Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paging Dr. Chew

Nylabones can help
In general, most puppies lose their puppy teeth between the ages of 4 and 6 months. Vinson will turn 4 months this Sunday, so it's no surprise that his forceful chewing has increased this week.

Nipping at people is an issue we want to correct every time and as soon as possible before it becomes an ingrained behavior. The process we use is fairly simple but can be challenging simply due to the number of times you may need to perform the correction in a given day.

As per The Seeing Eye's instructions, when the puppy nips something he is not supposed to, we firmly but carefully get a hold of his neck scruff with both hands, pull him back from what he is nipping, make direct eye contact (very important) and then reinforce the correct with a verbal "No". We then release the scruff and if he does not resume nipping we quietly praise him (loud praise might trigger more nipping). If he does resume nipping, we repeat the process. If he stops altogether and shifts his attention we will increase the praise as his reward. Eventually, the verbal "No" should cease the nipping before it begins, but for now, consistent correction is required.

As with humans, when a puppy is in the teeth mode, their gums may become sore and they may feel some relief chewing on certain textures or cold items. If not monitored, the process can lead to some destructive chewing as well. We are careful to keep an assortment of strong, safe chew toys on hand at all times; but puppies also have a way of making toys out of inappropriate items...

An inappropriate toy moment!
Vinson made his first real mark in my office this morning. I had left him out of the crate (which I won't do again!) for a quick refill of my coffee cup. Upon returning, there was a 4-inch spot on the office wall behind my door where he actually removed the paint down to the drywall! Luckily, it appears no paint was ingested as it the little chips littered the rug. I've been told that even one-year-old puppies can revert to destructive behaviors when unsupervised.

Lesson learned. From now on, if I'm leaving the office for even a minute, it's back in the crate for the little guy.

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