Puppy Chewing

Puppies chew. It's natural and predictable. Being both mentally and physically prepared will enable you to get your dog through this period without his forming any bad habits, leading to expensive destructive chewing later.

Start by puppy proofing your home (see Puppy Pointers - Rearing). Provide your puppy with no more than two safe toys at a time (see below). Giving your puppy too many objects to chew gives him the idea that everything is his. Giving him just a few toys makes it easier to teach him to differentiate between his and yours.

Young puppies chew to explore their environment much the way human babies put everything in their mouths. It's natural and important for puppies to do this as part of their learning. The important factor is you - making sure your puppy learns what is and isn't acceptable to chew during the early exploratory and teething period.

Puppy chewing is also related to teething. Around five to six months the deciduous puppy or "milk" teeth fall out and the permanent teeth erupt. You can prevent destructive chewing habits forming by providing the puppy with acceptable items to chew, and preventing him from chewing other things. Supervise your puppy and use a crate whenever you can't watch him (see Crate Training). Until a dog is beyond the teething period (in general around 10 months to a year), anytime you leave your dog alone or are busy and unable to watch him, crate him.

Teaching a puppy what is and isn't acceptable to chew requires supervising him as he explores his environment - a natural and important thing for puppies to do. The moment he is about to put his mouth on something you don't want him to chew, interrupt him with "Ah!", and re-direct him to his own chew toy. By consistently teaching your puppy what is off limits and what is acceptable to chew - the "yes" and "no" objects - you'll raise a dog that will be trustworthy as an adult.

While you are training your puppy and adolescent dog what is and isn't acceptable to chew, you must watch him. If he's chewing a bone under your chair (acceptable), he just might roll over onto the other hip, changing his perspective, and start chewing the chair leg (unacceptable). Your puppy is not being willfully destructive, it was simply there. To teach him that the bone is OK and the chair leg is not, say "Ah!" the moment he starts chewing the chair, and give him the bone to chew.

By supervising your puppy, preventing him from chewing things on his own, and by crating him when you can't keep an eye on him, your dog will mature through the teething periods without forming expensive habits. If it's already happened, see Adult (and Adolescent) Chewing.

Good Chew Toys VS Not-So-Good Ones

Provide your dog with chew toys that satisfy his needs. Young puppies prefer soft toys such as a knotted terry cloth towel. Some teething puppies may be helped by chewing on something cold: dampen a towel and place it in the freezer, then give it to your pup.

Never give your puppy an article of clothing such as an old sock or shoe to chew. Your dog won't differentiate between old shoes and new.

Once the adult teeth are in, most dogs prefer harder toys such as Nylabones or sterilized bones available at most pet shops (stuff it with peanut butter to attract a dog who shows no interest in it).

While many dogs enjoy chewing rawhide chews, hooves and pigs' ears, we strongly advise against them. They can be dangerous, and even lethal to dogs. Dogs can choke on or swallow large pieces requiring surgery to remove. (They also often have another unpleasant side-effect - flatulence.) Don't feel guilty not giving them to your dog. He won't miss them as long as he has something else to chew.