This blog post appears on the “Acadia Antlers” website:
Thousands of people bring puppies into their lives every year and if you’re one of them you know that raising puppies can be exasperating as well as joyful. If your puppy is tearing your house up, soiling your carpet, nipping your children, and chewing everything in sight, do you know how to deal with it?
If not, you’re not alone, puppies don’t come with owner manuals…although they should!
It’s a good job they’re so cute! Or would we put up with all the hard work that goes into raising them? It does make you wonder.
It would take a book to cover all the ins and outs of how to raise a puppy and stay sane but one question that gets asked all the time is: “How do I stop my puppy from chewing everything in sight?”
It’s probably one of the hardest things to handle. So let’s do a deep dive into this subject and see just what we need to do to ace this part of the puppy-handling test…
Facts and Tips to Help You Conquer the Craziness…
Why Do Puppies Chew So Much?
The vets over at the Santa Clarita Animal Hospital in California are also asked: “Why does my puppy eat everything in sight?” So they set out to inform us:
“Puppies, like most mammals, are born completely toothless. They begin to get their puppy teeth between two and four weeks of age. A puppy’s mouth contains a total of 28 razor-sharp teeth that stay in place until the age of 12 to 14 weeks. At this point, their adult teeth start coming through.
“Adult dogs have 42 teeth, and all come in by the time they are six months of age. Dealing with puppies during their teething times can be a hassle. The teeth pushing through their gums can cause discomfort which results in your puppy chewing on things to try and alleviate the pain.”
They chew because they can’t help it! They’re in pain and they seek ways to soothe themselves. Just like human babies. Vets don’t want you to be mad at your puppy when they try to eat you or your house up, they want you to understand why they do it, and research ways to help them through this puppy chewing phase of their lives…for their sake AND yours!
How Long Does the Puppy Chewing Stage Last?
The good news is that puppies grow up much faster than we do. The American Kennel Club tells us that when dogs reach six months of age their needle-like puppy teeth should have all been replaced by their adult ones. You’re not out of the woods, but the worst is over!
Between six months and a year, puppies become adolescents and their behavior may reflect that! Adolescent dogs are gifted with increased energy and a dose of willfulness and rebellion! Watch out!
If destructive patterns develop, which can include chewing, understand that this is again something they can’t help. Work with your dog and help him through this difficult time.
Boredom plays a huge factor here so make sure he’s given plenty of exercise, training, and playtime to soak up all that energy. Dog parks and doggie daycares are a good idea.
The majority of early-life chewing will cease once a dog reaches adulthood at about a year old (larger breeds can keep developing until almost two years old). It will still happen but not as intensely. By that time you’ll be a pro at knowing just how to handle it and what to give him if he wants to chew just for the pleasure of it.
So How Do You Handle Puppy Chewing?
Before you even bring your puppy home you should puppy-proof your house and teach your children to keep their items picked up. Remember your puppy has to chew and if you and the kids leave precious things lying around they are open for attack if you’re not watching…and puppies are quick! ALWAYS supervise your puppy or put him in his crate if you can’t.
The chewing stage doesn’t last forever so it’s a small sacrifice to keep everyone happy!
In addition to relieving pain, puppies chew, lick, nibble, and bite things to explore their surroundings. They’re fresh and new to the world and don’t have hands! Using their mouths to investigate their world is natural to them. And just as we teach our children what’s right and wrong to put in our mouths, we must also teach our puppies the same thing.
It’s important not to punish your puppy for chewing. Your job is to help him chew the right things! If accidents happen…were you supervising your puppy? You have to be vigilant!
Redirecting – a Chewing Puppy Has to Learn What’s His and What’s Not!
Every puppy should come to its new home with a crate (see below) and appropriate things to chew on. Whenever your puppy tries to mouth your hand, your kids, or your favorite shoe you should redirect him to something appropriate to munch on. Have lots of puppy toys and chews on hand.
Knowing that your puppy is going to chew, you need to help him determine what’s his and what’s off-limits. This simple act of redirecting is one of the most important things you’ll ever teach him.
And make sure that his toys don’t look like human stuff…dog toys that look like shoes are a no go!
The Yelp Game
When chewing escalates to nipping human flesh, the Yelp game is a great way to teach your puppy about bite inhibition. This process starts when the puppy is with its mom and siblings but needs to be carried on with its new family so that bite control is established from the start.
Kids need to be taught this game especially because they often don’t understand why their cute puppy is biting them. If you make it into a fun game, the kids get to enjoy training their puppy instead of beginning to despise it.
When a puppy is with its siblings it will play all the time. If the games get too rough and one puppy bites another too hard the result will be a yelp from the hurt puppy. That yelp signals to the rough puppy that he’s gone too far and he softens his bite in order for the game to continue.
Ta-da! Bite inhibition! And exactly the same thing should happen in any interaction between puppy and human. As soon as your puppy bites, chews, or nips you too hard you should immediately yelp like a hurt puppy. Your youngster will soon catch on. All he wants to do is play and when you yelp and stop the game he’ll do anything to make it start again…including softening his bite.
Lots of praise when he does that…you want to always reinforce good behavior so it’s repeated.
Crates Are Your Friend
The number one thing anyone needs with a puppy is a crate! For many reasons. Housetraining is one, and providing him a safe place is another. But it’s also essential for crazy chewers and biters! If you’ve puppy-proofed your house, tried redirecting him or playing the Yelp Game when he bites too hard, and he STILL won’t stop…he needs to go in his crate for a little time out!
Puppies are susceptible to zoomies! Times when they have so much energy they don’t know what to do with themselves. During these periods the crate will be your only option. And it’s not cruel. It’s great for him to calm down with a chew toy or antler until he can play nicely again…or stop attacking the furniture!
Crates give you a break, too. You can safely get on with things without worrying what he’ll get into the minute you turn your back.
And talking about turning your back…if there’s a particular table leg your puppy is obsessed with and will gnaw on at any opportunity, another cool tool in your arsenal is the chewing deterrent. Spraying that surface with a bitter-tasting substance can be an excellent way of keeping him off it. You can buy puppy chewing sprays from any pet store but the ingredients might not be the best. This homemade one is excellent.
Help Ease His Pain
Instead of purely “reactive” measures, we can also take some “proactive” ones in the battle against puppy chewing. We know that puppies feel pain during teething, so look at things you can do to help them with this.
Ice cubes and frozen fruits and veggies such as carrots and strawberries can soothe those gums, and these days CBD oil for pets can help tremendously to relieve his pain and calm him down. Vets are not allowed to offer you advice on this so be careful – don’t buy just any old oil from your local gas station. Do your research. Health Food stores are a wealth of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to try it…and it WON’T get your puppy high!
Exercise is Key
Another way to be proactive is to exercise your puppy. A tired puppy is a much-better behaved one! Have no doubt! Those people who don’t give their young ones enough exercise will suffer far more from mischief-making…all that pent-up energy will be spent on more destructive exploits…such as nipping the kids or eating your furniture. Think about it…it’s the same with our children!
Training and Tricks Are Fun and Soooooo Useful
Our last tip today covers training. All puppies should be trained in basic “obedience” to facilitate better communication. Commands such as Sit, Stay, and Come are essential but Leave It and Drop It will make your life so much easier with a chewing puppy.
Sherry Woodard is an animal behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. Best Friends runs the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals. To see her foolproof way to teach Leave It, click here.
Over at the American Kennel Club, professional dog trainer Stephanie Gibeault teaches us how to train Drop It. Click here for that.
Get these two training cues down pat and you’ll feel like the coolest puppy-owner in town! Your little one will be safer, too. Take time to train your puppy, it will pay dividends over and over again…and it’s fun for you and the pup.
All’s Well That Ends Well
To conclude, we’ve learned that puppies have to chew so it’s not so much our job to stop them from doing that…it’s more to teach them what to chew and how to get them to calm down if necessary.
With a few training tricks up our sleeves, we can also prevent them from harm if they take something into their mouths that they shouldn’t or that could harm them.
And always praise your puppy when he does as you ask. This is huge. Don’t forget, this phase doesn’t last forever…phew! Before you know it your little one will be an adult and you’ll wonder where all those puppy months went…and even miss them!