Do you know that feeling when you go to the shoe rack to fetch your favorite shoes to wear, only to find one of them is missing. Okay so the puppy has been playing with them which is not a problem so long as you can find where he has left it. A lot of puppies have a special place where they like to hide things–toys, empty packets, bits of string, a chewed up ball and, you’ve guessed it, your missing shoe. You retrieve the shoe, wipe the mud off and that’s when you discover that your puppy has chewed through the leather at the heel and the shoe is fit only for the bin. However much you are told that chewing is a natural dog behavior, it is still distressing to see your home and your things systematically destroyed by the latest member of your household and you can’t help wondering, “when do puppies stop chewing?”
Like all young animals, there are a lot of new things out in the world for a puppy to discover: things to play with, things to eat, things to be scared of, things to make friends with and they learn about these new things by sniffing or tasting or putting them in their mouth. That’s not all, puppies also chew when they are suffering the pain of teething.
Okay so chewing their way through toothache is fair enough, but if you don’t curb their chewing it will become habitual and they will continue into adulthood. And soon you will find your home littered with chewed up shoes, clothing, sticks, food cans, houseplants, toys and furniture. I had one puppy that would even gnaw at the skirting boards.
So what can you do to stop your puppy chewing?
Puppy-proof your home.
My grandmother always used to say, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ and, yes, before you ask, she had 13 children and numerous dogs! So, when you have a puppy in the house you need to put things away and secure cabinet doors so they can’t get in. You might be surprised at how adept dogs can be at opening doors once they know there is a tasty treat inside or something they really want to play with.
At the end of the day the simplest solution is often the best: if you don’t want your dog to chew on something, put it somewhere he won’t be able to get it and keep temptation out of reach.
Determine whether your puppy is teething.
It takes about 8 months for your puppy to get all his adult teeth and from about 14 weeks old, he may be suffering the pain of teething. You can buy a rubber chew toy to help with this or give the puppy an old teething ring which your own children no longer need. To help with the pain you can also put a little cooled chamomile tea in his drinking water or gently rub clove oil on his gums.
Give your puppy plenty of exercise.
Whatever the size or age of your dog, he needs daily exercise to work off excess energy and prevent boredom. A happy dog is a relaxed dog. A bored dog will become destructive. Once your puppy is old enough to go walking outside, take him twice a day. You will build up to 30 minutes twice daily as an optimum.
If you do not have time to walk your dog every day, or if your job keeps you away for long periods of time, you might want to hire a dog walker or ask a neighbour to help out.
Play with your puppy.
Like any small child, your puppy learns through playing. Mental stimulation keeps him happy and will prevent boredom chewing.
Confine your puppy while you are away.
Your puppy is likely to chew mostly when you are absent or he is unsupervised (and bored).
If you have to leave him alone during the day, keep him confined to a particular room in the house (or even a crate) to prevent him from gaining access to things he shouldn’t chew.
Give your puppy plenty of chew toys.
If you are able to find a chew toy that your puppy likes, he may be less likely to chew on inappropriate objects, such as shoes. If you suspect the chewing may be due to teething, give him a hard rubber chew toy that he can gnaw on for pain relief but he can’t chew through. Don’t give him sticks or bones to chew as these can splinter and injure him. When you find your dog chewing on something he shouldn’t, take the object away and immediately replace it with a toy. This will teach your dog what he is and isn’t allowed to chew. And, remember to praise and reward him when he chooses the toy over another object.
Use a spray to protect the furniture.
For large items, such as furniture that you can’t keep out of reach, you can use a bitter apple or eucalyptus oil which will discourage your dog from chewing on it. Either rub this on with a cloth or add to a spray bottle.
The Bottom Line
Earlier we asked the question, when do puppies stop chewing? and the answer is never, but while chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, that doesn’t mean you have to put up with your dog destroying your belongings and wrecking your furniture. Rather than trying to stop your dog’s chewing behavior altogether, try redirecting it to more appropriate outlets, such as chew toys. And don’t forget to give him plenty of physical and mental stimulation to prevent him from boredom chewing.
Remember, the key to success in any form of dog training is to be calm, consistent and firm. Reward him for good behavior and never resort to punishment, he’ll soon learn what is expected of him and eventually you will be able to train him to fetch your shoes for you rather than destroy them.