Puppy teething is normal, although just how much puppies use their teeth may be surprising. Human babies have hands, so they use hands and mouths for necessary learning and exploring as their brains develop. Canine babies must do this exploration mostly with their mouths.
Puppy teeth are quite sharp, and the sharp tips become somewhat smoother through teething and chewing. When the baby teeth fall out, the permanent teeth emerge, which are not as sharp. At this point the pup may be housetrained and early teething troubles have largely subsided. But don't be fooled into thinking that the chewing problems are over!
The real chewing problem comes after your dog has cut its permanent teeth. These adult teeth seem to require hard chewing to "set" in the jaw. Dogs that don't do this chewing may have poorer lifelong dental health. But the dogs that proceed to firmly set their shiny new teeth with robust chewing may destroy your home! Start good habits now.
Picking Out the Best Toys
Dogs need chew toys of good quality that are safe for the chewing habits of each particular dog. You need to determine which toys are okay for your dog.
Provide your dog with a variety of textures so your dog can easily reach a toy that will fill its need. Toys should not be so soft that your dog could destroy them and swallow a piece or chew down too hard. Don't let your puppy chip a tooth! Kong, Nylabone and Gumma-Bone brands make excellent puppy chew toys. When you're not able to supervise your puppy, provide a safe area for him or her to rest away from toys, such as a crate.
Teaching Your Puppy What Not To Chew
The destructive chewing stage can last for quite some time, but usually ends by the time your dog is about two-years old. With proper and consistent training, you and your puppy should survive the destructive chewing phase with your relationship intact!
Let's take a look at a teachable moment: Imagine that you are in the same room with your puppy, perhaps watching television or reading a book. A few good dog toys are within easy reach on the floor. Your puppy, exploring, starts to chew on an inappropriate object. Get up and take Bitter Apple spray and a dog toy as you calmly approach your puppy. (Always keep a bottle of Bitter Apple or a similar yucky-tasting product handy; you never know when a teachable moment will occur!) Spray the object the puppy is chewing (do not spray the puppy), while you calmly say "Leave it." Instantly animate a dog toy and get your puppy excited enough to want to play with that instead. But don't carry this to extreme teasing - it's not a game. Your goal is simply to redirect your puppy's attention and need to chew to the toy, not to excite the puppy into a state of high activity. You want your puppy to continue chewing, which dogs like to do when they relax.
As soon as your puppy wants the toy, give it to him or her. When your puppy settles down to chew, softly praise the puppy and withdraw back to what you were doing before. You've just completed a successful lesson!
You will need to repeat this many times. You are helping your puppy form strong chewing habits and choosing a dog toy every time. A young dog who wants to chew is apt to make many mistakes. You actually want these mistakes made in front of you so you can intervene. You do not want to scare your puppy into hiding from you when it wants to chew.
The longer a puppy is allowed to chew inappropriately, the more bad habits there will be to overcome. Additionally, puppies need time to mature. Your patience will pay off. Your puppy is learning a lot of other good things during this training, including the fact that you're smart and a good person!
If you notice your puppy going back to an inappropriate item of a certain texture unlike its toys, by all means get some toys of that texture. This may be a texture your puppy's teeth need at that point in development. Don't use discarded human items for toys. It's not fair to expect a puppy to consistently know the difference between old shoes and new shoes! Use safe dog toys only. Also, rotate the toys to keep them new and interesting.
If you find something your puppy has chewed and damaged when you weren't watching, it's okay to do the training maneuver (calmly) if your puppy is still chewing it. If the puppy is done chewing, you've missed your chance. There is nothing you can teach your puppy about destructive chewing by punishing the puppy. Your best bet is simply to do a better job with confinement and supervision so that your puppy is not again in a position to make this mistake without your help in choosing the right toy.
You're helping your puppy form habits for life. Not only do you want your puppy to chew dog toys instead of your possessions, you also want your puppy to form healthy chewing habits! The puppy that continues to chew on appropriate toys throughout its life will typically have better dental health.
Good luck! Don't hesitate to call us at (978) 453-1784 if you have any questions about your puppy's teething habits or dental health.