pug chewing rope

How to stop a puppy chewing?

By BBC Maestro

Many of us can recall a time when our beloved jumper, our left slipper, or our favourite sofa cushion, were submitted into defeat by the mouths of our harmless pup. Frustrating as it is, there is a reason why puppies want to get their teeth into anything they can find. In this article, we’ll unpack why your pup wants to explore the world with its mouth and just how to stop a puppy from chewing.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that your puppy is going through a lot of big changes. Almost everything they encounter is a brand-new experience. So, in those less-forgiving moments, remember that as new as this is for you, it is just as new for them. As professional dog trainer Steve Mann says in his BBC Maestro dog training course, “puppy training is a process, not an event”. It’s vital to work with each other, rather than against each other.

Puppy chewing a toy

Why do puppies bite?

“Dogs of all ages are hard-wired to feel good while they’re chewing,” says Steve Mann. For dogs, chewing can help relieve stress, maintain healthy teeth and mouths, and release those feel-good chemicals in a dog’s brain to help them feel relaxed. So, you can see why they can’t resist that unattended velvet sofa or that perfectly inflated football in the garden.

There are two reasons why puppies need to chew according to Steve Mann. The first is for pain relief from teething and the second is for exploration.

1. Pain relief

There’s a lot going on in a puppy’s mouth whilst they’re teething. After two weeks the teething process will begin. By eight weeks, up to 28 puppy teeth will have pushed through.  Around this time, you’ll notice their urge to chew everything. Each bite will help release some of those endorphins and relieve some of the pain.

After this, you may start noticing their baby teeth falling out in preparation for their adult teeth to come in, and by 16 weeks, a puppy will have 42 adult teeth. That’s a lot of change in the space of a few months. If you can imagine the discomfort of a baby throughout the teething journey, “for a puppy, it’s tenfold that,” says Steve Mann. “It’s not a question of if they’re going to chew or not, it’s what are they going to chew.”

2. Exploration

Our pups are constantly seeking new experiences. Exciting smells, new textures and sounds, are all engaging their senses and stimulating their brains. If you think about toddlers, and how they are always grabbing onto surfaces, gripping toys, or trying to put items into their mouths – what they’re really doing is learning through discovery.

Puppies can’t necessarily grab and feel with their paws, so chewing is their way of learning. It may be the tearing of a fabric or the squeaking of a toy which teaches them something different about their surroundings or the world at large. So it’s important that they get access to lots of different textures for their own development.

But how do we control what they get their mouths on? In his online dog training course, Steve Mann recommends we set some boundaries, creating what he calls legal and illegal chews.

A puppy chewing a stick

Legal chews 

Your puppy wants to test out a whole host of different textures during the teething period. That’s why you’ll find them chewing your TV remote or a bathroom towel. They’re tempted by everything and anything. It could be something rock-solid, brittle and crumbly, soft and comforting, or tough and chewy.

Steve Mann recommends gathering a selection of items that they can chew on which offer up textures across the hard to soft spectrum. You could buy actual toys from a pet shop or make homemade variations (like a soggy tea towel). He also gives special credit to carrots – which are soft and crunchy all at the same time. If you space these items around their environment, it gives them easy access to whatever they need, when they need it.

This careful selection is now your pup’s set of legal chews ready to be tugged and gnawed at. If you need some inspiration, there’s plenty of information out there on different types of chew toys.

Illegal chews

Those items you want to protect – that precious signed football shirt, your designer handbag or a family photo album – these are your illegal chews. You don’t want your pup anywhere near these. It’s important to remember, that to your pup everything is a chew toy. If it’s easily accessible, they can find a way to ruin it. Ideally, you want to keep these in a place your pup can’t access them. But as this isn’t possible in every instance, place plenty of legal chews around them, so they rush to them instead.

For those precious items that can’t be stored away or placed high up, ensure you’ve got some sort of control and management in place, so your puppy isn’t left alone with them. Shutting doors or installing a child gate is a good way to protect spaces.

The training process for any pup and owner can be challenging, but it’s important to not lose sight of the big vision. Take every new challenge one step at a time. You’ll soon recognise your hard work paying off. For now, get crafting your list of legal chews and see how they play out in action. Are there ones your pup starts reaching for first? Remember to always keep a variety on hand, as you never know what they might want next.

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