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Dear Lisa: I have an 18-month-old Miniature Poodle who not only chews on things but consumes things. So far she has had 2 GI series with barium contrast. She has eaten an acorn, a button, rope dog toy, a three-inch corner of a washcloth and a plastic foot from a gargoyle. This does not include the things she has destroyed. This girl is 16 inches tall at the shoulder and can jump onto kitchen counters, etc. We think we have puppy-proofed the house and still she finds things that get her in trouble.I am concerned that her behavior may have serious consequences. Any suggestions? – Swallowed Whole

Dear Swallowed: This month I got a bunch of questions similar to yours about dogs consuming all sorts of items. Another reader wrote in to say he tried a hot sauce and vinegar mixture brushed on items to prevent his dog from eating things after he had eaten furniture, gloves, magazines and the sprinkler head from an automatic watering system. But all the hot sauce did was encourage the dog to lick the items! I’ve written many columns about dogs chewing things and how to redirect their teething to toys, making a toy box, putting up baby gates around the house, tethering your dog to you with a leash, as well as more training and exercise to expend all that energy which is currently directed towards chewing.

But what I also noticed about all these eating episodes is that the dogs have obviously been left unsupervised! I hope nobody sits around and watches their dog destroy potentially dangerous property knowing it can harm them. I’ve made suggestions to keep the dogs in their crates when away for hours in case your dog gets bored and destructive. I myself have even gone so far as to create a room in my basement that has nothing, and I mean nothing, in it and my dog still managed to rip up floor tiles and chew on molding. It’s impossible to protect them all the time from unauthorized ingestion.

Pet Health Insurance
Short of making sure all items are out or reach, using a crate when supervision is not possible, it might also help to protect your pocketbook with Pet Health Insurance in case something bad does happen. Here’s a list of recent items that dogs swallowed and needed surgery to correct: corncob, chicken bone, string, socks, turkey skewer, old bone, threaded needle, doll head, lobster tail and the ubiquitous rubber ball. Try as we might to keep our pets safe, they are inquisitive creatures and will occasionally swallow things without our knowledge. But if we keep them active, engaged in physical and mental exercises we can reduce their need to seek out unregulated activities.

With Halloween right around the corner I’d like to remind my readers about pet costume safety. So, I’ve updated my column from the archives below:

Dear Lisa: I recently saw some cool Halloween costumes for dogs in a catalog. I want to buy one that looks like a devil but I'm worried my Pug bitch might not like it. Will she tolerate the costume? — “Boo” Hound

Dear Boo: Halloween costumes for dogs may be very cute and adorable but they can be hazardous in terms of safety and the emotional well-being of your dog.

I just got a catalog in the mail and saw all the costumes on page two. There was the devil dog costume you spoke of, the Lil' scarecrow, the angle and the bad dog in a jail outfit complete with ball and chain.

I've always wondered if the dogs really like to wear these potentially embarrassing outfits. However, I don't think the dogs would be embarrassed, and really we do it for our enjoyment. I know many of us think of our dogs as members of the family, so dressing them up and going trick or treating with the kids is pretty commonplace today. But when I was a teenager costumes were rarely used on dogs, once I dress up my Schipperke mixed-breed as Santa Claus complete with white beard for Christmas. So I guess this tradition does go back quiet a ways!

Safety Concerns
If you are going to dress up your pet, my main concern would be the dog's safety. Many times young dogs may chew it up, eating parts of the costume like wires to hold up those angle wings or synthetic fiberfill to make those devil horns stand out. And I can just see a puppy gnawing away on the straw sticking out of the arms of that scarecrow. So if you must dress for Halloween success, I would insist that you always keep your dog supervised when in the costume so she doesn't ingest any parts. Never leave her along in her crate with the costume on either. And limit the time you keep it on her to no more than a half hour.

My other concern might be that your dog is afraid or spooked (ouch!) by wearing one. Some designs might be uncomfortable such as hats, cape or booties with elastic cuffs or bands. If the costume has multiple parts, I would introduce them one at a time, rather than throwing the whole outfit on at once. And once you dog is used to one part, remove it and try another. When she's comfortable walking and running around with all the parts separately, then I would put the ensemble together.

If you are going to a party, watch out other dogs don't tug on necklines or belts that might cause choking or injury to your little girl. Happy Halloween!

Bark Back ~ Reader’s Response

From a reader regarding last month’s column about knowing when to say goodbye:

Dear Lisa: I just read your column from the lady who had the 14 ½-year-old Shih Tzu. I have to tell you about my 16-year-old tiny poodle. She had been in bad health for some time, but one day I had to go out of town for the day, when I came home she was laying on my husband’s lap. She rose up and wanted over on my lap. Her breathing was very labored, and we were thinking we should have her put to sleep. About an hour later my husband took her out to potty, which she did, he brought her in and laid her on my lap and she just gave a big sigh and was gone. It broke my heart and still does. But I knew it was better for her and I was glad she waited till I got home. We have had to put 4 other dogs to sleep and it is so hard. I now have my 5th Poodle and love him just as much but still cry over my little Brandi.

Thanks for your comment. It’s so true that our dogs are never with us long enough.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.

© 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.