One of the most common questions I am asked (often in a panic-stricken voice) is, “How can I get my puppy to stop chewing my (insert item here)?” And, oh how I empathize because I certainly recognize the plea for a solution. While all of our years of puppy raising has not made us immune to the relentless chewing puppy; it has provided us with some experience and, therefor, wisdom as to what can be done to help deter this destructive habit.
Never, ever, leave your puppy alone to her own devices, with unlimited freedom! The motto on the farm is, “A quiet puppy is a puppy in trouble.” Unless, that is, that puppy is sleeping because she is worn out from all the mental and physical stimulation we try to give her throughout the day. But, even then, we make sure that said puppy is not out of our range of sight.
If we cannot supervise our puppy, then we put her in her crate or an area where she can be protected from herself! And, if we are busy doing chores around the house and would rather not put her in her crate, then I put her on her leash, tie it around my waste, and have her tag alongside me. This works perfectly as her curiosity keeps her engaged in all the “interesting” things I am doing around the house!
Mental and Physical Activity
“A good Lab is a tired Lab,” is a frequent quote we hear in the Labrador community. Nothing could be closer to the truth when referring to a Labrador puppy. Whether 8 weeks old or 8 months old, the Lab puppy is still actively learning about the world around him. Furthermore, all puppies, not just Labradors, learn by putting every new (and old) thing in their mouths.
As he gets older, a puppy’s curiosity, if untamed, can also get him into trouble. A great way to curtail this is to provide him with an ample amount of age-appropriate physical and mental exercise. Here are a few ideas:
* Mix-up your daily exercise. Taking a different direction or going to a different location on your walks can help keep your puppy from getting bored. Adding new sights, sounds, and smells can provide a plethora of new and exciting mental stimulation for him. You may also want to consider mixing up his daily exercise by adding in swimming and a game of fetch!
* Teach your dog a new trick. Daily mental exercises are just as important to your pup’s overall well-being as physical activity. In addition to a regular training regimen to help reinforce the basic commands your puppy has already learned, try adding a new command or trick to your routine. Some fun, yet simple, tricks you can teach him are: high-five, weave between your legs, and roll-over. Visit http://www.akc.org/content/dog-training/tricks/ to learn about other fun things you can teach your pup.
* Add interactive puzzles to your dog’s toy box. There are a number of puzzle-based and interactive toy products available to help exercise your dog’s brain. The extra bonus is that the mental stimulation will help to relieve his boredom (the lead cause of destructive chewing). Check out this article on The Labrador Site to learn about all the available options out there for interactive toys for your puppy.
Despite all of our efforts, there are still going to be periods of time when your puppy (especially your Labrador puppy) is going to have the urge and, oftentimes, need to chew. Your puppy will feel the need to chew in order to relieve the pressure not only during the teething phase, but even after that time, when the adult teeth are still settling into the gums. If you do not have acceptable chew toys around for your puppy, then she will turn to the next best thing: your furniture legs, your shoes, or even that brand new rug you just put in your dining room.
At the farm, our Labs, both young and senior, have a favorite chew toy: the elk antler. We always have 5 or 6 lying around the house, plus a couple extra in storage. The girls LOVE them anytime, but most especially when they are going through a chewing phase or when we are busy around the farm with other chores. The best thing about elk antlers is that they last for a long time, so while they can be pricey, I remind myself about all that expensive furniture I am protecting! We found an excellent resource for these antlers while participating in a recent dog show - Elk Antler Dog Treats. You can find these and other chew treats for your puppy on their website: https://elkantlerdogtreats.com.
While most puppies are chewers, there is no question that the Labrador puppy is one of the more relentless chewers. They are a “mouthy” breed, happiest when they have something in their mouth. While this is essentially unavoidable, taking these steps can help you to redirect your Lab puppy’s chewing energy towards other, more acceptable, behaviors.