tall ones.

It's too embarrassing to talk about my Zita brand of crotchless underwear, so let's not.

Why does she chew? Because she likes to. Maybe it's more likely that she's playing, hasn't had enough exercise for the past few days, or she's bored with urban life while watching me work on my laptop all day. Some dogs chew because they are experiencing separation anxiety  or are simply anxious about life. Zita was about one when she came here, but that doesn't excuse my handing her destruction opportunities on a platter like flutes of champagne.

To be fair, chewing is a natural behavior. Dogs need to be able to pursue normal, natural dog behaviors in a safe way that is acceptable to the folks they live with. To that end, each dog should have toys or treats designed for chewing. (Remember that dogs can choke on bitten-off pieces of rawhide, so those are only for when you're around to supervise.)

Also, there are many things Zita doesn't chew that other dogs go for: drapes, carpeting, rocks, socks, leather, jewelry. Isn't a $500 Coach bag basically a huge rawhide with Cracker Jack prizes inside? Thankfully, she has never needed medical intervention for anything she's eaten. 

For every dog who regularly chews or ingests something odd, there is some potential for pica, a condition in which a pet chews abnormal and indigestible things, such as wool or drapes. Pica might be related to a nutritional imbalance, diseases in which normal metabolism is altered, or a behavioral disorder. For some dogs, this is the basis of their chewing, not Lazy Owneritis. 

I could be active in ways other than picking up, which is probably all it would take for her. The basic methods to prevent mastication devastation are to keep your puppy or adult dog busy, prevent access to things that you don't want damaged, and provide your pet with acceptable things to chew. You can train your dog to bring to you something fun she has found to chew so that you can exchange it for something even better. (Yes, those chewed up $200 Ugg shoes are mine and the hole in the heel is hers; that was the second pair of Uggs she killed. She's never touched the $30 Costco brand pair.) For dogs or airline passengers, there's nothing like an upgrade you don't have to pay for.

For many of us, though, just tidying up and putting things away is all that's needed. I'm fairly certain, given the repetitive nature of treasures she chooses to steal for chewing, that this is Zita's case. I need to change more than Zita does; she's just taking advantage.

If you can leave your things out around your dog without worry — as I have been able to with my other dogs — or you are a neat and tidy person for whom this would never be a problem, I envy you. You might want to be on the lookout for a box with airholes.*


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