Puppies use their mouths to explore their environments. Puppies and even adult dogs chew to relieve stress. Puppies, especially, can be mouthy due to teething. Here are some ways to teach Fido to chew on the right things and to use their mouths in appropriate ways.
Provide Fido with enough approved items to chew on and minimize his access to the off-limit items. Puppy proofing the house will be a major key to success here. Pick up all things you don’t want him getting to and place them out of his reach until you trust that he won’t destroy your valuables. This is smart management of your dog’s environment.
Great items that can give Fido to help fulfill his chewing needs:
- Various rubber chew toys. Place them in the freezer or refrigerator to make them extra satisfying.
- Rope toys dipped in broth and frozen or refrigerated.
- Frozen baby carrots.
- Kong toys and various other food stuffable toys. You can wet down his food and stick the Kongs in the freezer or fridge so that it hardens a bit after he’s gotten the concept of working a Kong.
- Flossies, bullysticks, pigs’ ears, and cow hooves. You can smear low fat cream cheese or peanut butter in the crevices of the hooves to make them extra interesting.
Have chew toys handy either on a nearby surface or in your pocket. When he starts to chew on the furniture or you, interrupt him and redirect his chewing onto a nearby rubber toy.
Rotate toys each day so that he gets a fresh batch and is therefore then more intrigued by them. Use Kongs and other toys to replace his food bowl so that he’s doubly motivated to chew the right things since they will become the main delivery system for all food.
If he nips you hard enough for it to hurt while you are playing with him or petting him, yelp in a high-pitched voice or simply say “ouch” in a neutral tone if yelping excites him more. Stand up and turn away from him. Be as still and calm as possible. You want to send him a signal that his nipping makes you stop playing with him. If he continues to do it or starts to tug on your pant legs, immediately hop over a strategically placed baby gate. You want to send a very clear message that hard mouthing makes all the fun end.
Do structured “tether and play” exercises where you tether him in a boring area of the house (that way you and the toy are the most interesting things around). You get down and play with him within the range of his leash. The moment he nips down hard, say “ouch” and stand up and take several steps out of the range of his leash. Make sure the toy goes with you. Do not reengage in play until he’s calmed down.
Be aware of your dog’s “witching hours”. There might be times of day when Fido is a bit more “crazy”. For a lot of dogs that’s the morning and evening hours. They might get super mouthy also after a particularly arousing event such as a walk. If it’s predictable (i.e. Fido becomes “crazy” around 7pm each night), then you are able to stay ahead of the him. Preemptively offering projects such as a stuffed frozen Kong to work on BEFORE the witching hour starts can really help. This is better than waiting for Fido to become over aroused and mouthy and then issuing a time out as a result of his poor choices.
Lastly, encourage lots of appropriate use of his mouth. You can pair the act of licking you with the phrase, “Kisses” so that later on when he starts to nibble on you you’ll be able to interrupt him and ask that he kiss you instead.
© Give Paw Dog Training LLC 2017