Maltese chewing everthing

2. My six year old Shih Tzu/Maltese has recently started chewing blankets and pillows. This started about a week and a half ago. Prior to this, this has never beeb a problem. My sister passed away couple days before this happened. We didn't live together and my dog saw her a couple times a month at most for the last six years. So, I doubt it's because she's suddenly gone. Could the chewing be caused by anxiety she's has by sensing my family's grief? If this is possible, what can I do to ease her anxiety? I don't want her to be anxious but I also can't have her chewing up everything. Any information or suggestions would be amazing and thank you in advance.

Dogs can be very “in tune” to what is going on within the family and can sense stress or grief. Sometimes this grief can cause them anxiety. Your dog’s sudden change in behavior (chewing on blankets and pillows) may be a manifestation of this stress. It could also be a coincidence.

In order to figure out why she is chewing, I recommend having your veterinarian examine her before embarking on any behavioral modification. Sometimes dogs can change their chewing habits when they are experiencing oral pain or discomfort. Small breeds like Shih Tzus and Maltese very commonly experience dental disease in their middle age. Your veterinarian can perform an exam and determine if this is part of the issue. He or she can also provide recommendations for behavioral modification.

I encourage you to take a look at what has changed in your household since your sister passed away. Sure, you and your family may be “blue” or “sad” but have your habits changed? Are you spending less time with her since she passed away (maybe you are very busy with funeral/estate decisions)? Has your schedule changed?  Things like this can cause anxiety in pets.

A few things to try, in order to prevent chewing:

  • Provide plenty of other outlets for chewing, such as soft toys similar to pillows (stuffed animals are a good option) and tasty treats. If you are away from home more than you used to be due to this family tragedy, provide a Kong treat filled with her dry food and capped with a little peanut butter. She can focus on chewing on this while you are gone instead of on the pillows.
  • Avoidance. Remove all pillows and blankets so she can’t chew on them – especially if this happens while you are not home. You can even restrict her to an area of the house where she cannot be destructive and provide “appropriate” chewing items as mentioned above.

 After you see her veterinarian and take these measures – things may change. Keep in mind that it is always a good idea to involve a trusted dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. Also, as your life “goes back to normal” – she may as well. Good luck!