Puppies like to chew pretty much anything and adult dogs like to chew as part of an innate drive to sharpen their teeth. Dogs love to chew plastic bottles because they make an amazing crunching noise. Dogs chewing plastic bottles has become so popular there are now even dog toys specifically made of the same plastic that these bottles are made from to create that same crunching noise. Most dogs chew plastic bottles for the thrill of the chew and sound, but some may actually be chewing because they crave plastic. It is important to make sure your pup is safe as plastic bottles can be a hazard. It is also important to monitor his chewing to make sure he is not chewing because of a behavioral or medical problem. If his chewing is a problem, you can work with your veterinarian and a licensed dog trainer to curb his canines.
The Root of the Behavior
Just as tweens love to flip a plastic bottle, dogs like to play with plastic bottles too. The crunch sound when they chew on them, the way they can be tossed easily across a room or the floor, and that they are so easily accessible all make them a fun dog toy. Plastic bottles can be a great toy for your dog, but it is important to make sure that he is safe. The top needs to be removed, as it can be a choking hazard. The ring that secures the top and remains when you initially open the lid also needs to be removed as it too can be a choking hazard and could cut his mouth or gums. You need to monitor your dog while he is chewing the bottle to ensure he does not puncture the bottle and expose sharp plastic or ingest the plastic. It may be easier and safer to look into the toys on the market that have been created to sound like a plastic bottle but are safer for dogs.
If you notice your dog seems to be only chewing on plastic bottles and seems fixated on destroying the bottle and chewing or eating the plastic, you may have a larger problem on hand. Desiring to consume non-food items is called pica. A dog will eat non-food items for physical or behavioral problems. He may be eating the plastic because his diet is lacking one or more nutrients that it needs. He could also have a digestive disorder, a disease or parasites. A thorough examination by your veterinarian can identify or eliminate a physical problem leading to pica.
Some dogs may chew plastic out of boredom, frustration, anxiety or attention seeking. Without a medical reason for eating plastic, your dog’s behavior will be considered compulsive pica. A compulsive disorder is not something your pet will outgrow and will require the assistance of a trainer. If your dog begins to ingest the plastic from the bottle it is important to seek assistance immediately to stop the behavior. Ingesting plastic can cause intestinal blockage that is painful and expensive. Some plastic could also become toxic to your pet’s digestive system. Plastic can also be painful when vomited or defecated, causing additional problems to your pet.
Encouraging the Behavior
Dogs love to chew, so be sure to give them lots of options. It is important to teach him from the beginning what is and what is not acceptable to chew. Plastic bottles, whether you offer it to him or he digs it out of the recycling, can be a fun option. But it is important to give him many other options so that he does not harm himself or develop a compulsive problem. Hard toys such as the Kong and edible toys such as pig’s ears are great alternatives. If a problem does develop, a trainer can guide you in re-conditioning your dog. Keep lots of hard chew toys on hand and limit his exposure to plastic. Another option is to spray the plastic bottles with a deterrent spray that he will find unpleasant to taste. It may take more than one spray to get the job done, so test each spray first on a towel or tissue. If he scoffs at the scent, then he will not pursue items that smell or taste like it. Spray all items you wish him to stop chewing. Repeat every few weeks to reinforce the behavior.
Paying attention to what your dog chews on, offering him variety and allowing him a lot of time to exercise can go a long way in limiting the chances of him harming himself or developing a disorder. If a dog needs stimulus, he will search for it. A crackling plastic bottle provides stimulation to a lot of his senses. He can become fixated on what he thinks makes him feel better. Some dogs are intense chewers and will chew something until it is shredded and in small pieces. If he has a bottle or manufactured bone, examine it often to make sure small pieces are not coming off that could harm him. Offering variety eliminates his ability to fixate on and destroy one object or type of object. Try to not leave your pet alone for too long a period of time and watch him when you are with him. If you do need to leave him alone and cannot trust him to leave alone non-food items, consider crate training him. He can be crated for up to six hours a day. Make sure to leave him water and plenty of acceptable chew toys.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Breaking a bad habit takes time and patience. It is important to address your pet’s behavioral issue humanely. Because it can be frustrating at times, enlisting the help of a trainer can be beneficial to both you and your pet. Do not show him the damage he has created and yell or spank him. He will not connect the behavior to the punishment. Do not muzzle him or tie the damaged object to him to scare him. None of this works and is unkind. As the owner, it is up to you to identify why your dog is chewing and address those issues rather than on attempting to punish the behavior after the fact.
Dogs love to chew to sharpen their teeth and as a form of stimulation. A plastic bottle makes him happy as it is hard to chew and makes a wonderful crinkle noise when you chomp on it. Limited time with a plastic bottle is fine if the cap and supportive ring are removed and you are there to make sure he does not ingest or break the bottle. Teach your dog from the beginning what is and is not appropriate for chewing. Do not leave him unattended for too long. If his chewing a plastic bottle or other non-food items becomes compulsive and he is ingesting the object, consult with your veterinarian and trainer as soon as possible.