I’ve been hearing a lot of this lately: “Ouch! My puppy’s teeth are like needles!” Yep – that’s what puppies do. Bite, chew, nip, shred and chomp some more. Their mouth is the perfect tool to explore the world and all that’s in it.
So what are new puppy owners supposed to do to help the situation? The following are a few simple steps those who may be experiencing this painful situation, in a pretty painless way.
- Know your animal: Remember, dogs use their mouths to explore the world! This means, if it appears interesting, and it’s within reach, it will be investigated. Dogs also use their mouths (and teeth) to play with things, destroy things, and just for lots of fun! (Especially when he or she is teething).
- Be aware of what you might be training: Attention, whether positive or negative, can cause a behavior to happen more often, so be careful of what you’re paying attention to – you may just be inadvertently rewarding a behavior you don’t want.
- Provide “legal” outlets for your puppy or adult dog: Providing outlets for your dog to chew and play with will help redirect that energy to a more appropriate place. This way, he or she can get all of his or her energy out, while making the humans happy. Chew bones, playing tug with an actual tug toy, soft squeaky toys, and interactive food toys are just a few options for your pooch to get the attention he or she wants, in a way he or she wants, doing what he or she loves to do.
- Provide play opportunities with other dogs: Most dogs enjoy playing with other dogs, but dog-play is a skill that needs to be practiced. Yes, dogs are born with instinctual play skills, but he or she still needs to practice. Set up doggy play-dates with age and play appropriate dogs so your dog can learn how to control his or her mouth with living objects, and not just toys and bones. For additional tips, check out this blog post on dog-play.
- Make it clear your dog is making the better choice: To really help drive the message home, reward your dog with an extra special little treat whenever he or she makes the better choice of playing with these legitimate items, as well as for leaving forbidden items alone. This way, he or she figure out what works to his or her own advantage, while making you happy and proud.
- Management Recommendations: Management means you’re arranging your puppy’s environment that prevents him or her from practicing behaviors you don’t want. If you haven’t taught your dog what you want, or if you don’t have the time or energy to monitor your dogs behavior, then you’ll want to keep him or her from making choices you don’t want them to make. This means, sequester your dog to an area with enrichment to keep his or her mind (and mouth) occupied. However, avoid giving a “Time Out!” by just sending him or her to a crate, yard or another room without anything to do. That would be too punishing. A bully stick or food enrichment toy in another area is certainly a fine option.
Remember, when developing your training and management plan for puppy nipping and chewing, determine what you want from your dog, teach him or her what you want, provide appropriate outlets and reward heavily for making the better choice. This will make everyone happy, including your dog and everyone else in the household.