Chewing Frustrations?

Is your floor littered with stuffing? Does it look like it just snowed in your living room? Are your rugs sporting tufts? Well, congratulations - it sounds like you’ve got yourself a dog! All dog lovers know this: when dogs are bored or puppies are achy, they do what comes naturally—they chew! 

Like kids, puppies like to investigate anything new. Kids use their hands (usually) to pick up, feel and move objects whereas puppies use their mouths. It’s actually a good sign of normal development. 

Even as your puppy matures, he’ll investigate new things by picking them up in his/her mouth. 

The problem with negative reinforcement, i.e. shouting or slapping him, is that he’ll associate your theatrics with you—not necessarily the object or action you are trying to dissuade. Threatening a dog frightens them, and fear leads to self-soothing and a dog’s number one self-soothing behavior is…can you guess? Chewing!  

To make matters worse, many dogs act defensive or playful when people yell at them. What’s going on? I call it prize envy: the dog views the correction as challenging. Prize envy leads from chewing to the more annoying grab-n-go. 

How can you avoid all of the above? Teach your puppy to show you the things he’s found. What I call Grab-N-Show Me. Here’s how to play! 

1)   Set a place for your puppy in all rooms you share. Use a flat mat or bedding to help your dog to identify his space. Place your dog's chews and toys on it or nearby, in a toy basket.  

2)   For the next two weeks send your dog to his area each time your want to feed, treat or give him attention. Point to the area and say “On Your Bed” or “Place” as you walk with him to that spot. Reward and give him attention when he’s in/on his spot!

3)   If your dog’s a fidget you can sit with him and pet or treat him until he calms. Practice the 'Stay' exercise. If he’s leash trained and 18 weeks of age you may tether him in his area with a Teaching or Station Lead.

4)   To encourage your dog to show you his treasures - versus destroying them - make treat cups and place them around your home. Each time your dog grabs an object, shake the cup and encourage him to “Give.” Praise him for the 'Grab-N-Show Me.'

5)   If your puppy is already conditioned to run from you, practice working with the treat cup and teaching him the 'Grab-N-Show Me' in a small bathroom or hallway. Use a light indoor drag line when supervised and approach him calmly. Step gently on the line before asking him to give.  

Remember: your puppy cannot distinguish between what belongs to you and what belongs to him. Limit your pup’s choices to a few select objects, play tag and run away games with their things to encourage interest. Stay calm and positive when your puppy grabs something that you’d rather he not. Teach him to show you these treasures, not covet them. 

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