My Pet World: Help for dogs who swallow inanimate objects
We have a 1 1/2-year-old beagle mix that we rescued. We got her around 6 months old. She is adorable, loving and gets along well with our 7-year-old lab pit mix that we also rescued as a pup.
Our problem started when we began crate training her. She ripped everything and anything we put in the crate -- pillows, blankets and towels -- and she sometimes eats it. She's already had bowel surgery to remove a wad of rope from a rope toy she swallowed.
We tried putting nothing in the crate, but she tore things outside of the crate, even if we were home. She is very quiet when doing this, so we don't know what she's done until we find the holes and missing material, stuffing, etc. She rips apart any toy that is not the toughest, strongest rubber. She has eaten pillows, zippers, velcro, shoe laces, tops of shoes and snaps.
Our veterinarian says beagles do this, and that she will outgrow this. We have had huskies, a beagle, and lab pit mix and never experienced this behavior beyond the initial puppy chewing stage. Is there anything we can do? -- Terry, Commack, NY
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Your veterinarian is right that most dogs outgrow chewing and other destructive behaviors around 18-months-old, so you might see a change over the next few weeks.
While dogs sometimes ingest things they chew, swallowing things, like pillows, zippers and rope toys, with the frequency you describe is not an entirely normal behavior either. Dogs also can develop behavioral or psychological problems, which may require medication to treat. Initially, you can try some calming treats, available at pet stores and online, or introduce her to Melatonin, which I mentioned in a recent column, to see if it will relax her. If it doesn't help, don't be afraid to go back to your veterinarian to discuss medication for your dog.
Whether bad habit, end of puppyhood, or psychological problem, she still needs lots of supervision, for now, and corrections when caught chewing inappropriate items. Take away the item, say "no," and give her a hard rubber toy instead. Put peanut butter or other spray treat available at the pet store inside the toy and freeze it. A frozen treat will keep her mind engaged longer.
You also can spray Bitter Apple (available at pet stores or online) on items to discourage chewing, introduce basic obedience training daily to keep her mind busy, and take her on lots of walks, weather permitting, to expend some physical energy.