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Why Puppies Chew
Your puppy's first teeth start erupting at an age between around 3 and 8 weeks. At about 4 to 6 weeks of age, these temporary teeth are replaced gradually with permanent adult teeth. The painful teething process irritates your pup's gums and chewing helps to relieve the resulting discomfort.
While using their mouths to explore their world and relieving teething pain is normal behaviour for puppies, it can become inappropriate and undesirable behaviour if it:
Other potential causes of inappropriate chewing include medical problems; instinct, boredom and separation anxiety.
Puppy Proofing Your Home
The first step towards curbing inappropriate chewing is to puppy proof your home by looking around for and removing dangers/items of interest to your inquisitive pup. This includes:
You may also want to consider crate/cage training your puppy for times when you cannot supervise him/her.
If inappropriate chewing behaviour is carried into adulthood, underlying medical conditions could be causing your dog's chewing habit or contribute towards it.
Intestinal parasites or a poor diet can, for example, cause nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies could in turn cause pica (an appetite for largely non-nutritious substances), which could be wrongly interpreted as inappropriate chewing.
Chewing is also a canine coping mechanism triggered by nausea due to gastrointestinal problems. Getting a vet to check your puppy/dog to rule out such problems is therefore of utmost importance, before you consult a dog behaviourist to address the problem.
Correcting Instinct-Related Inappropriate Chewing
Even adult dogs enjoy a good chew and unless it is excessive, inappropriate chewing, this is perfectly normal, instinctive behaviour. Correcting your dog immediately & calmly every time you catch him/her chewing inappropriate objects, encouraging appropriate chewing and, of course, discouraging inappropriate chewing will minimise destruction.
Encouraging Appropriate Chewing
Dog behaviourist: Encourage appropriate chewing by providing your dog with chew toys. Finding a chew toy your dog enjoys may take trial and error, but as a dog behaviourist I generally recommend:
Discouraging Inappropriate Chewing
Discourage inappropriate chewing immediately by:
This serves to help your dog gradually learn which objects may/may not be chewed.
Occasionally, discouraging established inappropriate chewing patterns can prove difficult. In such cases, applying noxious taste deterrents (like bitter apple, for example) to inappropriate objects may help to teach your dog to leave said object/s alone. For more help with discouraging established inappropriate behaviour, contact an experienced dog behaviourist. Contacting a dog behaviourist is very important.
Boredom and excess energy are common causes of inappropriate chewing. Prevent problems by providing regular, long walks and spending plenty of time playing with your dog. Expending excess energy your dog may otherwise direct towards excessive chewing and/or other inappropriate behaviours, regular exercise and play time will also help to reinforce your bond with your dog.
If your dog predominantly chews inappropriate objects when you are out, this behaviour may indicate separation anxiety - which will need to be dealt with to stop excessive chewing. We will look at separation anxiety in more detail at another time, but essentially, you can reduce this anxiety and subsequent inappropriate chewing by:
Struggling to correct your dog's inappropriate chewing behaviour? As an experienced dog behaviourist, I can help! Give me a call on 07776761289 or use the online contact form today to learn more and/or arrange an appointment.
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