Curbing Your Puppy’s Bad Habit
Most pet parents find themselves dealing with a bit of challenge when they bring home a new puppy. Their wonderful dog is slowly and, in some cases, systematically chewing them out of house and home.
In the 30 years I have been working as a professional dog trainer, I have seen cases of chewing that defy belief.
I have seen dogs that chewed through doors to get into a house just so they could chew an entire sofa! One dog actually deflated his owner’s car tire. If this wasn’t amazing enough, the guilty culprit was a 15-pound Dachshund although admittedly it took her two days to accomplish this task.
While some of the more egregious stories are at times amusing (usually after the fact), chewing can be a serious issue for dogs and the people who love them. Many people give their dogs up when they can’t stop this behavior and still others find their pets with serious medical conditions as a result of chewing various inedible objects.
It is for these reasons that responsible pet parents need to learn some basic ways to address their puppy’s chewing habit. When dealing with any behavior the first and most important thing is understand the cause:
Puppies usually chew for several reasons. Your dog is an intelligent inquisitive being. She is going to want to explore and test new environments. In this regard she isn’t that different than a small child, except she doesn’t have hands! So most everything interesting is going to be smelled and then tasted. This normal, albeit, exasperating explorative period can last from seven weeks to more than a year, although it tends to slow with age.
Young dogs also start teething at about four to six months of age and chew to relieve the discomfort. This teething period is usually over in a few months; however, by then some dogs have learned to like chewing. This is based on numerous factors including breed, environment and individual temperament.
Break Your Puppy’s Chewing Habit
Think of it this way. Would you let your two year old have full unsupervised run of your house? Hopefully no one reading this answered yes. So why would you give your puppy that much freedom?
Manage the free time by making sure she is only allowed access to your home when you are there to re-direct her to chewing the right types of things. Start by simply keeping the dog in the same room as you and continuously focusing her on chewing the correct items.
Understand that you are not going to stop most puppies from chewing. The key is to teach the dog to chew on the right things.
Use Chew-Safe Toys to Divert Bad Behavior
Correct items for your puppy to chew on include products such as the Kong. Put some peanut butter or similar food product inside the Kong. Many dogs will spend hours trying to get it out.
Nylabone is another brand that makes a hard plastic bone-shaped toy that is safe for most dogs; however, according to VPI Pet Insurance’s in-house veterinary staff, there have been cases where an adult dog’s teeth have been broken while chewing on Nylabone products. Ask your veterinarian about your dog’s dental health prior to buying such an item to be on the safe side.
Pet stores also sell a variety of toys specifically for teething puppies, some made by the Kong brand and others by Nylabone. Make sure that your puppy is not eating any of the rubber pieces that may be chewed off these toys during teething or playtime.
Training tip: Take the chew toy and soak it in beef or chicken broth for an hour a day. Then make it a point to play with the dog and her bone every chance you can. When you greet your puppy, give her the chew-safe toy. When she is chewing something she shouldn’t, distract her away from it and give her the toy again. Praise her whenever you see her chewing the toy and over time you will find that she spends more of her chewing time on it. The more she chews the right things the less she will chew the wrong ones.
Exercise Positive Behavior
Make sure your puppy gets adequate exercise. This should be on both a physical and mental level. By physical I mean nice walks and non-aggressive play with you. Mental exercise can be accomplished with interactive play toys. These are products that involve some sort of problem-solving with a reward.
For example, consider a toy that when manipulated in a certain fashion drops a treat on the floor for the dog. Most dogs will spend hours trying to get the treats out of the toy. Hours playing like this mean fewer hours eating your shoes or sofa.
Unless your veterinarian says otherwise, make sure your dog has a good crunchy kibble as part of their diet. Many dogs on a strictly soft food diet are more inclined to chew.
Understand that you are not going to stop most puppies from chewing. The key is to teach the dog to chew on the right things and to manage the amount of freedom the dog has until she has learned to behave safely.
All of these simple yet effective methods will along with a healthy dose of patience, allow you to address this behavior in a positive and loving fashion.
Steve Appelbaum trained professionally for 30 years and is the president of Animal Behavior College, where animal lovers nationwide learn how to become professional dog trainers, veterinary assistants and groomers.