Do's & Don'ts for Chewing Puppies

by Chris Miksen
    The ever-clever pant biter isn't a destroyer of feet or hands but of clothes.

    The ever-clever pant biter isn't a destroyer of feet or hands but of clothes.

    Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    One day you bring your puppy home, and the next you get to show your coworkers your new hand that's made of welts. The joys of puppyhood aren't all about licks to the face and cuddling on the couch. While it's inevitable that your puppy will chew, the way you respond to it will determine how long it goes on and how much destruction that little mouth causes.

    All puppies, small and big, weird and normal, chew. It's not that they want to destroy your belongings, it's just that their baby teeth are falling out and their adult teeth are moving on in. Providing them with plenty of toys that feel good on their teeth, like ribbed chews and rubber bones, directs more of their attention on things they're supposed to be chewing and less on things like your baseboards, toes and fingers. Instead of keeping your puppy's toys in one basket or box, scatter them around every room. This might make it look as though a toddler just ransacked your place, but if your puppy has something to chew on in every room, it's less likely he'll try to destroy you or your furniture.

    Dogs learn by reinforcement. If they do something and are rewarded for it, they're more likely to repeat that behavior. Let's say your puppy darts out of your room with an old slipper. If you laugh it off and play fetch with the slipper or don't dissuade him from chewing on it because it's old and not useful anymore, you're reinforcing his chewing behavior. He gets the idea in his mind that it's OK to chew on slippers and shoes because he was essentially rewarded for taking your slipper.
    If your puppy chews on something he's not supposed to, redirect his attention to a toy. Spray the legs and bases of furniture with a bitter spray. If your puppy enjoys gnawing on human flesh, let out a cry and ignore him for about 30 seconds. Show him that there isn't any fun to be had when puppies bite people.

    Your computer mouse is probably not something you want to find sitting in the middle of your floor all chewed up and broken. The same goes for your blankets, books and your other belongings. Keep them up high or in a closed room. Anything your puppy could possibly reach is something he probably will reach.

    There's no surer way to bring up a fearful, disobedient and difficult dog than by hitting or yelling at him needlessly when he's a puppy. Some people mistake physical discipline and a loud voice for dominance. This type of negative reinforcement may work but it comes at a cost. You don't want your little guy to turn into an oversensitive, unconfident canine. They're much more difficult to train than puppies who are just doing what puppies naturally do.
    Crating your little guy in response to chewing is almost just as bad. You don’t want your pup to fear his crate, and he should never be locked up as punishment. It is acceptable to park his butt in the crate when you leave the house so he doesn't tear up everything you own.

    Keeping your puppy's destructive chewing to a minimum calls for the help of your entire family and any friends who visit. If you let out a yelp when your pup bites your finger but your partner laughs about it and makes it a game, your youngster will be confused. Everyone has to follow the same rules.

    This is in the same vein as not reinforcing bad chewing behaviors, but it's not as obvious. Some owners may think redirecting their puppy from a shoe to a bone is naturally a good response but see no problem with giving their canine a rolled-up newspaper or toilet paper roll to chew on. Stick with puppy toys only. In the future, your little guy can come to understand what's his and what's not, but that's not a battle you want to fight right now.

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    About the Author

    Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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