Chew-barker? Understanding your puppy's desire to chew

By Jessica Colson | behaviour, social, puppy

Chew-barker? Understanding your puppy's desire to chew 

Your new puppy will have the irresistible urge to chew on just about anything!

Just as we use our hands to explore new things, puppies will use their mouths and teeth. In addition, between the ages of approximately 3-7 months puppies are teething, and chewing helps to alleviate some of the discomfort of new teeth. Luckily there are lots of things you can do to channel your dog’s chewing behaviour onto the right things

1. Manage the environment

Keep your puppy away from anything dangerous or special that you do not want them to chew

(I.e. wiring, toxic plants, children’s favourite toys or expensive furniture). Play pens and baby gates can be a really useful way of managing your environment to prevent you puppy from having access to things they should not be chewing

2. Provide lots of the right things to chew

You will need to channel your puppies desire to chew into the right things!

Provide them with lots of options and rotate them every couple of days so that they don’t get bored of the same things. Do be cautious about any potential choke hazards and do not leave your puppy unsupervised with toys or chews that they could choke on. Some ideas for the ‘right’ chewing options include:

Toys: Try your puppy with a range of toys, from soft, squeaky, to rubber or hard plastic toys - there are lots of great toys available on the market and you should experiment to see what your puppy likes to chew on! Soaking toys or flannels in some water and freezing them can make them extra soothing for sore teeth!

Enrichment feeders: An enrichment feeder is anything your puppy has to manipulate in order to get food out of. As dogs will naturally use their mouths this can be a great way to channel some of that chewing urge! There are lots of great enrichment feeders available on the market, we love rubber Kongs which can be stuffed with food and frozen to make them last even longer, and are a relatively safe choice to leave your puppy unattended with. You can also get creative making your own enrichment feeders; for example by stuffing cardboard boxed with scrunched up paper and scattering some food inside for your pup to hunt out! You can use part of your puppies daily ration of food in enrichment feeders instead of feeding it all from a bowl so that they don’t get extras!

Chews: Your local pet shop will have lots of variations of tasty chews that will put your puppies teeth to good work! Remember, give these in moderation and do supervise if your puppy has a chew that could be a potential choke hazard

3. Use your attention to train your puppy

Your attention is so valuable to your puppy that you can use it to help shape their behaviour.

Puppies prefer to chew on things that people give them attention for! We often see pups develop a preference for a favourite pair of slippers, or remote controls because they learn that these things are bound to get a response from people, even if it’s only to be told to stop! In addition, telling puppies off for chewing can make them worried and result in other problems later down the line. Instead of reacting when your puppy chews something they shouldn’t the best things to do is to make a distraction without talking, touching or looking at them – for example get up and walk out of the room. You puppy is likely to follow you at which point you can give them something better to chew on. Remember to keep rewarding your puppy with praise and attention whenever they choose to chew on one of their own toys!!

So here are top tips for channelling your pup’s chewing in safer, more enriching directions:

  • Try and manage your puppy’s environment, keeping them away from anything you do not want them to chew (e.g. wiring, toxic plants, your favourite shoes.) Baby gates can be a useful aid for this.
  • Provide your puppy with lots of exciting toys to chew – soft, squeaky, and rubber. Rotate the toys on a regular basis so that there’s never a dull day!
  • Help your teething puppy by soaking a flannel or a soft toy in water and freezing it – this will make chewing extra soothing for them.
  • Your attention is very valuable to a puppy, so you can use it to guide their chewing choices. Reward your puppy for chewing on their toys, and respond neutrally or distract them away from unwanted chewing.

If your puppy is showing an extreme chewing and/or this advice does not seem to help ask your vet to refer you to a qualified behaviourist for advice. Always get your puppy checked over by a vet if they have a sudden change in behaviour or are behaving in a way that is of concern– as this could be a related to a medical issue