Puppies explore the world through their mouths. They often teethe until they are six months old. During this time, they may chew on things that they shouldn’t be chewing – such as that new pair of designer shoes or the electrical cord to the power tool. During this time, it is important to teach your puppy what he can and cannot chew. Here are some tips to help you through your puppy’s teething stage and discourage chewing in older dogs.
Why dogs chew
Human babies enjoy sucking on objects when they have new teeth coming in. Puppies are the same way. They chew on things as a way to make sore gums feel better. However, if they are properly taught to chew on the right objects, they will eventually grow out of this behavior.
Chewing becomes a bigger problem with adult dogs. Improper training as a puppy can be a reason for chewing to continue into adulthood. In addition, dogs also chew when they are bored, fearful, hungry, anxious or eager for attention. If excessive fear or anxiety is the cause, an animal behaviorist may be needed.
How to curb your dog’s chewing behavior
As chewing is instinctive for dogs, the goal needs to be to direct the behavior but not to stop it. It is important to teach your dog early on what is acceptable to chew. Try these tips:
- Keep personal belongings away from your dog – This sometimes boils down to proper housekeeping. Dog-proof the house by keeping movable items off the floor and away from your dog’s reach. Use power cord covers if your dog wants to chew on cords.
- Eliminate confusion – Give your dog items that are meant to be used as dog toys. This means avoid giving him an old sock to chew on. If he finds your favorite pair of socks, he may be inclined to chew on them. How is he to know the difference?
- Provide constant supervision – During your new dog’s first few weeks in his new home, he should be supervised until he learns how to properly behave. While you are supervising him, you can see what objects, if any, he attempts to chew on. While you are in his presence, you can catch him in the act and immediately reprimand him. When supervision is not possible, try restricting him to a certain area of the house.
- Focus on long-lasting toys – KONGs, Greenies and natural bones are great chews for dogs. They entertain dogs for hours, making them less likely to find something unacceptable to chew on. Avoid cooked bones, particularly human leftovers, as these bones can splinter and cause internal damage to a dog.
- Give your dog edible chews – Sometimes dogs want something they can not only chew, but swallow as well. Mix it up by offering your dog chews such as pig ears and rawhide bones.
- Use a chewing deterrent – Sprays such as Bitter Apple and No Chew Spray can be applied to objects that you don’t want your dog to chew. The sprays have bitter or spicy flavors that will make the dog spit out whatever he attempts to chew. The sprays must be re-applied daily for several weeks. Note that this will only temporarily curb your dog’s chewing. A puppy still needs to be properly taught what is acceptable to chew.
- Use a frozen wet washcloth – During the teething stage, your puppy’s mouth will likely be sore. A frozen wet washcloth will feel so good on his teeth and gums. He should be supervised, however, so he does not accidentally tear up the washcloth and swallow it.
- Provide plenty of exercise – If a dog is stimulated and exercised, he will be less likely to turn to chewing out of boredom. Make sure he gets adequate play time and time spent with you and other members of the family.
- Exchange the item for a treat – If you catch your dog chewing on something that he shouldn’t be chewing, offer him a treat instead. This is the perfect opportunity to teach him a new command. You can use something simple such as “Give!” or “Release!”
- Provide a den – Your dog needs a place to call his own as this provides a sense of security and satisfies the denning instinct. This is another reason to purchase a dog crate. It is also a way to prevent destructive chewing when you are not around. Just remember to use proper crate training techniques and not to leave your dog in the crate for too long (more than six hours).
Re-orientating chewing objects
To train a dog to chew on objects of your choice, remove what he has been chewing on and replace it with a nylon bone that is meat scented. Use this bone when playing with your dog. In time, with its combination meat and owner’s scent, this will become the most appealing item to chew on for your dog.
What to avoid
For dogs that chew too much, here are some things to avoid doing so that the problem does not become worse. These include:
- Chasing him – If your dog has a hold of one of your personal belongings, resist the urge to chase him. Instead, teach him to come to you and release the object from his mouth. By chasing him, the dog will think you are playing with and rewarding him.
- Punishing him after the fact – Dogs learn from their wrongdoings when they are scolded right away. Waiting hours or even just a few minutes will do nothing to teach your dog right from wrong. Dogs do not have the ability to associate punishment with unacceptable behavior if the punishment is not done right away. Any punishment most be humane.