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The Dorothy diaries or: How I learned to stop worrying and love my dog

02/22/2021 06:00AM | 69 views

By Joanna Gale


Episode 1: I call them shoes, Dorothy calls them chews

There’s a definite whiff of hot dog sausage in the air. It’s no surprise, as I’m currently getting through about a packet a week, trying to stop Dorothy destroying our home and its contents as she indulges in one of her favourite hobbies: chewing.

It shouldn’t come as a shock. She’s a dog - a Labrador at that - and she’s almost exactly a year old. That’s equivalent to the teenage phase for dogs, and teenagers aren’t exactly known for always obeying the rules and keeping the house tidy. Dot has embraced dog teenager-hood with real enthusiasm.

The casualties of the “chew-a-thon” so far are a brown leather shoe, a welly boot, two slippers (a pair, luckily, so at least the chew-holes match), a wooden dog bed, a soft dog bed, two teddy bears and an apparently “indestructible” dog-toy. I’m purposely not counting the numerous plastic flower pots, horse grooming brushes and bucket handles as they happened outside. My dog, my rules.

Chewing is a common issue with puppies and young dogs. It’s normal for dogs to chew, and it’s a natural behaviour which they need to be able to express. Whether it's to ease the discomfort of teething, boredom or just curiosity, there’s no denying that dogs explore the world using their mouth. Chewed shoes and furniture can be frustrating and upsetting, but it’s basically our dogs’ way of telling us we didn’t provide enough safe and interesting things for them to chew on. That knowledge was cold comfort, however, when I was picking up chunks of dog bed from across the room.


There are many sad tales right now of “lockdown puppies” being re-sold or relinquished to pet shelters as owners find they cannot cope with their dog’s behaviour. Destructive behaviour like chewing can be at the top of the list of dog owners’ struggles and I fully empathise with that as I survey the latest damage done by Dot’s enthusiastic endeavours. But I know that dogs chew – I’ve had many puppies and dogs over the years – and I have a few things I remind myself to help me through:

 

  • Destructive chewing is usually a phase, seen in puppies and young adult dogs. Most dogs become less inclined to chew inappropriate things as they get older 
  • Chewing is normal and expected and it’s my job as Dot’s owner to make sure she has ways to do this that don’t involve damaging household items
  • Dogs are lovely and well worth the inconvenience of a few teeth marks in the furniture 

 

So, where do the hot-dog sausages come in? I’ve found the best ways to occupy Dot and keep those jaws and teeth safely wrapped around things I’m not too attached to, is to use activity type dog toys with a central compartment for putting snacks and treats in. I choose ones which are tough but rubbery – anything too hard risks a broken tooth. The rubbery type are great as she really gets her jaws around them and gives them a proper gnawing. It’s so satisfying to see her carrying out these normal doggy behaviours which are essential for her wellbeing, and knowing I don’t have to clear up the remnants of a favourite shoe or child’s beloved toy.


Dog chew toys need to be tough enough not to be torn into pieces which could be swallowed, and not too small, otherwise they can be swallowed whole or get stuck in the throat. I’ve found a few which fit the bill and keep Dot (and our older dog, Maggie) occupied for quite a while. I’ve experimented with putting their regular kibble inside, which works really well except they’re just a bit too good at emptying them out at high speed! That’s when I tried the hot dog sausage. I use a large piece, too long to fall easily out of the hole in the toy, plus a few smaller pieces which are easier to get out and give them the incentive to keep working for the yummy big piece!

I’m well aware that hot dog sausages aren’t formulated for dogs, and if I feed too many of them I risk unbalancing the nutrition provided by their expertly designed dog food (as well as adding inches to their waistlines!) so they only get a small amount each day, but if I do it right they get a lot of fun and activity out of a fairly small snack.

Maggie will soon be 12 years of age and we’ve had her in our lives since she was 8 weeks old so I’ve weathered this storm before, and no doubt will again if we ever welcome more pups into our family. I’ve learned not to get too attached to any of my belongings whilst we have a doggy teenager in our home, but maybe - with enough hot dog sausage - we might just survive with our pet-owner bond intact.

In the midst of a COVID-19 lockdown, who needs shoes anyway?

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