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We've all been there -- you go into your closet, pull out your favorite pair of shoes and suddenly you notice that they've been torn to pieces. Who's to blame? The new puppy, of course.
Here are some guidelines to keep your puppy’s chewing behavior under control:
1. Be attentive. Much like you would with a human baby, always keep an eye on your puppy to protect him from his own curiosity and lack of experience.
2. Contain the situation. If you have to leave your puppy alone, whether for a long portion of the day or for only a little while (like a trip to the grocery store), make sure that he is confined in a secure place, such as in a dog crate or in an area of your house that has been set aside just for him – with child or pet proof gates to secure the area. Puppies usually begin chewing on things when they are alone and bored, often getting into trouble or suffering injury when allowed free rein to roam around an unsupervised house. The area where you confine your puppy must be free of objects that he can chew on, except for those chew toys that have been specifically chosen for their age appropriateness.
3. Leave your scent behind. If you are leaving your puppy for a longer duration, rolling your puppy’s favorite toy or nylon bone between your hands will give him something to remember you by. Avoid making an emotional farewell so that your puppy does not respond with anxiety (i.e., separation anxiety), which can lead to whining, barking and other destructive behaviors. Many puppy owners have also found that leaving the radio on (with calm, soothing music playing in the background) will help to calm an anxious puppy.
4. Prevention is key. You must put away all of the things your puppy can get into his mouth. Even things that appear to be out of reach may be reached by a diligent puppy. This includes shoes, children’s toys (especially small toys that your puppy can choke on), articles of clothing (particularly socks and undergarments) plastic bags, containers of medicine, wallets and purses; just about everything. Do not ever allow the puppy to go into the bathroom unsupervised, since there are a lot of objects there that you do not want to have chewed and scattered through the house. This includes items commonly found in the wastebasket, but also rolls of toilet paper. You must also take care to store valuable objects such as jewelry in a safe place that the puppy cannot reach; a closed closet, dresser drawer or cabinet is best.
5. Choose puppy toys wisely. Many plush animals have pieces that can fall off or be chewed off, becoming a choking hazard. Only buy plush toys that have been designed with a puppy’s safety in mind.
6. Discipline when appropriate. The puppy needs to be taught early on that he can only chew on those things that have been given to him, but before he is mentally and emotionally mature enough to understand and remember these lessons, you will need to keep everything else out of his reach.
7. Correct then divert. When you do find him chewing on an inappropriate object, correct him (taking hold of the scruff of the neck and giving a quick shake) and then divert his attention to the object that you have chosen as appropriate for him to chew. This object can be a nylon bone that is meat-scented, or a heavy-duty rubber toy that cannot be shredded. Nylon bones are superior in that they are durable, safe and non-damaging to the teeth. Squeaky toys, rubber toys and raw-hide bones are also favorites for puppies, but they are not as durable, and the squeaker can be chewed out and swallowed, or the rubber shredded and swallowed, both of which can be choking or intestinal hazards. If he obeys and chews on the appropriate object, praise him.
8. Do not give your puppy an old shoe or old socks to chew on. You are unintentionally teaching him that it is acceptable to chew on shoes and socks, and there will come a day when one of your very favorite or very expensive shoes ends up as puppy fodder. Your puppy – and dog, for that matter – cannot be expected to distinguish which shoes are the good ones and which ones are for him.
9. Create "real life" scenarios. As your puppy matures, tempt him by scattering a few different objects on the floor, including his nylon bone. The purpose of this is to teach him to ignore the objects that are forbidden to him. While we still advise not leaving objects lying around, it is bound to happen eventually, and training your puppy – as he reaches the mature age to remember and obey his lessons – will ensure his safety (and the safety of your possessions). Let your puppy lie down and pretend that you are busy doing something when all the while you are keeping an eye on him. When you see him begin to take a forbidden object into his mouth, reprimand him with a firm (not loud) "No!" and give him the nylon bone. Repeating this type of exercise will teach him not to chew on other objects except the bone when you are with him. As it becomes clear that he is learning the lesson, you can try leaving the room for a short while (less than 30 seconds). Immediately return so that you can catch him if he takes a forbidden object into his mouth and immediately reprimand him, again giving him his nylon bone to replace the object. Repeating this exercise will teach him to chew only on his nylon bone even when you are not around. Again, the best prevention is to not leave anything to chance. Pick everything up except what your dog is allowed to chew.
10. Exercise daily. Age and breed appropriate exercise makes it so your puppy every day so that he does not get bored. It also helps to keep his energy levels balanced and his metabolism at normal levels. Boredom and high energy levels are some of the most common reasons for destructive behavior.
Image: Adrian Scottow / via Flickr