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.
Stop Chewing With Deterrents
Bitter Apple Spray is safe for use on furniture, walls, clothing, carpets - whatever your dog wants to rip to bits. The spray tastes like it sounds, and no sane dog would continue to chew after a sample of that. It’s available at your pet store, and also works to help deter dogs from licking at hot spots, or surgery sites.
To deter your dog from chewing using the spray, you can follow these steps:
Apply a small amount of the spray on a rag or piece of fabric
Gently place the fabric near or in your dog’s mouth
Allow them to taste it and reject it (aka spit it out)
Don’t be alarmed if your dog shakes, drools, or retches in response to the taste
After, your dog should form the connection between the taste and smell of the bitter spray. Finally, you can spray items in your home that you want your dog to stop chewing on – now your pup should actively avoid gnawing on those items. Nevertheless, dogs, puppies especially, need time and patience when learning what items are okay to chew on vs what is unacceptable. This responsibility falls solely on you as the pet parent.
What Not To Do
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! If given mixed signals on what items are okay vs forbidden, they will grow up thinking these items are play toys.
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:
Puppy-proof Your Home
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. Do not leave socks, shoes, eyeglasses, briefcases or TV remote controls lying around within your puppy’s reach.
When you cannot 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.
Vocalize Disapproval of Chewing
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. Don’t forget to give your puppy plenty of “people time.” He can only learn the rules of your house when he’s with you and receiving feedback.
Make Sure To Exercise Your Dog
Make sure your puppy is getting adequate physical and mental exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog! It sounds so simple, but it’s probably the most important factor in improving a dog’s behavior. 30-60 minutes each day of walking, running, swimming, or agility training will keep a dog from releasing his energy and frustration at the expense of your belongings. I hate to say it, but just playing a game of fetch isn’t going to cut it for most dogs, and just letting your dog outside to roam the yard isn’t going to do it either. Keep your dog’s mind and body active during exercise time, and his mind and body will be too tired to raise a ruckus when he’s left unsupervised. Even my ‘middle aged’ dog needs his fast-paced mile walk every night.
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 To Avoid When Teaching Your Puppy Not To Chew
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.