Excerpt from a telephone conversation:
“My puppy is getting into the woodwork, the carpet, the cupboards and messing on the floor!” “I’m getting very tired of it. How can I put a stop to this??!”
“When is your puppy doing this? Where are you when this happens?”
“Well, I put him in the kitchen with a baby gate during the day, and he works on everything periodically during the day. I’m, of course, doing my housework, laundry, etc.”
“I thought you had him crate-trained and used that…?”
“Oh, I do – at night. But I don’t want to put him in there ALL DAY too, so I keep him in the kitchen.”
The above conversation actually took place, not too long ago. I have similar conversations quite often.
Puppies are curious balls of energy. They naturally need to explore their world. Textures, smells, tastes – all entice them. They need to learn about everything. Whether you are present or not, this exploration goes on. As puppies get older, they still explore their environment – seemingly on a “search and destroy” mission.
So Why Do Puppies Chew?
Dogs and puppies “get into mischief” for many reasons:
- To test their limits – to find out what they are allowed to do and NOT allowed to do.
- Stress – often resulting from too much freedom and no apparent limits set on their behavior.
- To get to something else – ie: a toy hidden in the cushions of the couch.
- To use up energy – If you don’t exercise them, they’ll find a way!
- Separation Anxiety – a psychological disorder
- Plus a few we haven’t quite figured out yet
If you haven’t figured out my solution to the problem of destructive behavior yet, here goes:
IF YOU CANNOT MONITOR AND CONTROL YOUR PUPPY’S/DOG’S ACTIONS, THEN HE MUST BE KEPT IN A SAFE DOG-PROOF PLACE!
ANY DESTRUCTION YOUR PUPPY DOES IS ULTIMATELY YOUR FAULT, NOT YOUR DOG’S.
Puppies are destined to be bad – they don’t know any better. It is up to you to guide your puppy to appropriate releases of energy. This does NOT mean your puppy will always be bad. IF you put the time and effort into showing him what is right – he will learn to be good.
Think about possible solutions to the puppy mischief that goes on when you cannot watch. You will be surprised that YOU can probably answer your own questions on how to control it.
KEEP YOUR PUPPY CRATED WHENEVER YOU CANNOT WATCH HIM
This, of course, means puppy will be spending a lot of time in in his crate during his first year with you. IF you spend the time needed to guide your puppy as he learns your house rules, then that time will decrease as he grows and learns. YOU will need to invest time EVERY DAY in lessons in living for puppy. This time investment should happen naturally as your day progresses. You don’t need to have guilt driving you (gosh, I need to TRAIN my dog. I need to spend a half hour or he wont’ grow up to be a GOOD DOG…). Lessons may only be 5 minutes long. Puppies don’t have the attention span for long lessons. They do need consistent guidance.
KEEP THE PUPPY WITH YOU AS YOU MOVE THROUGH THE HOUSE
This can be accomplished in a couple of ways:
Invest in enough baby gates to barricade him into a small area where you are. This works well – if you remember to WATCH him! Your thoughts can never wander far from the puppy!
Buy a cheap 6 foot leash (preferably a thin, light one), clip it to puppy’s collar, and tie the other end to your belt! This is called the “umbilical cord technique”. It’s a wonderful way to keep your puppy near you, and the little tugs you feel will remind you to keep an eye on him. This technique is not foolproof; you will still need to watch your puppy, but as you move through the house, you don’t need to take any barricades with you. Some puppies will chew through the leash – so watch for that. As you move around your house, with puppy in tow, make sure to provide something safe and appropriate for him to do. Bring a chew bone or a durable squeaky toy to keep him busy. I like to teach my puppies to understand the phrase “chew your bone” or “get your bone”.
As your puppy becomes more reliable, you can combine the baby gates with the umbilical cord. Untie the leash from your belt and let the puppy drag it. This MUST be done with complete supervision, because a puppy could get tangled or knock something over. If puppy gets into trouble, you catch him by simply stepping on the leash, rather than making a mad grab for a tiny dog. This works very well for the puppy who quickly learns when you are angry and won’t let you catch him. By stepping on the leash you’ve avoided a game of tag!
The BEST combination for puppy control is actually a combination of everything we’ve discussed. Puppies NEED plenty of time-out crate time and they also need supervised “free-time” to explore and learn. It’s up to you to decide how to use the steps I’ve outlined to meet your particular needs.
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