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EDUCATIONAL INFORMATION:

TIPS ON MODIFYING DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR IN PUPPIES

The first step in curbing undesirable chewing behavior in puppies is to understand why puppies like to chew on things, including us. Puppies, like human infants, need oral stimulation to satisfy instinctive needs. This is normal behavior and a necessary component of healthy development. Once we understand and accept that the puppy is going to chew, the next step is to provide the puppy with "appropriate" things and toys to chew on, and curb the puppy from chewing inappropriate things. The following are guidelines to make this normal puppy stage easier to cope with.

Provide lots of stimulating toys, chewies, bones, etc. for the puppy. Introduce the puppy to its toys, and show it how to play with them. The idea is to make the toys/bones more attractive than the things it shouldn't chew on. A favorite is a kong toy that has an attractive consistency to it, and can be stuffed with favorite treats. Cornstarch bones are also desirable. Rawhide products should only be provided when the puppy can be closely monitored. The same applies to latex squeaky toys, toys that can be fun, but are not recommended for serious chewing as they are easily penetrated, and the device inside can be dislodged.

Don't encourage the puppy by allowing him to chew on your hands and fingers. This is a major mistake that we make early on, and is irresistible to puppies. Our fingers have a nice salty taste and are just the right consistency to make their mouths and gums feel really good. It also becomes habit forming and before long those needle teeth really hurt. When the puppy starts biting on you, let out a loud shriek (that hurt!) and immediately give it an appropriate thing to chew on.

If the puppy is chewing on an inappropriate item, make a loud noise to startle him (example, - a loud clap, rattle a can that has some coins in it, drop a book on the floor) and then proceed to give the puppy one of its toys to chew on. Refrain from vocalizing to get his attention.

If the puppy is really hung up on a particular item that you can't break him from chewing on, try applying one of the bitter products available in pet stores.

Praise the puppy when it is chewing on, or playing with appropriate toys. Teach it that it is good to play with the "right" things.

Don't give the puppy items that resemble household items. A puppy can't differentiate between an old pair of shoes or slippers, and a new pair! The same holds true for stuffed animals or toys, and some of those cute squeaky toys as well, that may look like one of your treasured collectibles. The puppy can't tell the difference.

Keep the puppy within sight, or confine it so it doesn't have the opportunity to be destructive. And don't think that confined means the bathroom or laundry room. Anything is fair game and a puppy can do incredible things to sheet rock, linoleum, etc.

Utilize a crate when you can't be with the puppy.

And lastly, put those treasured items out of reach while the puppy is learning what is appropriate to chew on and what is not.

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