Puppies and Chewing
Attention teachers: If half your sixth grade class came to school today swearing their dogs ate their homework, well, it could likely be God's honest truth, at least in one or two cases. Puppies are notorious chewers — hence the adage — and they'll nosh on everything from handbags to furniture to theme papers about Tom Sawyer. It's not that they're intentionally trying to anger you. (Though we know you'll likely have to count to ten once you see your Italian briefcase dismembered.) Pups, you see, are simply following Mother Nature's instructions. They're hard-wired to cut their teeth and they need something (or someone) to help them do it. Moreover, they use their mouths as a means to explore their environment, even to reduce tension. Many alleviate boredom this way. Others are just hungry for a snack. So, how do you cope with Mr. Motor Mouth's habits? We've got some ideas.
Keep 'Em Busy
You wouldn't leave a 2-year-old child in a room alone for five hours, and the same rule should apply to puppies. Your furry whippersnapper needs to be stimulated physically and cognitively — often. This means:
- Offering a variety of safe chew toys or treats like puppy biscuits or pig's ears. (Never give puppies chicken bones, as they can fracture and lead to significant damage or death.)
- Providing plenty of exercise, even if that means hiring a dog walker. (You might actually save money in the end when you realize you've preserved your baseball card collection.)
- Thinking up games that get him to use his noggin. (Try a round of "fetch" or hide a treat inside a hollow ball.)
- Attending to his needs quickly so that he doesn't go on a boredom binge.
- Feeding him meals at regular intervals so that he doesn't go looking for dinner.
Teach Your Pup to "Chew Smart"
If chewing is unavoidable, you might as well get him to eat the right stuff. Here's how to do it:
- Praise your fur ball each and every time he chomps on something assigned to him. Reinforce this behaviour on occasion by offering him an edible treat.
- Do not confuse Pup by first offering him an old slipper then heckling him when he eats your mother-in-law's loafers. Puppies are indeed smart, but they can't read labels. Make sure he knows what's his and what's yours.
- Spray a commercial anti-chew solution, a bitter- or hot-tasting spray to goodies you'd like to safeguard. He'll take one bite and avoid them later.
- If he goes after particular objects again and again simply remove them for awhile. Reintroduce them at a later time.
- If an object of affection is too big to hide — a recliner, for instance — then try moving it to a different location in hopes that Pup will latch onto something else.
- Motion-activated alarms sometimes serve as a deterrent.
- Try booby traps. Stack empty soft drink cans around the leg of the chair. The loud noise the cans make when tipped over might be enough to scare your puppy away forever. (A warning: One Poodle we once knew discovered a cache of soda and relished biting holes in the cans then spraying the carbonated beverage all over the living room. Her brother wisely took refuge under the couch.)
Exercise Smart Discipline
- Pups caught in the act should be given a simple verbal reprimand followed by encouragement to chew on an appropriate toy. Practice this: "Chesapeake, no chew!" Then throw your canine a bone. (Or a cleaning rag, if she's really bright.)
What Not to Do
- Verbal reprimands alone can backfire by teaching the pet to be sneaky about chewing or by teaching him not to chew at all — even toys — in your presence.
- Never spank, slap, kick or otherwise physically punish a puppy. Not only is this nasty behaviour on your part, but it could result in your pet becoming hand shy or a fear-biter.
Yes, the chewing thing gets old. But on the upside, you'll be motivated to patent a puppy chewing gum that will make you a billionaire.
PUPPY TRAINING AND BEHAVIOR