Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dog Gone Problems,
I have a 3-1/2-month-old Husky pup who loves to chew on everything. I tried to get his mind away from it and chew on one of his toys. I take him outside for a game of fetch and sometimes I let him run off his leash. I’m out of ideas and I really don’t want this to become a bad habit for the future.
It is very natural for puppies to chew things, as that is one of the main ways they sample and explore this new world they are learning about. It’s very wise of you to recognize this can lead to a habit that will impact his behavior for the future. Puppies create behavior patterns in a very similar way humans do. This is why your parents kept prompting you to make your bed, brush your teeth and do your chores. If you get into the habit as a child, there is a strong likelihood that behavior will continue as an adult.
Getting a puppy some exercise is always a smart thing to do, too. Many dog and puppy problems stem from a lack of exercise.
When I got my most recent puppy, Quest, I did extensive research on things you can do to set a puppy up for success. I created several posts on my website so that I could share these puppy raising tips with new guardians like you.
The first suggestion I have is to set up a long-term confinement area â a fenced-off safe area where your puppy should sleep, eat and stay in when you can’t directly supervise him.
Fill the area with a variety of toys â squeaker toys, balls, Nylabones, real bones, antlers and pull toys such as ropes. I suggest having at least 20 toys in your dog’s area and 10 in reserve. After a week, take out one toy and replace it with a new one. This way the plethora of toys constantly evolves and remain interesting to the puppy.
One benefit of having an LTC area is that it keeps your puppy from forming a bad habit of chewing shoes, carpet, furniture, etc. If your puppy doesnât have access to these things when they are in explorer mode, they will be far less likely to chew them in the future. This is a puppy-raising secret many new pet parents miss.
Another benefit of the LTC area is that it helps prevent separation anxiety, which is a common problem for many dogs. If you include a kennel with a soft bed inside with the door wired open, the LTC area can also kennel train your puppy for you. After sleeping in there for a month or two, most puppies don’t make a peep when you start closing the door later.
Another tip to stop puppy chewing is to feed your dog out of treat dispensing toys for a few months. This also has multiple benefits. By making the puppy work for his food, you can help him develop problem-solving skills. It also slows down the eating process, which is another common puppy behavior problem. But best of all, eating his kibble out of these treat toys helps your puppy practice interacting or playing/chewing on toys instead of inappropriate objects.
One last tip: Licking is often a precursor to chewing. So if you see your puppy licking something he’s not supposed to chew on, go grab a small handful of baby carrots. Go behind your puppy and knock on the floor a few times. When he turns around, drop the baby carrots on the floor from a height of about six inches. This will distract your puppy away from the wrong thing and lead him to the carrot,s which are good to chew on.
By using an LTC area and feeding my puppy out of treat dispensing toys, I was able to leave Quest unsupervised at 5 months old because he never got into a habit of chewing on the wrong things.
Good luck and remember â everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.