Chewing appears to be an enjoyable behavior for nearly all puppies and many older dogs. In the young pup, healthy development of nervous and muscle tissue, as well as proper teething, depends on vigorous chewing exercise. In animals of all ages chewing is an important part of eating, investigation, and protection from entrapment.
Most puppies are basically a set of teeth with skin, hair, and other appendages attached somewhere behind. These guys play, release tension, eat, defend themselves, and explore the environment with their mouths. You must be prepared to accept the fact that puppy chewing may extend well into the first year of life, and will be directed toward everything within reach.
If you do not want to be faced with a situation such as the one pictured above, it will be important to provide the following:
Supervision and Confinement
The first important principal in preventing chewing problems which is that constant supervision or confinement must be consistently provided until the puppy is older and can be completely trusted. Until that time arrives, it is absolutely essential that the puppy be closely supervised 100% of the time when loose in the house, and when supervision is not possible, the puppy must be confined in a crate or safe area.
Now, let’s talk about supervision. For some owners, supervision means being in the same galaxy with the puppy. Fortunately, most owners realize that they need to at least be home to supervise. Here’s the thing… even being in the same room with a puppy is not the same as constant supervision, especially if the owner is on the phone, watching television, or otherwise engaged. Supervising a puppy means that eyes must be on the puppy at all times.
Puppies move very quickly and the time that it takes to grab something off the stove, or answer the phone is more than enough time for the puppy to eat a favorite book, destroy the couch, or chew into an electric cord.
Be aware of what your puppy is doing at all times. One way to achieve this is to keep the puppy on a leash or a tie out that allows for movement and exploration in an area that has been “puppy proofed.”
When adequate supervision cannot be provided, the puppy must be confined. Confinement areas can include a pen or a crate. Confinement is important when you are not at home, or if you are too busy to attend to the puppy properly. Just be aware that constant confinement teaches your puppy NOTHING, and undermines your relationship.
Acceptable chew toys
An acceptable chew toy is attractive to the puppy, virtually indestructible, safe and dissimilar to other objects around the house that the owner does not want chewed. This immediately removes from consideration such items as old shoes, stuffed toys, flimsy toys, and dad’s old socks. These types of items make it more difficult for the puppy to distinguish between the puppy’s toys and the owner’s things.
The number of toys which are provided is also important. I have found that three toys at a time are adequate. Too many toys at a time give the puppy the false impression that every item in the house is probably one of their toys. At the same time, puppies will sometimes get bored with the same old stuff, so it’s a good idea to switch things up every day or two by swapping toys. If an old favorite goes away for a few days and then suddenly reappears, it’s almost as good as a brand new toy.
It is important that all areas accessible to a puppy are puppy-proofed. Any objects that are dangerous or precious should be kept out of the reach of an exploring puppy. An object that was ignored all last week might suddenly become interesting and exciting next week. So take your puppy proofing seriously.
If the puppy develops a habit of chewing on furniture, wall molding or other objects that can’t be put out of reach, these may be painted with cayenne pepper paste, oil of citronella, or any of a variety of “no chew” products.
Avoid Contributing to the Problem
Besides guiding the puppy’s chewing in the right direction with proper chew toys, and taking measures to prevent mistakes with supervision, confinement, and a puppy-proofed environment, it is also very important that you do nothing to encourage excessive chewing tendencies. Teasing, tug of war games, and corrections given too long AFTER the inappropriate chewing can all contribute to unwanted chewing.
Certain puppies are just more oral than others and this tendency, coupled with stressful situations, can produce tension which may be released by chewing. Some situations which can cause excessive tension in puppies include highly emotional departures and homecomings by the owner, excessive attention from the owner, social isolation, boredom, and delayed feeding time.
For correction to be used effectively, the aversive stimulus must be of an appropriate intensity and given with correct timing. Unfortunately, most dogs are punished too harshly and too late. The correction should be just enough to elicit a response from the dog, but not so strong that a high degree of anxiety is produced.
Timing is very important. The correction must be giving DURING the behavior to be effective. If the delay between behavior and correction is as little as 5 to 10 seconds, the puppy will learn, but the learning will be slow. If the delay is as long as several hours, the puppy will not have a clue as to what the correction was for, and may even attach the correction to a completely different circumstance.
Teaching Self Control
Teaching your puppy some basic commands goes a long way to helping your puppy learn a measure of self-control. These commands could and should include : Sit, Stay, Down, and Come. Of these commands, the Stay command is the most important as it teaches your puppy that you mean what you say when you say it.
Adapted from an article written by Dr. Wayne Hunthausen
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