So you want to stop puppy chewing? Cewing can be a huge source of frustration – not to mention a major expense – for many puppy owners. A bit like having babies, nothing can quite prepare you for the trail of destruction something so small can create in your once well-ordered and tidy home.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard an exasperated puppy owner complaining: “But I’ve given him a whole bunch of chew toys of his own – I don’t understand why he had to go and chew up my sofa/best rug/cashmere sweater/cellphone etc!”
And herein lies the crux of the issue. Most puppy owners don’t actually understand the reasons for puppy chewing, or that some of this undesirable behaviour might actually be caused directly by their own behaviour towards their puppy.
There are two main reasons for problem puppy chewing:
Puppies are born with needle-sharp ‘baby’ teeth and, just like babies, they use their mouths as one of the main ways to explore the world around them. They also have a biological need to strenghen their under-developed jaw muscles so that by the time they reach adulthood they are capable of ripping, tearing and chewing meat and bones. In the wild, strong jaws and teeth could mean the difference between death and survival.
Puppies chew, then, because it is part of their learning and development. But, in addition, puppies go through two teething periods when their gums are sore and chewing provides soothing relief. The first period comes at about 18 weeks when the puppy loses its sharp baby teeth and grows its adult teeth. And the second usually occurs somewhere between six and twelve months when the new adult teeth settle into the jaw bone. You can expect puppy chewing to be more intense during these teething periods.
In addition to the bilogical need for puppy chewing, many puppies are destructive as a result of anxiety and, often, this is unwittingly caused as a direct result of our human behaviour and interaction with them.
Dogs are incredibly social ‘pack’ animals who need company and also need to understand their status within the human pack. Puppies that are left home alone for long periods during the day will often get anxious and, much in the same way as we might light a cigarette or have a drink to calm our nerves, chewing is a naturally calming activity for puppies.
The same applies to puppies who have inadvertently been given the position of ‘top dog’ in the human household. Weighed down with the responsibility of looking after the household occupants, and unsure what is required of him, a puppy who believes he is pack leader will usually exhibit many behavioural problems, of which chewing can be one.
Stop Puppy Chewing
Puppy chewing, then, is both a natural and necessary behaviour but can also be a symptom of other issues which require an alteration to our own behaviour patterns. But by providing our puppies with clear leadership and plenty of human contact and stimulation – as well as a number of exciting chew toys – it is possible to stop puppy chewing and get through the puppy phase relatively unscathed.
In particular, responsible crate training is the perfect way of preventing an unsupervised puppy from chewing anything he shouldn’t and will give you a better chance of protecting your prized possessions.
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