As much as you may love your cute, new puppy, if she chews on everything in sight–including you–she will not be cute to you for very long. Puppies that are left to their own devices can destroy a home quickly. Just as training is required to housebreak your little furball, training is also necessary to teach them appropriate chewing behaviours.
Many believe the longer a pup is allowed to stay with her mother and siblings, the better she will behave. It seems that puppies younger than eight weeks–who are taken from their mother–exhibit a more aggressive form of chewing and biting over those pups which are separated after the two-month mark.
Pups learn from the day they are born what is expected of them. Most pups find their mother is very tolerant of being chewed and gnawed on. However, as the pup grows and those sharp little teeth start coming in, the mother dog starts setting the limit on how much nipping she will tolerate, especially if she has a large litter using her for a chew toy! The mother dog will usually get up and leave the area which will eventually teach the little squirts to be gentle with her.
This is usually when the pups start roughhousing and playing with their littermates. Nothing is more enjoyable than watching a pile of pups roll, tumble, and clumsily play with each other. Nevertheless, it is important to understand what is taking place during this time. What looks like good old puppy fun to us is truly a necessary part of a dog’s development. During this time with siblings, puppies are learning their place in the “pack.” They are figuring out who is the boss, and they are testing their limits with each other.
When a puppy nips or chews on their sibling too hard, they are shocked when their sibling lets out a yelp. One of two things usually occurs at this point. The hurt sibling will either fight back and nip their sibling in return even harder, or the hurt pup will refuse to play with the biter any longer. Both of these approaches work to teach pups how to interact. When pups are taken from their mother and littermates too soon, they miss out on this much-needed character and personality training.
If your puppy is chewing everything in sight, it can be very frustrating. Who wants to come home to find an expensive pair of shoes torn apart or feathers from pillows floating in the air? I know of one particular couple who came home to find their entire couch shredded down to the springs. Their two pups were snoozing in the midst of all the mess oblivious to their naughty deed. Also, it is hard for children and adults to be around a puppy who thinks that fingers, toes and pant legs are an invitation for teething and biting. Situations like this are why many pups find themselves banned to the outdoors, or locked in a crate for hours on end, while their owners are at work.
It is important to understand that teething is as natural to a puppy as teething is to a human infant. It is just a fact of life. You cannot expect your puppy to not want to chew. It helps her teeth come through the gums, and it also promotes the development of her adult teeth under the gums. Puppies see no differentiation between a bone and a hairbrush. Both serve the purpose of a puppy. In fact, most puppies will sometimes seek out items that have their owners scent if they are having separation anxiety. So, it is important that you teach your pup from day one proper chewing behaviours. If not, your puppy will assume everything in the home is at her disposal whenever it suits her.
The best advice is to go out and purchase your puppy some chew toys. These toys should be mentally stimulating to your pup. If not, your pup will soon tire of them and return to the piano leg! Some chew toys can even be purchased which have treats inside. These treats take some work to get to. Your pup can spend hours figuring out how to chew on these toys in the right manner to reach the yummy inside. Once your puppy has learned there are items in her home which provide her with a snack, she will tire of your shoes, furniture and clothing. It is good to stock up on the chew toys which seem to stimulate your pup and occupy her time the most. You should only leave one or two of these out at a time. You should also rotate the toys to ensure she doesn’t get bored.
The important thing to remember about chew toys is that you should not purchase ones that have a hidden bell or another device that can pose a choking hazard. You should also avoid toys that have been chemically treated.
When your pup gets overly rambunctious and starts nipping and chewing on you, you should handle the situation as her mother and littermates would. This is especially important if you have a pup that was taken from its mother and siblings rather early. When your pup starts nibbling on your person, or clothing, you should let out a noise that lets her know it hurt. This is not a problem if she has actually nipped at your skin! But, you should also put on your acting hat and let out a yelp if she is pulling on your shoelaces or pant leg. When you do this, it will usually startle her. You should immediately walk away from your dog, or leave her in the area alone.
It will take consistency and repetition for your puppy to get the message that what she is doing is wrong. However, if she is a slow learner, you can let out your “yelp” and put her in her crate. You shouldn’t be harsh about the manner, as this will only confuse her. Once she is in her crate, she may turn on the tears and start trying to manipulate you with her whiney groans of dissatisfaction. When this occurs, you should never take her out. Wait until she has stopped her tantrum and then release her. When you let her out, be affectionate with her and let her know all is well. You should not hold a grudge, as your dog is incapable of understanding why you are angry. Also, when you place her in her crate, it should only be for a few minutes… unless she is having a full-blown tantrum. Then you should wait until she quiets. If you are consistent with this approach, your pup will soon learn that when she nips, chews or bites she will have to go to time out.
Puppies love to be handled and may affectionately want to play with you like she would her littermates. It is perfectly fine for a pup to want to lick or even playfully hold your fingers in her mouth as you play. This is normal, and a form of bonding. However, any form of aggression or pressure should be promptly discouraged. Puppies usually learn by four months what is appropriate in regards to chewing… if their owners are consistent with training.