Most of us have figured out by now you can’t actually stop a puppy from chewing! Puppies (and a lot of dogs) need to chew!
But, you can prevent them from chewing inappropriate objects like shoes and furniture by providing them with appropriate items like bones and toys.
Here are some of our tips to stop inappropriate chewing. Please list your own tips in the comments to help others.
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IN THIS POST:
- Why do puppies chew?
- How long does the puppy chewing stage last?
- What is safe for a puppy to chew on?
- Tips to stop the chewing
- Stop chewing when left alone
- How to stop puppies from chewing shoes
- Stop a puppy from chewing furniture
Puppies explore with their mouths
Puppies are curious little creatures by nature and explore their surroundings with their mouths and their paws.
They’re just as interested in chewing on one of your fingers as they are on a furniture leg or a shoe that might cross their path.
It’s simply fun for a puppy to explore their world in this manner. We’ll be showing you ways to redirect his seemingly random chewing attacks to more proper ways of using his sharp little puppy teeth.
That brings us to another reason why puppies chew on everything.
Puppies are teething
When puppies start teething, their gums hurt, very similar to what human babies experience when their teeth start coming in. They’re going to look for something chewable to relieve the pain in their gums. It’s really important that puppies are offered safe and appropriate items to chew while they go through the teething stage.
See our post: Stop a puppy from biting!
Teething puppies who are bored are probably the worst combination and will get into considerable chewing mischief unless redirected! Bored puppies will find something to entertain themselves with, and it’s usually going to be something we won’t appreciate.
Things that come to mind are those expensive leather loafers, a wooden furniture leg, clothes, kids’ toys or electrical cords. The list is obviously endless.
The same concept applies to adult dogs, by the way.
Bored dogs need an outlet for their boredom. While bored puppies are usually only annoying, adult dogs who aren’t challenged mentally can represent a real danger to themselves and others.
For example, they might dig themselves out of their yard and start chasing bikers and joggers, just to mention one potentially dangerous situation.
Puppies start their teething phase between 5-8 weeks of age, and they lose their first baby teeth around 12 weeks. From this point onward, their adult teeth will slowly start to come in.
That being said, the puppy chewing stage typically lasts 5-6 months, at which point they’ll have their set of adult teeth. Most puppies will have their adult teeth between 8-10 months of age.
Adult dogs also chew
Young adult dogs as well as older dogs might continue to chew because it’s an instinctual need, it exercises their jaws, engages them mentally and relieves boredom, and some dogs are just naturally inclined to chew more than others.
Barbara’s dog Wally was 1.5 years young when she adopted him earlier this year, and she quickly noticed that Wally most definitely likes to chew!
He didn’t get into anything inappropriate because he had plenty of dog specific chewing options, but he did manage to destroy a puppy KONG toy Barbara had left over from her previous dogs.
He simply gave it a good bite one day and halved it, which resulted in him getting two Extreme KONG toys that he does great with. He has yet to destroy those, and it’s unlikely that he will.
Wally also LOVES shredding squeaky plush toys, which is why he simply no longer gets any. That’s with the exception of him kidnapping one every so often when Barbara takes him to pet retail stores!
He’s made a lot of progress with this bad habit, but just recently managed to grab another unsuspecting squeaky hedgehog when Barbara took him for a quick nail trim at a pet retail store that offers walk-in grooming services.
It was an extra $19.99 and a good reminder that he’s not over that phase yet after all!
Raw bones for chewing
Wally eats raw dog food, and part of that diet are raw meaty bones. They’re safe to eat because they’re soft and pliable, and a dog’s acidic stomach is designed to break them down no problem.
Wally gets a lot of chewing satisfaction out of eating the raw meaty bones, and they’re a wonderful means of keeping his teeth clean and his jaws exercised.
For more information on how to safely feed your dog raw meaty bones, check out Barbara’s article How to safely feed your dog raw meaty bones.
Wally also gets recreational chews on a weekly basis, and a favorite are definitely dehydrated bully sticks. They last him about an hour to two, depending on how long and thick they are.
Wally’s monthly single ingredient treat subscription box from Real Dog Box comes with one super chew (they let you add as many as you want for $8 each), which can be anything from a lamb femur to a bully stick, and keeps him busy for several hours, after which he’s a tired, sleepy puppy!
One of our favorite puppy chews are filled, frozen KONG toys. Simply fill your puppy’s KONG toys with his dehydrated or raw dog food, stick them into the freezer overnight, then offer to your puppy. He’ll be busy entertaining himself for quite some time with his fun chew while soothing his sore gums with the cool food.
Check out Barbara’s raw dog food puzzle idea featuring KONGs and Darwin’s Lamb with organic vegetables:
You can also fill KONG toys with kibble, but you’ll want to mix it with something of softer consistency so that it doesn’t fall out of the KONG too easily. You could try mixing it with dehydrated food, canned pumpkin puree, wet dog food or a little peanut butter.
Just watch out for the calories if you’re opting for peanut butter – they add up quickly. Also be sure not to use any peanut butter containing Xylitol. That’s an artificial sweetener that’s toxic to dogs.
Other safe puppy chews are:
- Dehydrated bully sticks
- Trachea chews
- KONG puppy rubber toys
- Dehydrated lamb ears
- KONG puppy activity ball
- Nylabone chew toys
- Natural (= unbleached) rawhides
See our post: Which chews are best for puppies?
1. Keep everything picked up.
Lindsay tried to “puppy proof” her living room the best she could by at least keeping items off the ground. This was the room foster dog Lana spent the most time in when she was not in her kennel.
Lana would grab stray socks, cups, pens or pretty much anything that happened to be on the floor, so Lindsay did her best to keep things off the floor! She also made sure there were no cell phone chargers, head phone chords, etc., dangling at Lana’s eye level.
They kept shoes on a small shelf, and after telling Lana “no” a few times, she understood shoes on the shelf were off limits. But, she was an older puppy (about 9 months) and had at least some self-control!
Younger puppies will be more likely to grab shoes laces, chords, etc. Lindsay also knew not to trust Lana for more than 3 minutes or so unsupervised. Each pup is different.
2. Keep two toys out at a time for your puppy to chew.
Lindsay kept 2 to 4 toys out for Lana at a time. To keep her interested, Lindsay rotated which toys were out at one time. Lana had about 5 favorite toys to chew and play with, so whenever she was not in her kennel, Lindsay chose a few toys to give her.
That way, if Lana tried to chew or grab something like the remote control or a sock, Lindsay would calmly say “no” and then offer Lana a rope toy or ball. “Good girl!”
3. Provide different types of toys.
It helps if you know what types of toys your puppy likes to chew the most. My foster puppy loves to chew on rubber Kong-type toys, balls and rope toys. Lana didn’t care as much for plastic squeaky toys, and she didn’t get to have stuffed toys because she ruined them immediately!
Offering a variety of toys helps to keep the puppy’s interest. You can also mix up the kinds of treats you use to stuff in Kongs and other treat-dispensing toys. One day it might be peanut butter and a biscuit the next it might be yogurt or a banana.
4. Calmly say “no” when your puppy chews something inappropriate.
Rather than ignoring Lana for chewing something, Lindsay would calmly and firmly tell her “no” and then instantly offer her a toy and reward her.
Some trainers will tell you to just ignore unwanted behavior, which is a great idea for many scenarios. For chewing, we like to catch the puppy right before she has a chance to chew or right as she has the item and tell her “no.”
Look at this crazy dog:
5. Train your puppy to lie down and stay.
Teaching your puppy all the basic obedience commands like sit, down, stay and come will help her build more self-control overall.
The most helpful command when dealing with chewing is “stay.” That way, you can put your puppy in a down/stay, and she will stay there for at least short periods of time. Start with just a second or two, of course, and slowly work up to 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 mins, etc.
6. Provide lots of exercise.
Increasing your puppy’s exercise is not going to stop her from chewing, but it will decrease her energy overall which means she is more likely to relax and just lie down.
OK … sometimes it may seem like your puppy is never going to be tired, but increased exercise can only help. Make sure your puppy is getting time to run and play in an off-leash area if possible, and make sure to take her on long walks.
See my post on walking a puppy before she’s had her vaccinations.
7. Use a bitter apple no-chew spray.
Lindsay didn’t use this type of product with Lana or her current pup Remy, but she used it with past puppies. If your puppy just can’t seem to stop putting her mouth on something like her leash or your hands, you can spray bitter apple spray for puppies right on the leash or on your table leg or whatever it is she can’t seem to stop chewing.
Bitter apple spray is just as it sounds. It’s a bad-tasting spray that will not harm your puppy but will hopefully stop her from chewing furniture, her leash, etc. Some puppies don’t seem to even notice the spray, while it does work well for others.
Use a kennel or gated-off area when you can’t supervise.
When Lindsay couldn’t supervise Lana, she left her in her kennel. Even if Lana was left alone for 15 minutes while Lindsay took a shower, it was just easier to leave Lana in her kennel.
Leaving her alone for even 10 minutes would give her way too much time to chew something she shouldn’t.
We like to recommend a kennel (crate), but you could also try gating off a bathroom or kitchen area or perhaps using an exercise pen, which is a gate set up sort of like a toddler’s “play pen.”
When your puppy is alone, you want to leave her some tempting, appropriate items to chew on like a Kong toy. It also helps to provide exercise before you leave and again when you return.
Prevention is always our first approach when it comes to puppies chewing on items they’re not supposed to be chewing. That’s why our top three tips to stop a puppy from chewing shoes are:
1) don’t leave shoes out and within the puppy’s reach, and
2) offer your puppy an appropriate chewing alternative to shoes
3) crate your puppy when you can’t actively watch her or keep her contained inside a play pen
If your puppy managed to sneak a shoe and you’re catching her chewing it, gently take the shoe away and offer your puppy something appropriate to chew on instead. This could be a dehydrated chew, a rubber toy, or a filled dog food puzzle. Don’t make a huge deal out of it, but firmly say “NO” while your puppy chews on the shoe, then take it away from her.
This scenario would also be a good opportunity to introduce your puppy to the “leave it” command if she doesn’t know it yet. Say “leave it” the very moment she drops the shoe and goes for the appropriate chew (toy) instead.
If you come home to chewed up shoes and your puppy is the obvious one to blame, don’t. She won’t be able to make the connection between the destroyed shoes and your anger. Simply blame yourself for having left the shoes out within your puppy’s reach and promise yourself it won’t happen again.
Remove the shoes, take your puppy out for a walk or some playtime, then offer her a puppy proof chew. You’d have to catch your puppy in the chewing act to make her understand why you’re upset because dogs live in the present.
Furniture legs are particularly tempting for puppies to chew on because they’re typically made of wood, and which puppy doesn’t like a nice wooden stick to chew on?!
But all jokes aside, the same three concepts apply that we mentioned in the previous section How to stop a puppy from chewing shoes:
1) don’t leave your puppy out within easy reach of the furniture
2) offer your puppy an appropriate chewing alternative to furniture
3) crate your puppy when you can’t actively watch her or keep her contained inside a play pen
If you catch your puppy in the act of chewing on your dining room table’s legs, give her a firm “NO.” Then, redirect her to an appropriate puppy chew (toy). You could also try the bitter apple spray approach or a similar chew deterrent and spray your furniture legs, fabric or door frames.
What tips do the rest of you have to stop a puppy from chewing?
Let us know in the comments!
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This post was originally published in 2015 and was updated in October 2019.
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