The biting and chew behaviour should not be eradicated as it is a self-rewarding behaviour offering mental and physical stimulation. The chewing activity is a stress reliever due to the calming endorphins that are released. A natural behaviour should not be eradicated but should be redirected. The pup does have to learn what is allowed to be chewed and what is off bounds. This is as much for it’s own safety as well as saving the owners belongings from destruction. Ignoring the behaviour by withdrawing attention is an effective method as well as a verbal noise or clap to startle the pup.
Biting is a way the pup shows excitement, play, dominance or fear, it can also be shown when they are hungry or exploring items but it is a behaviour that needs to be addressed early on in the pups life. What starts as little nips would end up becoming dangerous bites later on if the inhibited bite is not learnt. The pup’s mother will have started educating the pup using positive punishment and the new owners need to then continue to reconfirm that nips and bites are not allowed on humans or other animals.
This can be done by not encouraging rough games which allow the biting and rewards the pup with the interaction of the game. Retrieve games and hide and seek games kerb the bite tendencies. Calm assertive energy is required to educate the pup that biting us is not allowed with the use of verbal cues such as ‘No! And ‘Ouch’. As with any unsociable behaviours if the pup continues after a verbal reprimand then ‘time outs’ can be an effective positive punisher as it will not like the play ending and being excluded for a few minutes. Within the socialisation period of the pup’s life 8-18 weeks, it is important that the pup has opportunities to interact with older pups and dog’s as they will tell the pup very quickly that hard nipping and biting is not permitted. The pup should be provided with alternatives which are to be able to bite and chew at otherwise inner frustrations build up especially relevant to certain breed types.
Suggestions to address chewing behaviours.
Pups naturally chew things when they are teething and dogs continue to do so as they go through their lives. Scolding the dog after the event will not have any impact as the dog does not link the two events together and will not understand what it has done wrong. If anything it makes the pup or adult dog more fearful and will probably chew more to de-stress. A verbal reprimand can be given such as ‘No’ and then the item removed replacing with an alternative chew toy to be played with so the pup gets rewarded for playing with the allowed items. A certain amount of environmental management needs to be addressed by removing precious and dangerous items out of reach. When the pup is left on its own, the use of a crate is a safe and secure place to keep the pup out of harm’s way with its own chew toys until the pup has matured and learnt which items are not chew toys.
Exercise is also an important factor as a tired pup or dog will not have the energy for a lengthy chew/destructive activity session. There are chewing deterrent sprays available which taste bitter to the pup but it is worth remembering that it is a natural behaviour so teaching the pup is the best way. If a dog chews household items continually when the owner is out, then you need to assess whether the dog is suffering anxiety, is under exercised or simply bored as it has not got alternative items of its own to chew.
Great items are filled Kongs, puzzle balls, nylabones and tough balls etc.