There's probably a cosmic reason why a puppy's so darn cute. It may be nature's way of protecting him after he chews your favorite dress shoes. Buddy's annoying chewing and nipping are a natural part of his growth process. With a little effort, everyone can survive the stage, and maybe even learn from it.
Growing Teeth and Growing Pains
A puppy shouldn't leave his litter before 8 weeks of age, which is about the time all of his baby teeth begin to erupt. When you bring your pup home, all 28 deciduous teeth should be visible in his mouth. At 3 months of age, his incisors will begin to fall out to make way for his permanent incisors. Buddy's permanent canines and premolars will begin to push out the baby teeth about a month later. Around 6 months, you'll see his first molars. It's common for a puppy to experience pain and discomfort as his baby teeth fall out and his adult teeth take their place. Chewing helps relieve the pain of teething and also provides comfort from the release of endorphins in his body.
Safe Chewing for Everyone
Providing Buddy with a variety of chew toys will help him through this painful time. Stop at your local pet store or go online to find a variety of appropriate toys for him, ranging from soft rope toys to soft, yet durable Nylabones and Kongs for chewing. Some chew toys use ice to do double duty: They give him something to chew and soothe his gums at the same time. Try putting his chew toys in the freezer; the cold will help his pain. Don't give him your old socks or shoes to chew; this will confuse him and encourage him to raid your closet. The things he's allowed to chew should be distinguishable from untouchable household items. While you're shopping, consider buying some bitter apple or another chewing deterrent spray to discourage chewing things such as electrical cords -- a dangerous temptation. Finally, keep your prized possessions out of Buddy's reach. If it's not possible to keep things away from him, keep him away from them. That means crating him or confining him in a safe place when you can't monitor him.
Nip the Nipping
Nipping and biting has social undercurrents. If Buddy nipped too hard when he played with his litter mates, they ran away, letting him know his bite was too much. If he nursed a little too vigorously on Mom, she probably got up and walked away, sending him a message to tone it down a notch. This is the first feedback your pooch received about the strength of his bite, and it's wise to mimic his first family's behavior. If Buddy bites or nips a little too energetically, don't hit, slap or tap him; he may become hand-shy, cringing when a hand comes near. Other adverse reactions include refusing to come when called because he's afraid of a defensive response -- including an attempt to bite. A tap can be misinterpreted as an invitation to play, getting him more riled up. If Buddy nips inappropriately, say "no" firmly and turn your back on him.
Other Nip Tips
A good puppy training class will help you to learn how to address naughty nips as well as give Buddy a start on learning good behavior and boundaries. In addition to mental stimulation from training, physical stimulation will help redirect his energy in a positive manner. Energetic walks and appropriate play can help reduce some of his mouthy behavior. When you give him a treat, be calm and move the treat toward his mouth; don't use jerky motions that might be interpreted as an invitation to play, which can lead to more nipping behavior.
- PuppyTrainingSolutions.com: How to Stop Puppy Biting and Chewing
- The Humane Society of the United States: Chewing: The Whys and Hows of Stopping a Gnawing Problem
- Dogster: How to Help Your Puppy While He's Teething
- The Humane Society of the United States: Puppy Nipping and Rough Play
- ClickerTraining.com: How to Survive Puppy Teething and Nipping
- SeattleTimes.com: What Dogs Can Safely Chew
- Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images