Dealing With Normal Puppy Behavior: Chewing

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Puppies explore their world by putting things in their mouths. In addition, puppies are teething until they’re about 6 months old, which usually causes them some discomfort. Chewing not only facilitates teething, but also makes sore gums feel better. While it is perfectly normal for puppies to chew on furniture, shoes, and shrubbery, these behaviors can be a problem for you and your puppy will not magically “outgrow” this behavior as he matures. However, by shaping your puppy’s behavior and teaching him which objects are acceptable chew toys and which are not, you are able to minimize chewing problems past 6 months of age.

Discouraging Unacceptable Behavior

It is virtually inevitable that your puppy will, at some point, chew up something you value. This is part of raising a puppy! You can, however, prevent most problems by taking the following precautions:

Encouraging Acceptable Behavior

What Not To Do

Never discipline or punish your puppy after-the-fact. If you discover a chewed item even minutes after he’s chewed it, you’re too late to administer a correction. Animals associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they’re being punished. Dog and puppies cannot reason that, “I tore up those shoes an hour ago and that’s why I’m being scolded now.” Some people believe this is what a puppy is thinking because he runs and hides or because he “looks guilty.” Guilty looks are canine appeasing postures that dogs show when they feel threatened. When you’re angry and upset, the puppy feels threatened by your tone of voice, body postures, and/or facial expressions, so he may hide or show appeasing postures. Punishment after-the-fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but could provoke other undesirable behaviors, such as aggression or fear.

Other Reasons for Destructive Behavior

Although most destructive chewing by puppies is normal behavior, some puppies may exhibit destructive behavior for the same reasons as adult dogs. Examples include separation anxiety, fearrelated behaviors, and attention-getting behavior. For help with these problems, contact our free behavior helpline at 303.751.5772, Ext. 1359, or a professional animal behaviorist.