What to do with a Kong

(This puppy is licking goodies out of her Kong instead of fussing during down-time at puppy class.)

If you have a new dog, especially a puppy or teenage dog, I bet everyone is telling you to get a Kong. Dog trainers are wild about Kongs, your veterinarian may even sell them in the waiting room, and every pet store stocks them in all sizes.

But let’s be honest, you have looked at a Kong and wondered what the big deal is. Maybe you even purchased one and brought it home. You put it in front of your pooch expecting a small miracle to occur. But your dog just sniffed it and walked away. You can’t help thinking, “Now what? Why all the hype?”

The truth is, the Kong is just a hunk of hollow rubber, unless you start thinking like a dog. Dogs like games and puzzles that engage their amazing brains. They need to use their powerful sniffers, their paws, and their jaws to scavenge and extract food from tricky places. The Kong is designed to make all of this physical and mental challenge happen in a way that does not involve your furniture, rugs, shoes, undies or other potential objects of fascination.

If your dog could talk, he or she would ask you to please stuff the Kong parfait-style: some smelly, gooey stuff in the tip (like cheese or peanut butter), layered with some kibble, then something globby like part of a banana, layered with a few dog biscuits or leftovers from last night’s supper (veggies are great, no cooked bones or toxic stuff, please), topped off with something easy to get started, like more peanut butter.

Now you’re on to something!

That should keep your dog quiet in the crate, or occupied while you prepare dinner or watch Dancing With the Stars (in which case you obviously cannot lower your eyes from the TV, even for a moment). You also get Good Dog Owner points for providing an outlet for your dog’s daily behavioral needs.

Fancy versions of this (because I know your dog is above-average smart):

  • Jam everything in as tight as possible by using the back of a knife
  • Prepare the Kong, then freeze it
  • Prepare the Kong, then nuke it for 15 seconds or so
  • Feed all regular meals as stuffed Kongs (use just a dab of PB mixed in to hold everything together)
  • Make multiple Kongs ahead of time (refrigerate) and hide them around the room/house before you leave

Yes, it’s gross, but your dog really will get every last morsel out (if not, adjust the difficulty by stuffing looser and using less goo). I put mine in the top rack of my dishwasher and, voila, they are sterilized and ready for another round. And I’ve had the same bloomin’ Kongs for 15 years.

If your dog has mack daddy chewing power, get the black Kong. If your dog is a girl, or boy, and color-coding is important to you, get the pink or blue Kong. But please, get a Kong. Your dog will love you for it. While your dog is munching away, please share your recipes, success stories and questions and comments below. There is likely another dog owner out there who would learn from your experience.

Where in the World to Take Your New Puppy

I am excited about how many of you read the previous post on when to take your puppy out into the world! Here is the what, where and how of introducing your pup to new experiences.

What kinds of experiences do you need to provide your puppy?

Introduce to your pup the sounds, sights, smells, touch, people, other animals, situations and surfaces he or she is likely to encounter in life. Consider your lifestyle and make a list of common activities your dog will encounter. Many lists will include “vacuum cleaner,” “a visitor to our home,” “grooming appointments” or “running children.” One list may include “riding elevators,” while someone else’s list may include “horses and chickens.”  Perhaps a trip to a shopping center, playground, puppy play group, public library, or cafe would fit the bill (here are more ideas.) There is no way to introduce everything the puppy will need to feel at ease about, but the idea is to at least come up with the most common things and provide happy exposure to those.

Why is a “happy exposure” so important?PSCoverWEB

Many people say they “mess with” the puppy while she is eating or “mess with” or touch her paws and tail to accustom her to that. This may work out, or what they may be doing is teaching the puppy to find that kind of touch rather annoying (and then, paradoxically, they punish the puppy for reacting in annoyance). If your goal is not mere tolerance of human touch, but rather you’d like to have a dog who actually wags her tail when you take a food item away or trim her nails, why not build in the right kind of association from the start? Teach the pup to happily accept human hands coming at her by pairing it with some of her meal. It can mean the difference between a big battle over these issues and helping the dog feel at ease (if you were the pup, which would you prefer?).

 

We used to think we had to “alpha roll” puppies to teach them who was “dominant.” But like every field of knowledge, dog training and behavior has evolved. There are some approaches we continue with and some areas where we find a better, more up-to-date solution. Now we know that there is just no good reason to intimidate a dog in order to help him fit into your family or your life, or to show leadership. You certainly can do it, and many people do, but why go that route when there are alternatives? I think it is much more respectful of the dog, allows kids to be part of the training, and allows you to avoid unintended fallout of using physical intimidation in the name of teaching. It is easy to get started; just get one of the books listed to the right or use this list, and find a puppy class that uses modern, reward-based methods. You can still show leadership, create boundaries and meet expectations for good behavior. What have you got to lose by training in a way that works for both of you?

How to help your puppy if the exposure turns less than happy

Stress is part of life, so it’s okay for your pup to learn what happens when things get dicey.  If your puppy balks or resists at any point, take it as information that you need to back up a step and pair an easier step with some of his meal, praise and/or a favorite toy. It is best to create trust with your dog rather than fear. Be patient and upbeat and go at your puppy’s pace. (Think of it this way: if the sight of a spider panicked you, I would not tell you to get over it and then put one down the back of your shirt. Not very effective, nor very kind.) Of course if your pup has a very strong reaction, contact your class instructor so you can pick the best plan of action for your particular puppy.

Don’t allow anyone to overwhelm your puppy (or pick him up without explicit instructions), especially if they are unfamiliar. For many reasons, well-meaning people you know and random strangers alike will mimic what they see on TV, what their neighbor told them, or what they remember about having a dog from 30 years ago. You will get all manner of unsolicited advice. The main thing to do is always allow your puppy to approach the person at his or her own pace, tell the person to pet under the chin or on the chest (they can feed treats, too, as can you), and if necessary be prepared to cheerfully say “let’s go” and encourage your pup to move away from the person. Most encounters go fine, but it always helps to have a plan in case you run into that extra enthusiastic person. (If you see a cute puppy or any dog, please ask the owner for permission before touching or interacting with their pooch.)

How often should you provide a happy exposure for your puppy?

I recommend your puppy have a field trip, new visitor, or new item from your list at least five times per week. That factors in a couple of days when you may be extra busy and gives the puppy a chance to have some calmer days. An outing doesn’t have to be any longer than 5-10 minutes, and it’s a lot less work than trying fix problems that otherwise might crop up later. An added bonus is that your puppy will likely behave like a dream the rest of the day, as the excitement of something new tends to wear them out a bit.

Puppy class certainly counts as a happy exposure, just be aware that, by itself, attending puppy class does not mean you have socialized your puppy. Class is a great way for you to learn about appropriate greetings and play between puppies, house training and bite inhibition, and basic training, and I highly recommend it. Going to the same class each week, with the same people and dogs, however, clearly only begins to help with your list. So do attend class and then practice what you learned the rest of the week in novel surroundings.

Remember, each person will have their own list depending on what they think life will have in store for their growing dog. Plan a happy new event at least five days a week. Make it fun by being encouraging, going at your puppy’s pace, and pairing encounters with meals or a favorite toy. Enjoy your curious little fuzzball, because adolescence is not far behind!

When Can I Take My New Puppy Out Into the World?

New puppies are curious, inquisitive little sponges, soaking up experiences and information about the world. They also, it is widely held, have a so-called “critical period” of social development up until approximately age sixteen weeks. So when should you take your puppy into the world? The answer is, right away!

You may be wondering about advice you’ve heard regarding vaccinations. Most veterinarians now recommend early and frequent socialization opportunities, even if the puppy has not finished all vaccinations. Veterinarians who are board certified in behavior, in fact, say the risk of your puppy dying from exposure to a virus is far less likely than death from euthanasia due to behavior problems later on that might have been prevented through planned exposures to novel people, places, other animals, and things.

Here is the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statement on puppy socialization and vaccines. In a nutshell, they say that puppies can attend puppy classes starting at 7-8 weeks of age. They say pups should receive a first deworming and a set of vaccines a week before they attend class. They should meet as many new people, dogs, and environments as possible. For complete instructions on how to socialize your puppy correctly and exactly what do do if he is bold or bashful, see the new book recommended by veterinarians, trainers, shelter experts, breeders and behaviorists, Puppy Savvy: The Pocket Guide to Raising Your Dog Without Going Bonkers. In the meantime, here are some tips to get you started.

If you are uneasy about making the change to the new recommendations, I advise taking the pup with you and just not setting him on the ground. You can keep him or her on your lap, in your arms, or on a huge blanket so the pup can take in the sights, sounds and people you encounter.

Your job is to make sure the puppy is not merely exposed to new things, but rather that that her little puppy tail is wagging out of happiness most of the time you are out. To achieve this, don’t stand by and watch your puppy. Be involved. Pair her interactions with others with a cheerful, confident, upbeat attitude, along with plenty of treats and a favorite toy.
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I don’t recommend letting strangers pick your puppy up, or even pet her until they agree to do so in a way that will most benefit the pup: only if the pup comes to them, and then only under the chin or on the chest. Not everyone will do it right, so if someone comes on too strong and your pup should need encouragement, be quick to say, “What a brave puppy!” in a happy tone and if necessary be on your way.

Here are some more reasons to take your pup out into the world with you as soon as you bring her home at 7 or 8 weeks of age. Doing so will provide a chance to:

  • create happy associations with the types of experiences your pup will need to take in stride as an adult.
  • tire your puppy out. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. You’ll be amazed how much calmer your pup is after a field trip or visiting with new people.
  • get your puppy to the veterinarian’s office, just for fun.
  • teach your puppy how normal, and even fun, car rides can be.
  • have a mildly stressful experience or two and bounce back from it, just like will occur throughout your dog’s life.

Next up: ideas for where to take your puppy, how often you should go, and whether puppy class will meet your little fuzzball’s socialization needs.

Riding in Cars with Dogs

In very young dogs, or in dogs unaccustomed to riding in a vehicle, carsickness is not uncommon. The dog may tremble, salivate, and/or vomit. Most dogs outgrow it. Unfortunately, before they have a chance to outgrow it, some dogs begin to associate the car with the feeling of being motion sick, and get nervous just getting into the car. This nervous anticipation leads to queasiness, which in turn perpetuates the problem of getting sick in the car.

The following strategies should put your dog on the road to enjoying car trips. It is best to do them all; you’ll likely find your dog will be over his problem in a week or two:

  • Set up a crate for your dog to ride in. Cover it with a sheet so that he can’t see the world zipping and bouncing past him. Make sure there is airflow along the bottom third of the crate so fresh air reaches him.SickCar
  • Secure the crate so it is stable. It should not tip or slide (use bungee cords, and/or a towel folded underneath the crate to make it level).
  • 15 minutes before each car trip: a) feed your pooch a couple of ginger snaps, which can help calm the tummy, and b) spray the crate bedding (limit bedding to an old towel at this point) with Comfort Zone D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone).
  • Start with *very* short trips (no more than 1/2 a block). Drive the short distance, then allow your dog to exit the car and do something he loves, like take a walk or play a game of tug. Then drive the short distance back home. This will help car rides become the tip-off to him that good things follow.
  • Extend the distance as long as you are successful (meaning he does not get sick and seems relaxed and drool-free).

And, of course, do not punish your dog for getting sick in the car. Not only does that make no sense (would it help you get over motion sickness if someone scolded you?), but it could also make it worse, since your dog would have something else to fear associated with the car.

It is better to go on a series of “fake” short trips that predict a happy event, rather than going on only necessary trips that result in car sickness. Sometimes it takes just a couple of weeks of this approach to get a dog happy and relaxed riding down the road. If a crate is not a good long-term solution for car rides, please consider using a doggie seat-belt for everyone’s safety and to instill good car-riding habits.

Bone Appetit

Do you remember those old Flinstones T.V. cartoons? You know, Fred and Barney, Wilma and Betty. And of course, Dino (my personal favorite). Now, is it my imagination, or did our pal Dino, as the series’ family dog wannabe, get to chew on just gigantic bones? In fact, as I recall, all the bones on that show were, whether they were on Fred’s plate or in Wilma’s hair, just enormous. Well, today I met a dog in one of my training appointments who had such a bone. I kid you not; the bone was longer than the dog. So big, in fact, that it just teetered on the edge of the dog’s bed. It looked like a caveman must have placed it there.

The dog’s owner informed me that the dog really enjoyed chewing on it, and that it was a much better bargain than the smaller bones, from which the dog only got about a couple of hours of chewing enjoyment. LogicalDSC_0153 enough! And then she asked me a great question, which was, “Do dogs need bones?” (Besides the kind they use to walk around on, wise guy.)

Dogs, as a general rule, need to chew. If you’ve ever failed to provide your dog with adequate, appropriate chew outlets, you know firsthand that your belongings, including furnishings, can fall victim to your dog’s choppers. Some dogs need to chew often (like young dogs, retrievers, and dogs who have extra energy to burn). Others rarely chew anything other than their food.

Dogs generally also get mental and physical benefit from working for their meals. And I don’t only mean sitting before you serve them. I mean, because they are natural scavengers, part of meeting their normal behavioral needs includes providing them opportunities for puzzling food out of nooks and crannies.

And finally, there is nothing like the fresh minty breath of a dog who has sufficient chew time on a regular basis.

There is now a dizzying array of toys on the market that can meet your dog’s need to chew. There are the meal-dispensing variety (Kibble Nibble, Twist and Treat, Kong and the like) and there are the in-between-meal edible chewies (like Nylabone, Zukes Dental Bones, and Sam’s Yams, for example). Experiment and see what keeps your dog occupied.

So what about bones? If you would like to offer your dog bones, err on the side of making sure they are too large to swallow or break into smaller bits. And never offer cooked or grilled bones of any size—they can break and splinter and cause severe damage to your dog. Instead, opt for bones sold as “soup bones” or “marrow bones” at your grocery store, like the organic and more humanely raised beef bones sold at Whole Foods. You can find them in the meat freezer; just thaw them in your fridge before use. They are a pretty good bargain, too. And their smooth-edged, tubular shape means a pretty safe chewing experience. Nevertheless, supervise your dog when he’s working on one of these bones. (Some veterinarians recommend against feeding bones, so consult with yours before deciding what’s best for your dog.) Most dogs are pretty excited to be presented with one of these. A marrow bone can keep them occupied for quite a while, not to mention meet their needs for chewing, puzzle solving, and working those teeth and gums. Yabba dabba doo.

Backyard Blues

It is awfully convenient to be able to open the backdoor and let your dog out. Maybe you are even able leave him there for extended periods. Particularly if he can easily reach water and shelter in your absence, this may work out just fine for you, depending on the type of neighborhood in which you live. And then there are those dogs who sing the backyard blues. Dogs are smart, social creatures. Therefore, leaving them unattended in the yard can cause trouble that outweighs the convenience of having them spend their days outside. If your dog is bored, under exercised, or agitated by being isolated from you, you may find yourself with problems such as:

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Barking or howling

Fence-fighting with neighbor dogs

Barking at passing dogs, kids or other pedestrians

Fence jumping (which means not only could your dog be hit by a car, but you will also be in violation of city ordinances; your dog may be picked up by animal control for being “at large” or disturbing people or their property)

Being let out of the yard by a worker, solicitor, or neighborhood child

Coprophagia (eating feces)

Ingesting toxic plants, mushrooms

Pawing or tearing at the screen or back door

Chewing on your belongings or deck

Being frightened by thunder or unruly kids (which can lead to a fear of going into the yard, or aggression toward strangers or children)

Being vulnerable to theft, abuse, or predators (such as hawks and coyotes)

Being in violation of noise ordinances (for incessant, early-morning or late-night barking)

That list covers just about every issue I’ve gotten a phone call about from clients who thought they were doing their dog or themselves a favor by leaving him in the yard, and found themselves with problems down the line.

For most people, the backyard is best used as a place to enjoy the dog by engaging him in fetch, playing or training, or just relaxing and having the dog keep them company while they garden. If you’d like to be able to use your yard to temporarily confine your dog, unattended, here are a few tips to help it turn out well:

  • Provide your dog with interesting things to do in the yard so he won’t develop bad habits or anxiety barking. Keep him occupied with: a stuffed Kong tied to a tree, a sandy area in which you bury dog treats, his meal flung out into the grass for him to scavenge, or a Kool Dogs Ice Treat Maker.
  • Make sure your dog is housetrained before using the yard this way. Otherwise you may be surprised to learn that your dog does not really understand the concept of “holding it” until given a yard opportunity, since he’ll be in the habit of just eliminating whenever he feels the need.
  • Provide adequate exercise for your dog. Your dog will likely just lay around in the yard, or maybe chase a squirrel or two. So you’ll still need to provide exercise in the form of fetch or walks for his mental and physical well being.
  • Use a fence tall enough that your dog can’t jump it.
  • Be courteous to your neighbors. It is not ok to allow your dog to bark incessantly. Not only does that indicate that he may be stressed, but also that he may be causing your neighbors stress. Noise ordinances prohibit this in many towns.
  • Keep your yard free of feces so that you can both enjoy the yard (and cut down on the spread of parasites).
  • If your dog is not used to being unsupervised outdoors, start out leaving your dog for short spurts, like five or ten minutes, and build from there. This will give you a chance to monitor whether or not this is a good idea for your dog.

Finally, be aware of why you want your dog in the backyard. If you are avoiding a training challenge, it might be best to get help with the problem that is resulting in him being placed in the backyard in the first place. Perhaps you just need a place to put him so he won’t be underfoot, or so your dog and kids can have a break from each other (in which case I would recommend an indoor Safety Zone). With a little forethought, you can keep your dog from singing the backyard blues.

Is Someone Sabotaging Your Training?

Do you ever get the feeling that someone in your household is undermining your dog training efforts? Maybe you have even invested in dog training advice, and a spouse or child does not follow through on the training recommendations the way you’d like.

You are not alone. Many of my clients fret that someone in their family is not on board with training. On top of not helping, the rogue family member may even complain that the dog does not behave as well with them.

What are you to do? Here is my advice:

  • Be grateful that the would-be saboteur is so involved with the dog as to potentially interfere with your training. Be glad they care enough about the dog to engage with him or her. Even if one or two training issues aren’t resolved as quickly as you’d like, it is probably all going to work out fine in the end.DogLickingSpoon
  • Try to be patient. After all, since they are not as involved in the training, your half-hearted helper may not be as quick to recognize, prevent and solve annoying doggie habits. So they may feel frustrated that they are not seeing the results you enjoy. The more they see you in action, though, the likelier they are to adopt the successful techniques you are using.
  • Choose one thing to prioritize, and let the rest go. For example, if you are working on several things like puppy biting, chewing on your belongings, housetraining, and crate manners, pick just one of those to get the person to stick to the rules on, at least for a couple of weeks. (Meanwhile, you can continue to work on the whole list.) Puppy biting rules are good to have agreement on, since that way they can still interact with each other without making things worse. Put prevention strategies in place to make sure the other priorities continue to go mostly well. If you have an older dog past the mouthy stage, but who is still in need of potty training, affix a housetraining schedule to the fridge and get a promise that your helper will stick to it. The main idea is that focusing on just one thing will make success more likely, and it will be a lot less frustrating for you.
  • Be open to what you can learn from your family member. I once had a puppy I had big competition obedience plans for. I wanted everything to be just perfect, and worked hard to teach the puppy all the right things. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing. Then one day I watched my spouse playing with the puppy. They had made up their own game, and I could see the joy and pure fun they were experiencing together. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment, because it taught me to remember why I have dogs in the first place, and it made a huge impact on me as a professional trainer as well. Be open to what you can learn about your dog and your family, just by letting them enjoy each other.
  • Spend time with others who are also training their dogs. It is lonely at the top! Training a dog, especially a new dog, takes a lot of time, effort, planning, patience and creativity. If you are working hard at it, and you are the main person in charge of the puppy’s learning, then you may sometimes feel unsupported by those who aren’t at home as much, or who are around just enough to reap the benefits of your hard work. It helps to take a group class, where once a week you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who understand your struggles and triumphs. You might also enjoy neighborhood walks or puppy play dates with people in the same boat. (The Puppy Social Hour is designed partly with this idea in mind, or you might try a semi-private training session.)

Finally, if you are really butting heads with your family over which is the best way to teach the dog something, invite them to the next training session. I fully expect clients to ask why I recommend a technique, or to weigh in on the way they would like to handle a training challenge, or to help predict fallout from a particular method they may be considering. Since it is my job and I am not in the middle of the family disagreement, a little objectivity is injected into the situation. A  family training session can be a good catalyst for moving forward together.

And, of course, sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh. For example, my dogs aren’t generally allowed to have food in the kitchen during meal preparation, but I noticed one of them had started coming in and staring at the same spot on the floor any time I got out a bag of potato chips. A little investigation revealed that someone has been accidentally-on-purpose dropping a chip there each morning when he makes his lunch. The dog never lies…

When Dogs Play: The Good, The Bad, and the Funny

DSC_0160The first Thursday of each month is Puppy Social Hour at Top Notch Dog. It is an opportunity for young puppies to do all sorts of important and fun things. They get to venture out to a new place, meet new dogs and people, practice coming to their person out of a group of dogs, calm down nicely between play periods, meet a friendly stranger or two, and get a little worn out. The puppy owners learn what normal puppy play looks like and how to help their pups out if they need it. My job is to make sure all the puppies leave the social hour better than they arrived. I want them to have a good experience, with both the puppies and people they meet.
DSC_0147Therefore it is not a free-for-all; I match play partners carefully, use gates or even a drag line on an individual pup if needed, and coach the owners when they need some assistance.
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Last night featured a wonderful group of puppies and people. It was a perfect example of a mix of play styles, and the puppies adjusted to each other beautifully (despite some huge size differences!).

So what is good dog play? Here is a list of some of the good, the bad and the funny things that dogs do when they play together. This time we saw only the Good and the Funny, I am happy to say.

Good things to see when dogs play:

  • Taking turns (equal time on top in wrestling matches, trading off who has the valuable item like a toy or stick)
  • Inefficient movements (flopping around, falling down, rolling over, leaping, Viszlagoldencloseupexaggerated head movements like giant biting and snarling with plenty of teeth showing)
  • Play signals sprinkled throughout (there are many; play bows and paw raises are examples)
  • Reading the signals of the other dogs and adjusting accordingly (backing off if there is a short yelp or cessation of movement, and then trying again more gently)
  • Breaking off from play of their own accord to sniff, explore, rest, check in with a person, or get water

 

The Bad when dogs play together:

  • Bullying behavior in which a dog relentlessly targets one or more dogs (which may include standing over them motionless, body slamming, or targeting a body part)
  • Terrified behavior (i.e. tail tucked, trembling) from which a dog does not recover, but rather cowers or hides
  • Non-stop, obsessive play without breaking off 
  • Consistent failure to read other dog’s cues and moderate intensity of play accordingly
  • Drifting into true predatory mode, with emergence of quiet, efficient movements, like staring at and intensely stalking another dog (play signals will be absent)
  • Misunderstandings arising from mismatched play styles, possibly leading to fights or DSC_0171feeling overwhelmed (for example, in general dogs like labrador retrievers and pit bulls often engage in body slamming, whereas a border collie may prefer to chase and be chased, while terriers may like to bite hard and wrestle)

 

The Funny:

Funny things always seem to happen when dogs play with abandon. Like lazy play, which is what I call it when dogs lie on the ground near each other and wrestle only with their mouths. There was plenty of that in this group. We also had a comedian in the bunch, who liked to get the others going by biting their tails. And the little sheltie, the lone herding breed, wanted to play chase games, but couldn’t get anyone to run away from him. At one point he stood five feet apart from another dog. They were just staring at each other in a game of puppy chicken. Then he stamped his tiny foot, trying to get the other puppy to spook and take off. He tried again. “Where is this other puppy’s go button?!?” he seemed to be asking. And then there was Miss Stop Drop and Roll; she would get all the other puppies chasing her, and then, as they converged on her, would flatten herself, roll over multiple times as they passed over her (psych!), and then start the whole thing over again. Big fun.

 

 

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Puppy or Land Shark?

It seems there is nothing safe from your little land shark: chair legs, corners of rugs, cabinets, socks, plants, electrical cords and your shoes. But don’t despair; the first thing to know is that your puppy is normal. He is not bad, or spiteful, or hopeless. He is in fact a dog, which means he has to rip and tear and chew at things with his mouth. Puppies in particular chew on objects a lot, partly to soothe their growing teeth and partly learn about the world. If you have a dog of a breed designed to put things in their mouths (retrievers and others), then you may find your puppy’s default behavior is to put his mouth on things.

The good news is that your belongings don’t have to fall victim to your land shark. All you have to do is be the one to decide what your puppy chews on. If you prevent him from putting your things in his mouth, and then provide your puppy with the chew opportunities he needs, you will meet his normal doggy needs and save your belongings at the same time. 

Prevention and planning ahead take forethought, but most people find it is far less stressfulPuppyChewing than finding a destroyed item later. Besides, by the time you discover the destroyed object, the puppy has had a lot of fun with it, and that fun experience he’s had makes it more likely he’ll choose a similar item in the future. What about catching him in the act and yelling at him? Yelling as punishment really isn’t the way to go. The only thing yelling generally will accomplish is allowing you to let off some steam. Instead, put that energy into planning ahead and you’ll enjoy your pup a lot more, and he’ll be learning what is ok to chew on.

The first step is to prevent access to things you don’t want chewed. Do not skip this step. By skipping this step, many people fall into the following common trap: they allow their puppy access forbidden items, and then hand him a toy that the pup likes to try to get him to chew on that instead. That approach may be inadvertently rewarding the pup for chewing on things he shouldn’t, because it establishes a pattern that teaches him, “Chew on my stuff first, and then I will reward you with this neat toy.” It may not be what you intend, but it may be what he learns! Avoid this trap by using an exercise pen, a crate, a baby gate, or a tether (when you’re in the room), or a drag line to prevent access to items that are off limits. It’s best to puppy proof a room or two to minimize the things the puppy can get into. Remember: prevent what you don’t want and then reward what you do want.

So, you’ve restricted your puppy’s access to unauthorized chew objects, and now you’re ready to provide your pup with appropriate chew outlets. A great place to start is mealtime. Instead of feeding your puppy from a bowl, use mealtime as a way to satisfy his need to use his choppers. To do this, feed all meals by turning them into food puzzles for him to solve. This is easily accomplished by pouring his ration of kibble into an empty, cleaned out drink bottle or carton. Discard the cap and cut several nickel-sized holes into the sides. The kibble will be released as he chews and paws at the bottle. There are also toys made especially for this purpose just about anywhere you can buy pet supplies. Look for the Busy Buddy line of toys, especially the Twist and Treat and Squirrel Dude. They now have sizes especially for puppies, even for very small breeds. Use food puzzles and other edible chew toys throughout the day to keep your puppy’s mouth occupied.

Solving food puzzles will provide an appropriate outlet for some of your dog’s mental and physical energy. It will also automatically reward him for amusing himself with his own toys (instead of waiting until he barks for attention or out of boredom, or chews on you or your things). Rewarded behaviors become stronger and more frequent. Hence, lying quietly with a chew toy will prevent or replace other bad habits. Even in a land shark.