Save My Shoes!: How to Manage Destructive Chewing

Bradley Phifer

chewing
Similar to infants and toddlers, puppies explore their world by putting things in their mouths. In addition, puppies are teething until they’re about six months old, which usually creates some discomfort. Chewing not only facilitates teething, but also makes sore gums feel better.

Although it's perfectly normal for a puppy to chew on furniture, shoes, shrubbery and such, these behaviors can certainly be a problem for you. Without guidance, your puppy will not magically "outgrow" these behaviors as he matures. Instead, you must shape your puppy's behavior and teach him what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Discouraging Unacceptable Chewing

It’s 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:

  • Minimize chewing problems by puppy-proofing your house. Put the trash out of reach, inside a cabinet or outside on a porch, or buy containers with locking lids. Encourage children to pick up their toys and don’t leave socks, shoes, eyeglasses, briefcases or TV remote controls lying around within your puppy’s reach.
  • If you catch your puppy chewing on something he shouldn't, interrupt the behavior by saying “ehh” or “No”. Call him to you,have him sit and offer him an acceptable chew toy instead.
  • Make unacceptable chew items unpleasant to your puppy. Furniture and other items can be coated with Bitter Apple™ to make them unappealing. Some dogs don’t mind the taste of Bitter Apple™ and you may have to try another taste deterant.
  • Don't give your puppy objects to play with such as old socks, old shoes or old children's toys that closely resemble items that are off-limits. Puppies can't tell the difference!
  • When you can not mentally or physically supervise your puppy, mange the situation by using baby gates, closing doors, tethering him to you with a six-foot leash or confine your puppy to his crate.
  • Make sure your puppy is getting adequate physical and mental exercise. Puppies left alone in a yard don’t play by themselves, they get into trouble. Take your puppy for walks or play a game of fetch with him as often as possible.
  • Give your puppy plenty of “people time.” He can only learn the rules of your house when he’s with you.

Encouraging Acceptable Behavior

  • Provide your puppy with lots of interactive toys such as Kongs®, Tricky Treat Balls® and Chew Bones. These toys provide your puppy with a puzzle to figure out and will keep him interested longer. Rotating toys can make them more appealing.
  • Be proactive about rewarding your puppy and making big deal when he has chosen to chew on one of his toys and not one of yours.

What Typically Doesn’t Help

Disciplining your puppy after the fact will not teach him not to chew. 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.

A puppy can’t 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 submissive postures that dogs show when they’re 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 submissive postures.

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