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A. I recommend some training … for the people in your home. You need to learn to put things away while you manage and redirect your dog’s behavior.
Chewing is normal for dogs. It’s necessary for puppies who are teething, and it's a deeply satisfying behavior for many older dogs as well. Dogs love to chew objects that are heavily impregnated with the scent of human family members. Toys and reading glasses are common targets, and one company that sells replacement remote controls notes that “the dog ate it” is the second most popular reason for replacement after “we lost it.” These objects aren’t the only things dogs will chew, of course, and veterinarians have surgically removed everything from underwear and socks to piles of rocks from dogs.
Just because your dog likes to chew on your stuff doesn't mean it's good for him, though — quite the opposite, in fact.
If you know your dog has swallowed a “foreign body,” as we veterinarians call them, you need to be prepared for a veterinary visit. Many times things “pass” without incident (and yes, you need to check stools), and emerge with little damage to the dog or the object, as in the case of the dog who swallowed diamonds. But if your dog stops eating or starts vomiting, you need to get to a veterinarian right away.
Once there, your veterinarian will likely suggest radiographs. Exploratory surgery may be necessary if an obstruction is suspected, even if it doesn’t show up on an X-ray, as may be the case with cloth objects such as socks or stuffed animals.
No one wants to put a dog through surgery, which is why prevention is a better solution. Get everyone in the habit of putting clothes in hampers, closing bedroom doors and putting eyeglasses and remotes out of reach. When you’re not home to observe him, it’s a good idea to confine your dog to a small, uncluttered part of the house, and give him a special chew object, such as a stuffed Kong.
Use positive reinforcement to teach your dog what he can chew. When he takes an approved object to chew, like the Kong, praise him. If you catch him with something he shouldn’t have, remove it without comment, provide an acceptable chew toy and praise him for chewing on that.
Most dogs will outgrow the need for constant chewing by the age of 2 or so, but will continue to enjoy chewing when you offer safe objects. Here are three rules of thumb for choosing chew toys:
By being careful -- and training your family and your pet -- you will hopefully be able to avoid emergency visits!
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