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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20395
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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Why would my dog after 10 years suddenly start chewing

Customer Question

Why would my dog after 10 years suddenly start chewing everything, like remote controls and the wire off a lamp? We have moved house 2 months ago and we put it down to him being frustrated when we go to work but I'm not so sure as he does it when we are in the house. Please can you advise?
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 7 months ago.

Hi JaCustomer,

Welcome to Just Answer. My name is Jane. I have been involved professionally with dogs in the healthcare and behavioral fields for over 20 years. I’ve worked as a Vet Assistant and Behaviorist and have extensive experience in dog reproduction, as a breeder, for even longer than that.. Canine behavioral issues and training are also my specialties. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

This could be a few different things. The most likely cause is dental issues. Puppies chew everything because they are teething and the chewing helps relieve the discomfort of the teeth coming through the gums. Dogs instinctively chew when they have mouth discomfort. Given your dogs age and small breed, it would be very common for him to have dental issues.

Check your dog’s mouth for tartar on the teeth, possibly red gums, darkened teeth, broken teeth or something caught between the teeth or gums. Additionally, an oral exam by the Vet can rule this out. Buffered aspirin can be given to a dog with a dosage of up to 5-10 mg per pound every 12 hours for pain if a tooth is the issue.. Keep in mind that a dog's body does not metabolize aspirin in the same way as a human and thus should not be given more than a day or two without contacting your Vet. The aspirin may need to clear your dog’s system before other medications can be given, so keep that in mind if you decide to give aspirin and be sure and tell your vet when your dog is seen. Read side effects and precautions here.

Now the other possibility is that your dog is starting with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) which is like human alzheimers. There is a wonderful site that explains it well and also explains how to document your dog's behavior and discuss it with your vet. Often a dog will revert to behaviors they had as pups like chewing. Other symptoms are a break in house training, being found in odd places like behind doors or furniture and even barking at people he should know.

The good news is that if there is a problem there is a drug called L-Selegeline (Anipryl (R)) which has been recently approved for use in the clinical indication of cognitive dysfunction (CDS) in dogs. Read this site for other drug choices.

Please see this site for more information and other causes that may exhibit the same symptoms.

I would go ahead and schedule an appointment with your vet to have a dental checkup done on him especially if the aspirin seems to help curb his chewing a bit. You might also try a kong with treat compartment. You fill the compartment with peanut butter that does not contain xylitol or with yogurt and then freeze it. Give it to your dog when it is frozen and this usually takes a dog several hours to lick and chew the contents out of the kong. This will help save your household items.

You need to prevent chewing on cords as he can electrocute himself. Even if he seems fine, it can cause problems with his heart. One trick is to run them through pvc pipe.

If you have any further questions concerning this matter or need clarification, please done hesitate to respond. At the conclusion of our correspondence, your 5-star rating will be most appreciated, as this will enable me to continue to send quality answers to additional clients and receive recognition from the website for my assistance.

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 6 months ago.
Hi Again, I just thought I'd check in to see how things are going for you and your dog. I strive to provide the best answer possible. Did you find my answer helpful?.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Hi Jane we took Tommy to the vets. Firstly his teeth are fine and secondly they do not think he has CDS. The vet thinks it is all based around us moving house. We were advised to use a plug in which has had no effect on him whatsoever. We are at a loss as what to do with him.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 6 months ago.

Did they do a full dental with x-rays? It really doesn't make sense. In my experience 80% of the time it is dental and the rest of the time it is related to CDS. Now dogs experiencing separation anxiety can develop some destructive behavior but usually this only happens when the owner is gone.

Now there are some things you can do to help prevent chewing of electric cords such as running them through a piece of pvc pipe. Chewing electric cords can cause electrocution which may damage the heart and cause burns to the mucous membranes in the mouth. For specific areas of the house that you want him to stay out of when you are gone, you can use an indoor fence system. They are pretty reasonable online. He'll learn pretty quickly that when he has his collar on, he can not be in that area.

Of course, the quickest way to stop the behavior when you are gone and the safest way is to crate him when you are gone. I know you probably don't relish the idea at his age, but the ingestion of foreign object can lead to obstructions and as I pointed out, electrocution if he chews a live wire. When you are home, keep him on a longish leash attached to your belt loop so he is with you the whole time. When he goes to chew an inappropriate object , give a short tug and a firm low toned "NO" and give him the frozen kong toy. I'd get a few so you can rotate them. He should learn what items are acceptable and which are not. If he likes tiny hot dog slivers, then you might go ahead and keep some of those handy so when he chews appropriate items you can reward the behavior. You can only correct behavior when you are around unless you use the indoor fence system or crating to limit where he goes.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
The vet thinks it is separation anxiety. He only chews things and howls when we are not there. This has only happened since we moved house in Oct.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 6 months ago.

Oh. In your original post you indicated that he did it when you were home as well. Here is the quote. "We have moved house 2 months ago and we put it down to him being frustrated when we go to work but I'm not so sure as he does it when we are in the house. "

If it is ONLY when you are gone then it would be separation anxiety. Let me know if the original post was wrong as you now indicate.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
My apologies he doesn't do it when we are in the house.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 6 months ago.

Of course our answers are only as good as the information we have. Let me go over ways to help with separation anxiety.

First thing is to take your dog for a nice long walk before you leave, preferably 30 minutes or long. Make it a long, quick paced walk to tire your boy out. Tired dogs will tend to sleep when you are gone. Keep your routine as stable as possible to reduce anxiety.

Second is to use a low-key approach to leaving the house. Ignore your dog before you leave and after you come home for at least 5 minutes or more. If your house is like mine in the morning everyone is running around getting ready to leave. This has the dog in an excited mood and then suddenly he is alone. If this is the case, put him away from everyone, say in a bathroom or crate until the frenzy is over.

Don't punish or shout at your dog when you come home and find he’s howled the whole time or been destructive. When you do, you increase his stress level rather than reduce it.

You can provide him with small stimulating toys or toys that you can fill with treats. Kongs are very good as you can fill them with the yogurt or peanut butter as I mentioned before. Sometimes leaving a TV or radio on can help a dog with this problem as well. Now one thing that seems to work for many of my clients is to tape the sound of you taking a bath or shower and play that back on a loop when you are gone. Those familiar sounds of activities he is not allowed in the room for can help them deal with you being gone. Also remember to not reward a dog's excitement to you with petting and affection or even eye contact. You want to show him nice calm praise when he is being calm.

The best way is to crate him. This prevents injury to the apartment and protects him as well. Another thing that might help is a DAP collar. I know you tried the plug in but that doesn't move with the dog. The collar will remain with him and might help. Plugs in often will only help when the dog is right near the plug in. See one here:

Practice putting him in the crate, leaving the house, opening the door immediately and rewarding him with a hot dog treat if he did not scratch, bite and carry one. This teaches him that you leave but come back quickly. Once he seems to not do anything when you initially leave, lengthen the time he must be quet for you to come back in. Change the time as well. Make it 2 minutes one time and 10 mintues another, so he never knows if you are gone for an hour or gone for 2 minutes. It helps him stay calm for longer periods of time, just be sure you reward him when he is good.

Another thing that helps is to do things that might make the dog feel you are leaving and then don't such as putting on your coat or picking up your keys. Or leave without doing those things. This helps remove things that might trigger the dog to become anxious.

These should help his separation anxiety and boredom and help curb his howling. It will not be an overnight cure and will take work on your and your family’s part to be consistent in your interaction with him. Here is a site that also offers idea to combat separation anxiety.

There are many other methods available such as citronella spray collarrs and shock bark collars that will stop excessive barking and howling. It won't help the chewing but will help with the noise aspect of it. .

Another option is medication, which is discussed on this site:

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 6 months ago.

Hi Again,

I just thought I'd check in to see how things are going for you and your dog. I strive to provide the best answer possible. Did you find my answer helpful?.