The first step to stopping any behavior is to understand why the behavior is taking place. Puppies chew for three main reasons: they are teething, they are bored, and they don’t know any better. If you have raised any type of baby creature (no matter whether they had four legs or two), you know that it is very painful to bring in new teeth, and that bringing in new teeth is a required process of development.
One of the best ways to soothe the pain is to chew on something to help the new tooth work its way through the gum tissue. For our human children, we often use teething rings that have been stuck into the freezer for a time to chill the painful, inflamed gums. For our dogs, the same philosophy applies. A wet frozen rag can make a great teether for your puppy. As the ice on the rag melts, however, it can make a wet mess, so this activity is best reserved for outdoors or on a linoleum floor that can be easily dried.
To combat boredom-based chewing, you must provide your dog with other ways to engage his brain. If you have a working breed, get your puppy involved in the types of activities for which he or she was bred. For example, if you have a herder, give him something to corral so he feels useful. All dogs appreciate and need the challenge presented by basic obedience training.
Spend time with your dog at the park, on the beach, or even with frequent grooming so he doesn’t have time to become bored. Remember that a dog generally sleeps up to 20 hours a day, so if you can keep him or her occupied for the other four hours, you can keep the dog from ever becoming bored.
Some toys, such as those made by Aspen Pet Products, or by Kong (available from Best Friends General Store) are made so that you can hide treats inside. They challenge your dog to use his or her brain to release the treat, providing the mental stimulation they crave.
The last consideration for chewing is that your puppy simply doesn’t know any better. Teach the puppy what you think is appropriate for chewing by replacing whatever he or she grabs with a designated chew toy. Say “No!” sharply when you take away your tennis shoes or your daughter’s stuffed toy. When you hand the dog a bone or a chew toy, praise her lavishly if she takes it in her mouth.
Spend a few minutes playing with the dog using the toy – your personal attention is about the best gift for any dog. Keep appropriate chew toys scattered around any area in your house where your puppy might go so you always have something to trade for when the dog grabs something she shouldn’t have.
No matter why your puppy chews, you must remember that your number one job is to keep your dog safe. If you will not be with your new puppy, you must crate him or her to keep the dog from chewing things like electric cords, plants, or cleaning chemical bottles that could cause irreversible harm to the puppy’s developing body.
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