This morning I woke up to find that my adorable puppy of 4 months had chewed through half of the side of my favourite armchair. An armchair that cost me more that a months wages back in the day when I was earning good money! Now, I knew that I could not chastise my dog, because he simply would not know what he was being told off for, but I did not want the situation to be repeated again on other parts of my furniture. So I spent the best part of the morning, looking up tips on how to discourage inappropriate chewing, and this is what I have come up with. I hope it is helpful to all you puppy owners who are experiencing the same difficulties as I was.
Is it Normal Behaviour?
The first thing to remember is that chewing is a fairly common problem in young dogs and comes from the fact that puppies love to use their mouths as a means of exploring the world around them. So you should be aware that it is perfectly normal for your puppy to want to chew. The problem arises when your pup turns his chewing behaviour towards inappropriate objects such as your furniture, clothes or even your hands and feet. If you do not stamp out inappropriate chewing then it can lead to wide scale destruction of personal property, medical problems and a break down of the human-animal bond. A puppy typically replace their deciduous teeth at the age of around four to six months of age. As with babies, teething is a painful process and the reason why puppies tend to chew more during this phase is for comfort and to sooth their irritated gums. If you do not correct inappropriate chewing at the puppy stage, it is most likely to turn into a long standing problem even after all the adult teeth emerge and teething ends.
Make sure your pup has no underlying medical problems as this can lead to excessive chewing, long after the teething phase. Are you feeding your pup the correct diet? If your pup has any nutritional deficiencies caused by poor diet and/or intestinal parasitism, this can lead to pica which you can mistake as inappropriate chewing. Stomach problems may cause nausea which again, can trigger chewing as a coping mechanism. If you think your pup is chewing more than normal then take it along to your vets for a check up to rule out any medical problems.
Puppy Proof your home.
Look at your home through a puppies eyes and see just what s/he can manage to grab off high surfaces and window ledges. Also check the floor, many things such as electrical leads are particularly tempting for a pup to chew on, so make sure these are hidden and out of reach. I’ve had to replace 3 computer ‘mouses’ due to my pup wanting to sit near me when I am typing and he loves to chew the wires at the same time! Remove objects that carry your scent and will therefore appeal to your pup, such as shoes and socks, scarves and the like. Block access to rooms that have not been puppy proofed and at night, make sure your pup is confined to just one room until you are sure s/he will not chew excessively.
Encourage appropriate chewing.
It is relatively easy to find chew toys for your pup, you can be sure that any supermarket now provide them as well as pet stores, so make sure you have stocked up. Be warned however, they do get bored with the same ones day after day so replenish the stock every month or so. Try to give toys that have a duel purpose, like nylabones, greenies and dental chewsticks since they encourage appropriate chewing while combating dental disease. Size is important for a growing pup, toys or bones should be big enough for them to pick up and carry around, but not too small so that they can swallow it. And do not give toys that resemble every day items like shoes as they will not know the difference between the toy and the real thing.
Discourage inappropriate chewing.
If you have puppy proofed your home, hopefully there will not be too many things your pup will be able to get his teeth into, but if you do find your dog chewing on something inappropriate, correct the dog by taking the object away and scolding him. Then redirect his attentions to an appropriate chew object and give praise when he chews on the appropriate one. If you do this on a regular basis, your pup will gradually learn over time what objects are his and which are not. If they have already established that a certain item in the house is theirs, and they will not give up chewing it, try a deterrent spray that discourages them by its bitter taste. They also do not like orange peel so you could place pieces of the peel around the area of the item.
Exercise your Dog!
A puppy that continues to chew is probably bored. Are you taking him out enough times during the day to get rid of all his energy? Remember, a tired dog is a good dog! Make sure your dog gets enough exercise and play time by taking him out on a regular basis, at least twice a day for an hours stint each time. If you think this is too much, perhaps you should not have got a dog in the first place. Dogs are reliant on you to provide many things, love, food and water, and to get them out of the house. For them, going out is like reading their daily newspaper, they need to know what is going on in the dog’s world! They do this by sniffing at other dogs’ scent and they definitely need regular exercising. Hopefully by following these tips, inappropriate chewing will become a thing of the past. If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments box below.