Puppies are a lot like human toddlers. They are full of energy and curiosity, which leads them to put many objects in their mouths. Also like human children, your puppy does not understand that this behavior can be dangerous, so it is up to you to keep your pet away from the things that could be harmful until the dog learns what is—and isn’t—an acceptable chew toy. A proactive approach can speed up this process, saving both you and your pet a lot of frustration and disappointment. It can also save you money, since replacing destroyed objects can be rather expensive.
The first step in preventing inappropriate chewing is removing the objects that your dog is most likely to chew. Be sure to puppy-proof your home thoroughly before your new arrival’s homecoming, removing as many temptations as possible from your dog’s reach during this process. Shoes, kids’ toys, and any heirlooms or other small but valuable objects should top this list. It is also important to put these items promptly away after being used in the future.
Of course, not every item that your puppy may chew can simply be transported to another area of your home. Chairs, tables, and other furniture may also entice certain puppies to chew. If this is the case, consider investing in a deterrent spray. These bitter-tasting substances can be purchased at your local pet-supply store. The second your pup places his mouth on an object treated with this spray, he will likely change his mind about chewing it.
REDIRECTING YOUR PUP
Some owners who catch their puppies in the act of chewing an off-limits object make the mistake of giving the item to the pup. After all, when an object has been ruined, the owner no longer has any use for it. By letting a puppy take possession of the item, however, the owner sends the wrong message. Allowing the dog to keep chewing it essentially tells the animal that this is how to turn objects into puppy chew toys. Instead, if you catch your puppy chewing one of your belongings—even if it is beyond repair—interrupt the act at once. Remove the inappropriate item and replace it with one of the puppy’s toys. Praise the dog for relinquishing the object and praise him for accepting the new one.
Puppies should have plenty of chewable toys at their disposal at all times. It is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with the act of chewing; it is only when a pup chews an unacceptable item that the problem arises. You may find that your puppy continues to enjoy chewing even as he moves into adulthood.
AN EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
It is never too early to start training your puppy. Training is a great proactive step for preventing inappropriate chewing altogether. Stop puppy biting, even if it seems harmless, by redirecting your pet’s attention. Allowing a dog to place his teeth on your hand or any other inappropriate object teaches him that this behavior is acceptable.
You should also teach your pup the leave-it and drop-it commands. If you notice your puppy showing a bit too much interest in an object you cannot remove from his grasp, you can use the leave-it command to deter the pup away from that item. Likewise, if your puppy has already picked up an inappropriate object, the drop-it command is useful for getting him to let go of it before any damage is done.
To teach the leave-it command, use one of your puppy’s favorite toys or a dog treat. With your puppy sitting, place the object in front of your pet as you say the words “leave it.” Repeat these words as you move between your pup and the item, effectively blocking your dog’s access to the object. It is essential that you do not allow your dog to take the item. Praise your pup for leaving the object.
To teach the drop-it command, allow your puppy to pick up the object. Then, as you gently remove the toy from his mouth, say the words “drop it.” As soon as your puppy releases the object, offer praise. You may also use edible rewards—and a replacement toy when you are done.
SET YOUR PUPPY UP FOR SUCCESS
One of the easiest ways to keep your dog from chewing things he shouldn’t is by keeping your pet crated—or gated in a completely puppy-proofed room—whenever you leave your home. Crating helps keep dogs from resorting to unacceptable behaviors when they are bored or lonely. When you place your puppy in this enclosure, give your pet a safe toy, such as a pig ear, to encourage appropriate chewing. Having a special treat during crated time can also help your dog connect the crate to something positive.
Finally, remember that a tired dog is less likely to engage in inappropriate behaviors. Make sure your puppy is getting plenty of exercise each day. A brisk walk or an invigorating play session will increase the chances of your pup’s taking a nap instead of looking for trouble. A well-exercised puppy is often the best-behaved puppy.