By J. E. Davidson
Young puppies are like small children: curious about the new world around them and eager to explore. They use their sense of taste just as children use their hands (and sometimes mouths!). Chewing also aids puppies’ teething just as babies chew on whatever they can get into their mouths when cutting teeth. New puppy owners know they can quickly shred your new sneakers, turn the toilet tissue roll into confetti, or make short work of the children’s toys. It is up to you as the owner to teach your new puppy what is acceptable to chew on and what is off limits.
Puppies need protection from household dangers. They don’t know that chewing on electrical cords, poisonous plants, or household cleaning products is hazardous behavior. Until your puppy has learned acceptable chewing behavior, never leave him unattended. A crate is the safest place for him when you are away from home or too busy to keep him under observation.
When you catch the puppy chewing on an unacceptable object is the time to correct him. Showing him the ripped-up book after the deed is done will not teach him anything and punishment will only confuse him because he won’t understand what he has done wrong. Remove the object from the puppy’s mouth with a loud “NO” command, and give him his own toy or a crunchy biscuit to chew on. With consistent training he will learn what is his to chew on and what is to be left alone.
If the puppy resists giving you the object, don’t turn it into a game of tug-of-war or chase after him. This is fun to him! Quietly approach him and give him a light squeeze at the sides of the mouth near his back teeth to make him release the object if he won’t let go willingly. If he still hangs on, distract him with a light tap on the nose or clap your hands loudly. Once you get the object from him, replace it with his own toy.
Dogs often have chewing preferences; some like hard chews and others prefer to chew on soft surfaces. Buy a few toys with different textures and see what he prefers. Never give the puppy and old shoe or sock to play with. They don’t know the difference between old and new and this will only encourage him to chew on unacceptable objects. Your children’s toys will tempt him, too, but let him have one and he’ll think they’re all fair game.
For puppies who habitually chew on certain objects, you may consider using Bitter Apple spray to discourage chewing. Spray the Bitter Apple on the object itself, never in the puppy’s mouth or face. Some dog trainers use the spray this way to correct misbehavior, but this is not an acceptable or effective training measure. Drawbacks to the spray are that some puppies actually like the taste, and it wears off after a day or two.
Puppies who continue to chew on forbidden objects, even with proper training, may need to be checked by a veterinarian. Pica, the condition of chewing on non-food objects, may signal that the puppy is suffering nausea and trying to deal with it.
Some dogs become territorial and aggressive when playing with a toy, and training them to release objects while they are young may keep someone from being bitten later. When you remove an object from his mouth teaching the command to “drop it” will save trouble as he grows. Always give him immediate praise when he obeys a command. Praise training will boost your dog’s self esteem and self-confidence.
Puppies can be stubborn and destructive, but with proper training your new puppy can become a pleasure to have around and a faithful companion.