Many people think of chewing as “just a puppy thing” but the fact is, canines in the wild spend quite a bit of time every day chewing on bones, in order to extract every last calorie and mineral they need. Our dogs have a ready food supply, so they don’t have to spend every spare moment in pursuit of every last nutrient, but the chewing behavior is hard-wired in them, anyway. Encouraging the chewing habit by providing a steady supply of appropriate chew items can promote a dog’s mental and emotional health.
Chewing also helps keep the teeth and gums clean and strong, and encourages the flow of cleansing, antibacterial saliva through the dog’s mouth.
Pups who are given the private space and leisure time to chew on a raw, meaty bone or food-stuffed toys will quickly develop the habit of spending time by themselves, chewing contentedly – and are less likely to develop separation distress or anxiety.
When pups are raised from the earliest age with ample opportunity to chew on raw meaty bones, most learn to take their time and chew in a casual manner, without damaging their teeth or bolting down over-large bone fragments. There are always outliers, however – dogs who, despite being raised with a ready supply of raw meaty bones, chew so aggressively that they are in danger of breaking teeth or swallowing dangerous chunks of bone. (The behavior is far more common, though, in dogs who were denied the pleasure of bones early in life.) If your dog is an aggressive chewer or greedily bolts any fragment of bone he can break off, he should be given a safer alternative to bones, such as a food-stuffed rubber toy. This will allow him to experience the zoned-out bliss of chewing and licking bits of food out of a safe facsimile of his hereditary chew item.
For more on chewing, see these other WDJ stories:
“Choosing the Right Chew for Your Dog,” May 2003
“Take Control of Puppy Chewing,” March 2016
“How to Stop Your Dog from Chewing All Your Shoes,” May 2009