Does chewing provide enrichment for dogs?
Yes, Absolutely. Chewing is an instinctive behavior for dogs. It requires focus, concentration, and problem-solving skills. Chewing provides sensory enrichment with the smell and feel of the chew toy and is a natural stress relief flooding their brains with feel-good endorphins.
Focus and Concentration
Watch a dog chewing a bone or chew toy. There is real concentration involved and there is not much that can distract them from the task at hand. The act of chewing helps release pent-up mental energy. Mental exercise can tire a dog as much as physical activity.
Chewing is a natural instinctive behavior for a dog. They don’t need to be taught to do this. Some dogs are enthusiastic chewers while others seem to have less interest in the activity. It is good to encourage a dog that is less interested in chewing to do it more for the enrichment, mental health, and oral care benefits.
Adaptive intelligence is a dog’s ability to solve problems and work things out for itself. Watch as a dog works at a chew toy or bone. It will attack the project from different angles figuring out the best way to hold the bone and what part and angle to work away at.
Sensory enrichment is any activity that engages a dog’s senses. When a puppy is born its eyes and ears are closed. They explore the world using their sense of smell and using their mouths.
Dogs have relatively few taste buds compared to humans. The pleasure of eating or chewing is not so much taste as smell and texture.
Chewing gives your dog a task or job to do. It provides an excellent way to relieve boredom and is ideal for when they are home alone. If they are bored all the time when left alone they will often channel that desire to relieve boredom in less constructive ways.
A chew toy or bone will entertain them for hours and keep their mind stimulated.
Dogs can hold a lot of tension in their jaws. This is also true of humans and is why some people grind their teeth when stressed. Chewing helps release this tension.
Chewing also floods a dog’s brain with endorphins giving them a calm and feel-good vibe.
The Three Chewing Styles
These dogs are gentle on toys and usually prefer softer plush toys. They don’t normally destroy their toys. However, it is a good idea to encourage this type of chewer to use chew toys.
These dogs like all types of toys but don’t tear everything up like a power chewer. They may be destructive with soft toys but rarely destroy harder chew toys.
These dogs are powerful and determined chewers. You need to provide chew toys or bones that are extremely tough. There are chew toys available that claim to be nearly indestructible. With a power chewer, there is no such thing.
Chew toy training
Given the many mental stimulation and enrichment benefits plus the dental health benefits of chewing it is a good idea to encourage your dog to engage in appropriate chewing. This will help dogs that chew stuff they shouldn’t only chew their chew toys or bones.
Make sure you only give your dog uncooked bones. Cooked bones can easily splinter and be a choking hazard.
For dogs that are less interested in chewing there are ways to train them to do so. You can use a dental chew toy that has ridges to add something like peanut butter to make it more appealing. Alternatively, you can rough up a chew toy with a file or sandpaper to create grooves.
Licking also provides many of the benefits of chewing by providing sensory enrichment, relieving boredom, and providing a flood of feel-good endorphins to the brain. You will often see a dog that is bored licking its paws sometimes to the point of licking them raw.
A lick mat is a great way to encourage licking if chewing is just not their thing.
Is chewing good for a dog’s mental health?
Yes, chewing is excellent for a dog’s mental health. It not only helps to relieve boredom but also gives them a task to do. Chewing helps release the tension many dogs hold in their jaw and floods their brain with feel-good endorphins.
Does chewing help dogs with anxiety?
Chewing does help a dog relieve mild anxiety and stress. An anxious dog will often chew its paws sometimes drawing blood or being involved in destructive chewing of shoes or furniture. They are doing this to help relieve stress.
The chewing action releases endorphins to the dog’s brain making them calm and even providing pain relief.