Chewing is a favorite puppy pastime, but it can become a destructive habit if not redirected early on. For best results, start training your pup against unwanted chewing as soon as you bring him home.
Why Puppies Chew
Puppies use their mouths to explore and communicate when they’re newly born. They mouth their mother’s teats to encourage milk production and eventually play fight and bite their litter mates as a way to establish dominance.
When puppy teeth start to erupt, chewing eases the soreness of gums and acts as a means for self-soothing. Puppies who stay with their mother and litter mates for at least eight weeks learn valuable lessons on bite strength.
Redirect Inappropriate Chewing
Chewing itself is not bad. In fact, regular chewing can help keep your puppy’s teeth in healthy condition and can be a good way to keep your pup occupied when necessary. The key is to make sure your puppy has appropriate chew toys so he doesn’t turn your shoes and furniture into his favorite gnawing tools.
Keep things you don’t want chewed out of your puppy’s reach. When he picks up something that’s not appropriate, consistently take it away, say, “no chew,” and replace the item with something he can chew on.
Never give your puppy chew toys that are small enough to be swallowed, or they could present a [choking hazard](http://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-on-dog-chews-and-treats). Avoid toys with squeakers or plastic. Your dog could chew them open and swallow the small parts.
Curb Play Biting
A sweet puppy nipping at your fingers and toes is cute, but a grown dog doing the same thing with more force presents a serious hazard. Resist the urge to allow this type of behavior by redirecting your puppy’s play biting every time he starts. Use a “no bite” command and issue a high-pitched yelp. Walk away from play if necessary to reinforce the idea that biting is not acceptable. Reward nice play with treats and attention.
Obedience training is a good way to bond with your dog and establish yourself as the dominant pack leader. It also will make commands more effective.
Monitor Mouthy Behaviors
If your dog is a destructive chewer beyond the puppy stage, bring it to the attention of your vet. Excessive chewing can be a sign of dental problems or anxiety issues. Your pup might need a referral to a canine dentist or he might benefit from behavioral training or even medication.