Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Don’t swallow that!

Dogs naturally want to chew and shred things. It’s ingrained in them.
Domestic dogs are not chewing on animal carcasses to feed themselves though, as they their predecessors in the wild do.
Instead, they’re chewing on plastic bones, squeaky toys, stuffed animals and rubber balls. The stuff is not edible.
Sharp pieces of plastic can puncture the dog’s insides. Squeaky toys can get stuck in the stomach, creating a blockage. Stuffed animal stuffing and rubber balls can do the same.
Worse, a dog that is used to eating things may go for non-toy items.
A co-worker of mine spent thousands of dollars in the emergency room after her golden ate a pair of pantyhose.
I think the pantyhose and sock ordeal is a pretty common one for dog owners. Unfortunately, these habits are as dangerous to your wallet as they are to your dog’s life.
Items like that can twist and knot as they travel through your dog’s intestines. Inevitably, they’ll create a blockage.
Blockages are life-threatening. If waste can’t come out the rear, it’s got to come out somewhere. As the toxic bile spills in reverse through your dog’s body, it can do some major damage.
If the dog cannot pass the thing he swallowed, surgery is the only answer. It’s usually not something that waits for a routine visit either, and we all know how much more the emergency room costs.
Brent and I wanted Sensi trained to chew things up, but not swallow them. I felt that allowing him to chew, rip and shred was important. He is a dog, and these behaviors are natural to him.
Plus, we wanted to be sure he knew that toys he could chew on, but furniture, shoes and other things he could not. As a puppy, when he reached for something that was not a toy, we told him no and gave him a toy instead. That worked quite nicely.
When we found out that Sensi was severely allergic to beef products, it became even more handy that he knew not to swallow items. We had to take all real bones and rawhides away from him and replace them with fake ones. He knows not to eat the plastic pieces he scrapes off the fake bones, and we’re thankful for that.
It’s easiest to condition these behaviors when the dog is a puppy, but it certainly can be done with a dog of any age. The trick is to be watchful, diligent and consistent.

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