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Training Essential #5: Appropriate Chewing
Chewing is a great release of energy where appropriate. Dogs explore the world with their mouths (as we do with our hands), teaching them at a young age what, where, and when to chew will relieve a lot of heartache later in life. Just as with house breaking, if your pup chews something she is not supposed to, ITS YOUR FAULT. Any items that should not be chewed (either for preference or safety) should be stored away somewhere your dog cannot get them. It might seem like the last thing in the world your puppy would “want” to chew on, but all the smells in the world are new to them and they really enjoy investigating them.
Rule #1: They can’t tell the difference between a Childs toys and their own.
First off, you should never leave your child and puppy unattended together. Never. Ever. Accidents can and do happen (in both directions) and the easiest way to be a responsible parent to both is to separate them (e.g. crate training) when you aren’t supervising.
If you have small children, and a new puppy– Bravo!– balancing what is the Childs toy and what is the pups toy is difficult for the both of them. Just as you wouldn’t want your child chewing on the dogs bone (ew!), you don’t want your pup chewing the Childs toys– not only are they more expensive, but they are also very dangerous. If possible have a separate play area for the child where the dog is not allowed to go. Use baby gates or dutch doors to establish boundaries between baby and puppy areas. Later, once the dog is obedient and trained, you can remove these barriers as a new training exercise to establish invisible boundaries.
Rule #2: Understanding Why They Chew
Puppies, just like humans, have deciduous (baby/puppy) teeth and permanent teeth. This means they go through teething phases just like a baby. This puppy teething timeline from The Spruce shows what they are going through physically in the teething process. Between 8 and 12 weeks you will experience a very chewy phase. They will need soft toys at first and then hard toys later to soothe the aches of the teething process. If you have ever had a sinus infection and your teeth hurt, this is similar to the pain of teething puppies. After their all their adult teeth have come in, you will likely start to see a pattern in the types of toys they like be it balls, bones, stuffed, Kongs, squeakers and ropes, or they may like them all.
Adult dogs still like to chew for fun and you will eventually learn what types of toys they enjoy. It took me 10 years to figure out that my dog liked stuffed toys, only without a squeaker, so now I buy them and remove the squeaker and she keeps them forever. For your dog it could be as simple as a stick.
To encourage appropriate chewing, make sure there is a large selection and variety of toys available. My house generally looks like a daycare playroom full of different types of toys.
Rule #3: Inappropriate Chewing Solutions
If you catch your pup chewing on something it shouldn’t be, you should not scold them. Remember you are supposed to be directing their behavior. Instead of scolding simply re-direct their behavior with a “this-not-that” approach. You should approach your pup in a playful manner with a new toy (remember they would rather interact with you AND a toy than just a toy) and once they are interested in the new toy give it to them and take away the object they shouldn’t be chewing on. You should never take away an object from your dog without providing them with an item of higher value. Value to a dog is subjective, so if you go to re-direct them with a toy and it doesn’t work, it isn’t valuable enough to them, simply try a different toy until the dog accepts it. Then remove the object and PUT IT AWAY!
If you simply take things away from the dog without providing something in return, this can lead to resource guarding which can be very dangerous and a much larger problem to correct and re-train.