Young dogs chew for many reasons -- to rub achy gums when teeth are coming in, to alleviate boredom and to soothe themselves. Pups may also mouth your fingers, hands and even your favorite footwear if they get the chance. Understanding your pet’s oral needs will help you provide the right tools and training to deflect all that toothy enthusiasm.
Young dogs learn by tasting, and their first activities include mouthing their mother for milk and nipping at their siblings in play. Your pup may be trying to get your attention with his mouthy behaviors, but it’s your job to stop inappropriate degrees of interaction to establish good habits and manners. According to Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, when your dog starts to bite at or mouth your hand, let out an audible “Yip!” like his siblings or dam might do to let him know it’s not appropriate. Don’t reward biting and avoid extreme mouth-focused play such as tug-of-war. Break off contact with a nipping pup to let him know the behavior won’t be tolerated or rewarded.
Chewing is a good thing for dogs, as it helps ensure good dental hygiene by removing plaque. It also helps baby teeth fall out naturally and makes room for adult teeth. Provide your young dog with age and material-appropriate chew toys so he doesn’t chew on personal or dangerous items. If he starts to gnaw on something inappropriate like a shoe, take it away, say, “No chew!” and replace it with an appropriate chew toy, like a kibble-filled rubber dog chew.
In addition to making sure your pup has plenty of things to chew, dog-proof your house to help him avoid temptation. Put potential chewables -- like books, leather belts and purses and children’s toys -- out of reach. Consider a spray deterrent such as bitter apple to use on objects you can’t hide, like table legs or couch pillows. If necessary, keep your pup tethered to you via leash when he’s in a chewing mood so you can correct and redirect him as soon as he starts to chew.
If you dog continually chews on inappropriate things despite your training efforts, there could be a larger issue at stake, like stress or separation anxiety. A young dog that chews up furniture or carpeting when you’re gone could be lonely, bored or unhappy. Make an effort to start and end your day by taking your dog for a walk or out to play. Visit or check on him during the day if possible or get a dog walker or a neighbor to visit and interact. Don’t yell at or physically discipline your dog, as this could increase his anxiety. If problems persist, see your vet for advice.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.