Hints and Tips for Dealing with a Destructive Chewer

Puppies chew when their teeth are coming in and their gums hurt.

Teenage puppies (8 to 14 months of age) chew because their adult teeth are coming in and because, well, they are teenagers. And for many dogs, if they’re feeling bored or stressed, their release is to chew.

Unfortunately, chewing can cause a great deal of damage. A large dog can strip a sofa of fabric and filling and a small dog can ruin a pair of shoes. Plus, dogs who chew can break teeth and eat items that can cause tremendous harm. So let’s take a look at destructive chewing and what you can do to protect both your dog and your belongings.

Puppies Chew

Young puppies begin losing their baby teeth at about three and a half months of age. Up until then, their teeth are small, fragile, and very sharp. Although puppies don’t have the jaw strength that teenage and adult dogs they can still do some damage because their teeth are so sharp. Puppies also explore the world with their mouth; just like with human babies, everything goes in the mouth.

The goal with puppies is to practice prevention so that they don’t hurt themselves. At the same time, by not allowing the puppy to chew on things you’d prefer he ignore, you can also make sure he doesn’t develop bad habits. If, for example, he never chews on your shoes, he won’t look to your shoes as potential fun.

Restrict your puppy’s freedom in the house so he can’t sneak off to the back bedroom and grab something he shouldn’t. At the same time, make sure the portions of the house where he’s allowed are safe: tuck away cords, pick up the remote, and make sure the kids’ toys are put away.

Pre-Teens and Teenagers

As your puppy grows, he’s going to continue to chew. From four to eight months of age he’ll be considered a pre-teen and from eight to fourteen (or for some dogs, sixteen months) he is a teenager. His teeth will come in from four to five months of age but sometimes the big molars come in up to about eight months of age. During and after teething, a  teenage puppy needs to chew. His gums hurt, his jaws hurt, he will be driven to chew. Keep toys, chews, and treats in front of him that he can chew.

During these stages of development, continue the practices begun during early puppyhood. Restrict his access to areas of the house where he can get into trouble and continue to keep things out of his reach. Don’t be fooled into allowing him more freedom when he’s acting more grown-up; even canine teenagers are still mentally immature.

powerful chewer

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Obedience Training Builds Communication

Although training by itself won’t stop destructive chewing, training does create better communication between the two of you. Increased communication will help you teach your puppy what he can chew on and what is not his.

If you began obedience training with a puppy class or a basic obedience class, continue practicing those skills. If you haven’t done any obedience training and you have a teenage puppy or adult dog, consider enrolling in a class.

You can begin teaching your puppy what is his and what isn’t at any time during puppyhood. Hand him one of his toys and tell him, “Get your toy! Yeah!” Or, “Good toy!” and let him play with the toy. Later, when he picks up something you don’t want him to have, take that away, “No, this is mine.” And then take him to his toy box, “Get your toy!” Then praise him when he has his toy.

Good training practices do not include punishing the dog after damaged items have been discovered. Dragging him to the chewed sofa, shaking your damaged shoe in front of him, hitting, yelling, or other punishments do not work and will not prevent future chewing.

Physical Exercise is Important

Exercise is important for all dogs and can help with destructive behaviors at all ages. Many times dogs get into trouble because they have all this excess energy and they want to do something. If a shoe is available, well, then, that shoe will be chewed. Exercise should be age appropriate, of course. If you have concerns as to how much or what kind of exercise is right for your puppy, teenager, or adult dog, ask your veterinarian for guidance.

Don’t Ignore Destructive Chewing

If your young puppy is chewing destructively on things in the house and outside, don’t ignore the behavior. Destructive chewing is potentially dangerous, expensive, and harmful to your puppy. Plus, contrary to popular opinion, most puppies do not grow out of this behavior. Puppies (and dogs) repeat those actions that are rewarding to them. If the dog has fun chewing, or if the chewing satisfies a need, then he will continue chewing.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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