Puppy Melissa discovered pant legs last week. It began with just a little nibble. If we walked, Melissa grabbed on harder. Not only was the pant material soft to chew, but when the pant leg moved Melissa thought it was great to chase. Dogs love to chase moving objects, it is hard wired in some breeds more than others.
So what were we to do? We have been setting and managing Melissa's environment so she does not have the opportunity to get into bad habits, while rewarding the good choices she makes. We certainly did not want chasing after pant legs and chewing on them to continue. But at the same time I did not want to dampen Melissa's enthusiasm to chase and hold onto an item. In the future I would like her to pick up, hold items in her mouth and bring them to me. If I yell 'no' it is not giving any information to Melissa! If I pull back, she will pull harder. The solution has been to redirect Melissa's attention to a toy. Before she makes a move towards our pant legs, we begin moving the toy in front of her. The toy is on a rope, the movement gets her excited, and she grabs on.
We have also increased her exercise, both physically and mentally. The latter with the use of interactive toys and shaping games (more on shaping in a future blog). Chewing on pant legs has diminished considerably. Melissa has been redirected to appropriate items to chase and chew; and I have increased her enthusiasm for playing with me. Along the way we are building a relationship built on trust and understanding.
Melissa is not being a bad dog when she chews on inappropriate items, she is not trying to be dominant over us. She is simply going through the chewing stage of puppyhood. As very young puppies they use their mouths to explore the world. In a few weeks Melissa will begin to lose her puppy teeth and her adult teeth will begin to erupt. There will be days of sore and swollen gums, and days where Melissa's chewing will intensify. I am ready! I have a freezer full of bones for her to chew, along with some new interactive toys for her to play with. For the days of sore gums, I will feed soft food and offer ice cubes to alleviate any discomfort. I will also be monitor her whereabouts very carefully so she will not be able to chew on any inappropriate objects like furniture, shoes or pant legs. She is not a bad dog, she is a normal puppy, it is my job to set up her environment for her to be successful in all she does. This is just one of many stages of raising a puppy. Keep them safe, while you both continue to have fun.