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Dogs are notorious chewers; they would put their strong, sharp teeth in just about anything if given the opportunity. Well, to be honest, the chewing is not the end of the story – they would also eat the chewed item.
More often than not, dogs chew and eat wood and wood items, like wood sticks, wood bark, wood chips, or sometimes, even your wooden furniture. But why do dogs chew wood? Where does their irresistible urge to nibble on wood comes from? Do they like how it tastes? Could it be dangerous? And ultimately, how can this behavior be prevented?
Simply put, dogs chew wood because they can. Generally speaking, dogs like chewing. Since wood and wooden objects are easily accessible for indoor and outdoor dogs, why not munch on something convenient.
However, there are several specific reasons why dogs chew on wood. We can classify these into two groups: normal (physiological) and pathological.
It is no secret that our canine friends experience and taste the world through their mouths. Consequently, everything they come across is potentially fit to end up in their mouths, and more often than not, that includes wood. Plus, the dog's wild ancestor used to munch on wood bark when other food sources were scarce. The modern dog's urge to do the same may be a remnant of its ancestor's survival technique.
This is particularly true for teething puppies that experience tooth pain and irritating gum inflammations. The wood has an interesting texture that subtly scratches the gums, thus alleviating the teething process's pain.
While playing in the park or the backyard, we often use wood bark and wood sticks to play fetch with our dogs. We throw the wooden object and praise our dog when it retrieves it. By doing this, we indirectly reinforce our dogs to chew on wood because over time; they will start associating the wooden sticks, branches, or barks with play and fun.
A dog with separation anxiety often develops unusual behaviors. Usually, it is keen on engaging in activities with regular patterns. For example, if it starts chewing on your sofa's wooden legs, it will keep doing this every time it feels anxious. Engaging in something known gives comfort and helps cope with separation anxiety.
A bored dog is a creative dog. Well, an innovative and a destructive dog. When there is nothing interesting to do, chewing on food sounds like a fantastic idea. It is fun, the wood texture soothes the gums, and for dogs, the wood tastes not just acceptable, but in fact, extraordinary.
Pica is a health condition in which dogs compulsively eat non-edible items. Those non-edible items may include wood, paper, rocks, plastic, or cloth. A dog with pica may be interested in eating a particular material, such as strictly wood or combining different materials. The underlying problem that triggers this behavior is unknown, but it is believed that nutritional deficiencies might be a contributing factor.
We must admit, watching our dogs doing weird things can be quite entertaining. Let us eliminate the destruction component aside and assume you do not mind having your vintage wooden furniture demolished or your decorative pot flowers used as snacks. Even if you do not mind the destructive component, dogs still should not eat wood.
In fact, chewing and eating wood can be quite dangerous for your dog. Wood and wooden objects are prone to splintering, and the fragmented splinters can cause severe damages.
For example, an inhaled wooden splinter may get stuck in the throat and impair breathing. Alternatively, if it passes the throat and ends up in the lungs, it may cause aspiration pneumonia. A swallowed wooden splinter may perforate the digestive system and cause lethal infection. If a dog eats a larger wood piece instead of a fragment, it may get stuck and cause gastrointestinal obstruction. Unless adequately and promptly addressed by a vet, all mentioned consequences can be life-threatening.
Finally, it should be well-accented that certain wood types are highly toxic to dogs. The most dangerous wood types include black cherry, black walnut, red maple, and yew.
Here are three simple ways of preventing wood chewing and eating in dogs:
Just because our dogs enjoy chewing wooden objects, it does not mean that we should indulge their urge. Chewing on wood can be dangerous even if the dog is supervised while doing so. Prevent your dog from chewing on wood by offering plenty of amusing toys, but protect your home just in case. If your dog is a tenacious dog chewer, do not hesitate to ask for professional help – canine behaviorists can help you get to the bottom of this behavioral issue.