In our Adopter’s Guide series, we’re helping you tackle every challenge puppy owners face so you can spend more time loving your pup and less time training her.
Today in our Adopter’s Guide series, you’ll learn to prevent and correct destructive chewing.
Chewing is a natural and normal dog behavior. And it’s good: it provides them with entertainment and cleans their teeth.
But there’s no doubt chewing can also be negative — many puppy owners know this, having reached for their best shoes at some point only to discover that they’re pocked with teeth marks.
To protect your belongings from damage, it’s important to establish chewing boundaries with your pup. We’re here to help you do that.
Things You’ll Need
Before you begin, there are some things you might like to have on hand.
- Chew toys: plushies, squeaky toys, tug-of-war ropes, or whatever your puppy likes!
- Rawhide bones: entertainment that will not only last for hours but will also clean your dog’s teeth.
- Treats: a perfect form of encouragement.
- Leash: a way to keep tabs on your pooch.
Now, let’s move on to the how-to of chewing prevention.
1. Keep things out of reach
There’s no telling what your puppy will find interesting enough to put in her mouth. So make sure she doesn’t have access to things you don’t want chewed.
Tuck shoes into shelves. Keep garbage cans covered. Ensure your kids pick up their toys. Stack papers out of reach (yes, believe it or not, “the dog ate my homework” is not just a classic excuse for turning up to school empty-handed!).
Be especially careful to put away small items, as they can present a choking hazard.
2. Watch her closely
Let’s face it: you can’t keep everything out of your puppy’s reach. Chewing on furniture is not unheard of, and you may not have enough shelf space to hike up all your belongings.
The solution? Supervision, and lots of it. Hook her to a leash so she stays with you at all times, or follow her around. Don’t let her wander off until you know you can trust her.
If you have to work during the day, consider keeping her in a roomy kennel or small, puppy-proofed room for up to six hours, stocking it with food, water, and toys. Just make sure to balance this out with lots of love and attention when you get home!
3. Provide lots of appropriate things to chew
Again, chewing is perfectly okay when it’s channeled correctly. Your puppy just needs to know what’s acceptable and what’s off limits.
Teach her by providing lots of things she can chew, like plushies, tennis balls, plastic squeaky toys, and rawhide bones. A KONG® toy is an excellent choice, as you can stuff it with treats. Your dog will be motivated to gnaw at it for long stretches of time.
One extra thing: if your pup is about six or seven months old, she may be teething. During this stage, puppies commonly chew to relieve the pain of their adult chompers coming in. Cold things are a great way to help. Offer her an ice cube to chew on, or run a rope toy under the faucet and stick it in the freezer for a bit.
4. Keep her busy
Idle paws are the devil’s foothold. That is, if your pup doesn’t get enough entertainment, she may go looking for it and get into trouble.
Counter this by keeping her active! In accordance with your dog’s health, breed, and age, go for lots of walks, play fetch, and interact with her. By staying occupied, your puppy won’t have a chance to chew things.
5. Correct Behavior the Right Way
It takes time for puppies to learn what’s fine for chewing and what’s not. Chances are good they’ll at least try chewing something they shouldn’t. When this happens, your reaction matters.
If you catch your puppy in the act, respond with a gentle but firm “No.” Take the object from her mouth and replace it with something she can chew, like a bone or a toy. If she takes the acceptable object, dole out plenty of praise to reinforce the behavior.
If your puppy takes off with the object in tow, do not chase her, or you’ll quickly find yourself trapped in a game of chase you never wanted to play. Instead, say “give,” bribe her with a treat, and snatch up the object once she has dropped it. This will teach her chewing boundaries, sure, but it will also teach her to drop an object on command, an important skill for her to know.
Keep in mind that you only have a short window of time to correct your puppy’s behavior, and that’s in the moment she is misbehaving. This is because dogs are very present-minded and won’t connect the dots between “chewed-up pillow” and “angry human” minutes or hours after the deed has been done.
So if you catch her after the fact, let it go and resolve to keep an even closer eye on her to prevent it from happening again.
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.
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