I thought I’d talk about your dog’s teenage chewing phase.
This will be useful for anyone who has a dog who is partial to a cheeky chew of something that’s not theirs, you know, like shoes or table legs or your ethernet cable.
All pups go through the teenage phase and you will enjoy an undetermined period of time with a little mischief maker who will ‘forget’ everything you have taught him/her and make you question the decision to get a puppy on a daily basis!
Your dog’s teenage chewing phase has a few possible causes but it is completely normal & something that (brace yourself) can last for up to six months. Sorry! All of your dog’s puppy teeth will have now fallen out and one of the main reasons they have to chew – and it is have to – is because their adult teeth are settling & it’s uncomfortable.
It also happens because dogs are going through another development phase and they’re exploring. Dogs have to explore with their mouths as they can’t pick things up & look at them! It sounds silly, but honestly, your dog isn’t being destructive, just exploring in their own way. Remember that your dog’s senses are incredible compared to ours, so anything that makes a noise, has a distinct smell or texture, needs to be investigated. You might not think the items have any of those things… but that’s why we don’t have sniffer-humans!
An additional reason for the behaviour increasing or focusing on particular items can be that it brings a response. If your dog has learnt that grabbing the ethernet cable brings Mum to her side in record speed, then that’s quite a fun game (for her)!
So… what do you do…?!?!
The first thing is to understand that it is NOT your job to stop your dog chewing. Your dog has to chew. Your job is to teach him/her what they CAN chew! This will be the dog’s choice really, as some of the toys that are designed for chewing aren’t that popular with dogs. Finding the ones that your dog loves to chew will be trial and error. As your dog is potentially feeling some discomfort, putting their favourite soft toys in the freezer can turn them into soothing chew toys – they become disgusting quite quickly though! If you have a couple of Kongs, put some of their daily food allowance in them, add some soft cheese / water to stick it together (if it’s kibble) and put the Kongs in the freezer. Your dog will have to chew to get the food out, but chewing the Kong will also bring good stuff so it’ll be rewarding. Don’t leave empty Kongs lying around though as if they keep chewing and the good stuff isn’t escaping, it can be frustrating.
With anything food related… PLEASE BE AWARE that regardless of how fabulous your dog is around food, a high value treat combined with hormones & discomfort can lead to a grumpy hound who might react out-of-character if another dog or human, goes near the treat. Just play it safe while your dog is going through this. I’m sure there are times in your life, when you have aches & pains where you’d be a tad grumpy if a family member approached you & took your favourite meal away from you, without explanation & you had no certainty when or if you’d be getting another one?!
Also with food, make sure this isn’t something your dog thinks of as a toy… it’s for settling with & having calm time with… so if your dog races around the house with it, call them back to you, ask them to drop it and then ask them to go to their bed (or wherever you want her to settle) and then try again. To do that, you’ll need those cues in place first. I’m sure they’ll appear in a future Training Thursday blog!
Your dog needs to have as much exercise as possible, but not just out on walks, exercise their brain too. Dog’s noses are phenomenal and you can get some amazing scent games set up for them. Scent work has an amazing way of tiring dogs naturally because they’re thinking… really thinking… your dog will blow your mind with what they can do with their nose. Also, if you’re having a manic day… twenty minutes of scent work will tire your dog out much more effectively than an hour’s walk. That will also come in handy when your dog is neutered / spayed and can’t go out on long walks… but will still have lots of energy!
One of the things that’s often missed is the engagement factor when it comes to chewing. During adolescence, there’s no doubt that your dog can drive you to distraction, but with that comes an element of interaction. If you have a tug toy, you can be part of the engagement, for example, making it fun for both of you & by default teaching your dog that he/she can chew that toy. To do that, you need to teach an effective ‘drop’ cue…!
You can also engage the play… three or four short bursts a day… so, when you’re making a cuppa or the adverts have come on the TV… play / teach your dog something / practice the ‘drop’ cue… anything that brings positive engagement that will also make them think. While your dog is in adolescence, they’re likely to forget everything you have taught them, so even practicing recall, sits, downs etc while the kettle boils will occupy them and keep the interaction positive… it’s much more fun to do that than plead with them to stop chewing your stuff.
Whenever you see your dog chewing something they’re allowed to chew… praise them!
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