Is your puppy chewing everything in sight? Hands. Feet. Pants. Shoes. Laces. Their Crate. Will it ever end?
To survive the puppy chewing phase, you’re going to need a lot of patience, a little practice and these top tips for prevention.
This combination will be your best bet to prevent your puppy chewing problems from escalating, or continuing into adulthood.
Puppy chewing is a common issue faced by most owners, so you definitely aren’t alone. To protect your house (and your hands) from these sharp little teeth, first let's try to understand the basics.
Why do puppies chew?
Here are the main factors driving those little gnashers:
Curiosity - Dogs interact with the world through their mouths, and puppies are very keen to get to know this new world!
Teething - Just like human babies, new teeth mean sore gums. Chewing helps pups feel more comfortable and relieves some of this painful pressure.
Strength - Puppies also chew to begin to strengthen those powerful jaw muscles. This drive helps to keep their mouths functioning and healthy into adulthood and beyond.
Play - Chewing and biting are natural play behaviors for dogs. Through engaging in this way, puppies learn cause and effect. What’s acceptable and what’s reciprocated in different social contexts.
Boredom - Sometimes, chewing is a response to boredom, as mouthing stimulates puppies physically and mentally. It can also sometimes get them attention from humans…!
So, it’s important to understand that chewing is a natural and healthy behavior for puppies, and older dogs, to engage in. Cutting it out completely isn’t your goal. But there are ways to survive the puppy chewing phase, and keep your possessions intact, while you wait for maturity (and training) to kick in.
Managing Puppy Chewing
As is often the case, prevention can be the best cure. For puppy chewing, this is definitely true. A new puppy does not yet know what objects are ok to chew, and what are mommy’s special shoes never to be touched! So your first line of defense is to manage your pup’s environment.
Proofing - It’s a good idea to move chewable objects up high or out of your puppy’s reach.
Playpen - When you are not able to watch your furry little pal, you should aim to keep them in an area which is anti-chew. Either in a playpen or leashed to something secure.
Puppy chewing spray - Making items unattractive to your puppy is another option, such as commercially available puppy sprays that use naturally repellent smells.
2. ‘Yes’ Places
It’s vital to provide your puppy with plenty of appropriate things for them to chew on. As well as keeping them occupied, this allows your little buddy to exhibit natural, healthy behaviors and let off some excess steam.
Many owners choose puppy chewing toys or a puppy chewing bone, and you can get recommendations from your vet on what they think works best. The following are popular with many puppy owners:
Pig or cow ears
A stuffed Kong (frozen works well for sore gums!)
Top tip - be sure to rotate these chewing objects, so that they stay exciting and absorbing for your pup.
As much as we try, our puppies will always manage to get their paws on something they aren’t supposed to. That’s basically a puppy’s job, right?
Generally, it’s wise to not to get mad with your pup if you find them chewing an inappropriate object. Firstly, because their drive is so strong that they really can’t help it. Secondly, this could lead to further behavioral issues - like hiding or guarding objects.
The best way to deal with an ‘oops’ moment is with redirection. Gain your puppy's attention, either with exciting noises, a toy or some treats. Better yet, engage them with their chew toy of choice, teaching them that this is the place they are supposed to bite on.
Make these chewable objects super fun, by playing a little tug of war or rewarding your pup with treats for chewing there.
Again, it’s best not to take the inappropriate object directly from your puppy. Take it out of reach once they are fully absorbed elsewhere, to avoid resource guarding in the future.
4. ‘Leave It’ Training
Building a ‘leave’ or ‘drop’ command into your puppy training is going to really help you with inappropriate chewing in the long term.
Start by holding out your hand with a treat and close your hand. The moment your pup leaves it alone, reward with the treat.
Repeat this until your pup has really got the hang of it, and start adding the command in too.
Timing is key here, try to anticipate your dog’s next move and reward quickly when your dog backs off.
Don't progress to harder levels (like an open hand or treats on the floor) until your puppy has this first stage down to a fine art.
Top tip - The puppy equation for leave it = reward ≥ the thing. In other words, leaving fun stuff is really hard for puppies, so make sure your rewards are at least as valuable or more valuable than the thing you want them to leave.
While there is no overnight fix for puppy biting, with consistency on these 4 key areas, you WILL survive the puppy chewing phase. Stay positive and proactive, we promise we have all been there too!
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