July 5, 2016

When it comes to canine behavioral problems, such as chewing on inappropriate objects, customers will frequently ask pet retailers for help. Those who understand the reasons why dogs chew and can offer viable solutions to their customers can reinforce client loyalty and increase product sales.

Why do dogs chew? Puppies and adolescent dogs are inquisitive, intelligent creatures who will often use a “taste test” to explore interesting items. They want to know: Can I eat this? Does it taste good? Is it fun to chew on?

For many items, the answer will be a resounding yes. This is especially true for teething dogs; however, many dogs simply enjoy chewing. Some will outgrow this behavior, although that might not happen before the dog is 14 to 36 months old. Others will never outgrow the desire to chew things up. The bottom line: Dogs chew and your customers are not going to stop them from doing so.

What your customers can do, however, is get their dogs strongly fixated on chewing the correct items.

What are correct items? Many of the products you sell. As a rule, the products must not have small parts that a dog could choke on. The more durable and long lasting a product is, the better. Of course, it should also be safe in the event a dog consumes part or all of it.

Kong Classics and Puppy rubber toys, Nylabone Durachews, Bionic dog toys from Outward Hound, Zogoflex toys from West Paw Design and Dogzilla toys from Petmate are just a few of the myriad chew/chew-toy products you could recommend to customers.
The best way to help, though, is to do more than simply recommend products. A little instruction on their use will go a long way toward helping solve their dog-chewing challenge.

Firstly, approximately 60 percent of problem chewing that is not based on a medical condition and/or due to a nutritional deficiency can be addressed by strongly fixating the dog on the correct chewing target. To put this another way: if your customers can get their dogs to chew on a toy 50 to 70 percent more than he currently does, he will chew on the wrong things much less. Combine that with encouraging clients to give their dogs consistent periods of exercise and about 80-85 percent of chewing challenges can be eliminated or controlled.

Encourage your customers to handle the chew toys regularly and to make them a focal point of play with their dogs. When they greet their dog, they should hand him the toy. Whenever they leave, they should give the dog his toy. The more a dog learns to fixate on a toy, the less the dog will chew inappropriate items.

Of course, some cases might require a professional dog trainer’s assistance. If a customer tries your suggestions and their dog is still chewing inappropriately, consider referring him/her to a certified dog trainer.

One of the worst cases of problem chewing I ever experienced involved a Great Dane mix. The dog was 11 months old by the time the owners contacted me. He had destroyed something nearly every day and, by the owners’ accounting, had caused roughly $20,000 worth of damage in eight months. The final straw occurred when the owners came home to find the dog had chewed through a door, torn huge holes in a couch, defecated on the floor and was happily asleep on said couch. The treatment program involved two main components: (1) strongly fixating the dog on chewing correct chew toys and (2) exercising at least four times a week. This problem was solved within four weeks. Nothing my client did is out of the range of what knowledgeable pet retailers could offer.

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