Puppy Teething -- This Too Shall Pass

Aug. 18, 2015

Puppy teething is a lot like baby teething. Here's what you need to know about how to protect your pup -- and your stuff!

A "teething" Doberman pinscher puppy chewing on a ball

Puppy teething, like baby teething, can test a parent's patience. Like babies, puppies will chew on just about anything and need to be closely supervised. Everything -- literally everything-- will be gnawed on, from your fingers to your best shoes. The good news? You can outsmart a teething puppy by applying some precautionary measures. For example, as any mom knows, if you need a quick bathroom break, you might plop your baby into a crib or play pen. Likewise, you can put your dog in a safe zone.

As for how to prevent your little sweetheart from tearing apart your house, chewing on all your rugs and furniture -- "First, you have to make sure any items you don't want chewed on are inaccessible. Second, you have to provide the puppy with plenty of alternative options," says Coleen Johnston, a veterinarian and a PawsLikeMe pet adoption site co-founder. "There are an infinite number of wrong choices a puppy can make, so set the puppy up for success by removing temptations. Also, be sure to praise the puppy when they make the right choice."

Taking Away Temptation
Just as you need to baby proof your home when you bring home junior from the hospital, you'll want to puppy proof your abode for a new pup. Many of the same rules apply -- "Never leave anything on the floor that can be mistaken as their toy. Sometimes even rugs have to be put away until your dog has matured," says Birgitta Lauren, a dog breeder, who is also a prenatal and postnatal nutrition expert for humans. Instead, have safe chew toys available. "Have chew toys in every room so dogs don't have to go search for something to chew on. Dogs always go for the nearest handy thing." In terms of what kind of chew toys to offer, Lauren suggests balls and squeaky items.

Teething Dos and Don'ts
Just as you'd stop any baby from chewing on an electrical cord, the same goes for a puppy teething. "If you catch the puppy in the act of chewing something she shouldn't, a firm 'no' to startle her away from the object, followed by praise for dropping the item and giving her a replacement toy that is OK to chew on does the trick," says Johnston. The same is often done with babies. "If your puppy won't drop the item, calmly and firmly repeat the 'Drop it!' command and offer a reward that is more tempting -- like a favorite treat or favorite toy," says Johnston. This will teach the puppy the command. Otherwise the dog won't know why something is being taken away and won't realize she's done anything wrong.

As with a baby, don't punish a puppy later if you find something damaged item (such as a chewed slipper). "Punishing the puppy for something that has already happened will only instill confusion and fear, because at that point, the puppy has no idea why he is being yelled at," says Johnston.

Remember, It's Just a Phase
Parenting -- whether the baby or the pup -- is filled with fun-filled moments, as well as challenges. Teething is a common part of growing up. So give your teething kids plenty of chew-toy options. Then give them what every little one needs -- fresh air, exercise (tummy time for babies ... running time for pups) and ample rewards for good behavior.

And read about House Training a Puppy.

Judy Koutsky is the former editorial director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also executive editor of Parenting, AOL Parent and BabyTalk. Follow her on Twitter.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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