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Ask Nancy: Help My Puppy is Chewing EVERYTHING!

March 22, 2010

All pups go through a chewing stage. How you handle it determines how bad it is, how many household items get impacted, and how your dog chooses chew items for life.

Many people start noticing destructive chewing around 12 weeks though it can begin earlier. At 12 weeks this is still a baby puppy and with babies it takes lots and lots of repetitions before they understand what you are teaching them.

Dogs do not generalize ideas well, so if you say ‘no you may not chew my shoe’ the dog may hear no you may not chew my shoe when its in this room, or when I’m in the room, or no you cannot chew that left shoe from this pair of shoes etc. It doesn’t hear the ‘no’ as being ‘all the time and everywhere’ or ‘all shoes’ so you have to keep working on it until the pup really understands. If they slip up then you have to repeat the training efforts. They are not being ‘bad’ but rather as the movie line goes ‘what we have here is a failure to communicate’ and it’s up to you to help the pup learn.

At 4 months pups start teething and then they really need to chew. In addition they explore the world in part with their mouths so chewing everything is a part of the way pups are and pits and pit mixes are particularly good at chewing and Labradors are notorious chewers as they were bred to want to hold things in their mouths (retrievers do that).

With my last pup, my husband lost 3 remote TV controls before he learned not to leave them within reach of the puppy.

For chewing things one part will be prevention and that includes picking up anything you love and don’t want her to chew. Training yourself and your family can be difficult but its worth working on.With my last pup, my husband lost 3 remote TV controls before he learned not to leave them within reach of the puppy.Some wise people put all precious items or expensive rugs away while working on training a pup. For some reason the fringe on the most expensive Oriental rug is always what tastes best! So out of reach with the valued items is safest.

Pups also tend to chew on the last thing you were touching because they love you and it smells like you because you touched it. A cell phone, eyeglasses or remote control matches that description pretty well.

What I have found works really well to change chewing habits is a combination of things to help the puppy learn what is a chew item and what is not.

Sooner or later you will find the pup chewing something he or she should not. When you take away something you do not want puppy to chew or take the pup away from the item it is typical that you tell her NO without any physical pain such as is caused by hitting and that is part one that comes naturally to we humans.

The part that is hard to remember is to immediately give the puppy an approved chew item and praise the pup for having it. So you do both ‘no not that’ and ‘yes you can chew this’.

You must remember that NO is only half of the training and YES is the other half.

Once the pup is busy with an approved chew you then quietly go back to the item the pup should not have chewed and spray it with a product such as Bitter Apple, Sour Grapes, or McNasty etc so if the pup goes back to it, the spot will taste just awful reminding your pup that it is not a good thing to chew.

Another hard thing to remember that helps a puppy a lot is when you see the pup chewing an approved chew toy randomly go over and praise and maybe even play with your pup for having it, tossing it for her to chase for example. So now you are associating chewing an approved chew item with fun. Telling the puppy when it’s chewing on the right thing really helps the puppy’s learning curve a lot.

It’s also a good time to practice taking a toy away and giving it back along with extra praise or maybe even a treat for handing over the chew item.

When you cannot supervise your pup in the house either confine the pup to a puppy proofed space, or a safe dog crate, with a safe chew item to keep the puppy busy. This is the same principle moms use with kids – put the kid (or puppy) in a safe place so nothing bad goes wrong while you are not watching them.

People vary in what they see as a safe chew item with some in favor of bones including raw or smoked bones, squeaky toys, rawhides, pig ears, treat stuffed Kong toys, chew hooves, rope bones, Nylabones etc. You must make sure the chew item is too large to swallow or break big chunks off of that might cause a choking hazard.

Just when you think the chewing of teething is over you discover that at 8 months pups really need to chew, in part because its good exercise, and dogs this age need lots of exercise, and in part because those nice new adult teeth are settling into the jaw and they ache making chewing feel really good.

Channeling the chewing to approved items only is the best solution I’ve found

Channeling the chewing to approved items only is the best solution I’ve found for this natural behavior, along with increasing the pup’s daily one on one exercise time with you which can include longer walks and games of fetch.

So working with your pup on chewing only the right things is going to be a challenge, but one most puppy owners can easily manage if they remember to include praise for right behavior as well as discouraging incorrect behavior.

Note:

If your pup is also putting teeth on you here are two articles on bite inhibition to help you train your pup to never do that

http://www.phsspca.org/training/puppy_biting.htm

http://www.jersey.net/~mountaindog/berner1/bitestop.htm

When I do this instead of ‘ouch’ I used a high pitched Yipe! sound similar to what a dog makes as the pups really seem to understand that well. So far it’s worked great!

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