Let's face it - puppys chew! It's how they investigate life! They bite and chew their litter mates - and everything else around them - mostly they then learn that biting hurts and it should be gentle.... and that not everything is worth chewing.
But why do they chew - jeans, slippers, string, shoes, the curtains, the door, the carpet, the lino, your hands, your toes, tissues? Well, are they simply investigating the world and finding out what's fun and what's not? Do they simply need to have something to cut their teeth on, picking the nearest thing of the "right" texture? Are they simply bored? Do we let them just do it?
No! Even though it's natural, we can't simply let it happen and hope they'll grow out of it - really, we can't - once a puppy has found some kind of rewarding feedback from what they're doing, they'll do it again... and again.... and again..... So how can we stop it? Or rather - re-direct this natural, instinctive behaviour towards something acceptable and worthwhile?
Teething - puppies must go through an awful time with their little teeth - just think what it would be like if they cried like babies? They need to chew - so let's give them things to chew! However, we can't just give them one thing and hope for the best - they need lots of different textures and shapes to keep their interest and more importantly, to deal with what it is they want in their mouth at that particular point in time - that might be something hard, or hard rubber, or soft rubber, or something soft and plush, a ragger, a ball on a rope or something that they can really feel like they're chewing. Give them the chews and toys and encourage them to chew them. Then when they go to chew something they shouldn't, do the toy swap.
Attention - Here's what usually happens. We move about, the puppy thinks hey, what's that flapping thing (your baggy trousers...) i think i'll go and have a bite at that, see what it's about.... Then you shake your leg and tell your puppy to stop it. Think how that appears to your puppy. Firstly, they don't actually know what "stop it" means - it's just noise to them; and secondly your playing tuggy with your trouser leg (or skirt..). What do we do? Yip, the toy swap!
BoredomPuppies are very inquisitive. They are made that way! They need to investigate as much of life as possible before they understand what fear is. If they don't investigate, they won't learn about life and when they grow up, they'll be scared of new things. Dogs are one of the most adaptive animals on the planet! Think about what they're capable of! So, again, we need to accept this and direct their teeth onto something appropriate. How? Guess what! It's the toy swap!
So what's the toy swap about? It's about making the toy far more intesting and fun than whatever it is that they're biting or chewing. So, if they're chewing - or "mouthing" you, then rag the toy about a bit on the floor, to distract them away from the "bad" chewing, and then play with them for a bit with the new chew or toy. You also need to have little play sessions with toys with the puppy even when they're not chewing. What then happens is that they get lots of happy, fun times playing with the toys and that's now lots more fun than chewing you - which never seems now to escalate into any kind of chasing chewing fun.....
Is it really that simple? Well, sometimes not... So what else can we do?
Use a bitter tasting spray to stop them chewing jeans, shoes, furniture or their lead. There are lots on the market. Bitter Apple is more expensive but it seems to be disliked by more dogs than some of the others. It's a matter of picking one and if it doesn't work, try another one.
Doing the puppy squeak
When puppies are playing with their littter mates and one of them bites too hard, the other one makes a wee squeal, and stops playing. We can mimic that. Make sure you can actually move your body out of the way - if you're on the floor and can't stand up, then its quite likely that your puppy may choose a different bit of you to bite or chew. So, if your puppy bites, make a wee high pitched squeal, stand up and wrap your arms round your body. Pretend it really hurt. Your puppy should hold back a little looking a bit bewildered. Wait for a few seconds and then re-commence your play session.
However, some puppies are just wound up more by that - they think its an invitation to get more excited and bite even more.
If your puppy has become too excited, and won't stop, then try to isolate your puppy for a short while to help them to calm down. This works best if you can actually leave the room, rather than move the puppy to another room. Obviously, the room has to be puppy safe. If you're using a crate, unless your puppy really really loves being in there, don't use the crate for your time out.
Using modern positive methods to teach your puppy to leave things really teaches them that there is no point in doing what they're doing - the consequences are not rewarding - they'd be far better off trying some other behaviour. Notes coming soon......
And if all that doesn't work? Do you still have a little gremlin?
Please get help from a behaviourist near you. Your puppy won't grow out of this. Please remember - they're learning how to behave and even shouting at them is rewarding - it's all about attention and interaction.
And, if they're snapping at your and growling when you try to get them to move off the couch or if you go near their food bowl, again, please seek out some help. It's a natural, but unacceptable behaviour.
And a final message on biting - never, never, never allow your puppy to chew or mouth your hand or arm or any other bit of you - they really can't tell the difference between when it's acceptable and when it's not.
And a final final message - Have fun!
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