I was at a new Home Dog Training client in Dawsonville last Wednesday working with her and her nine-month old Labradoodle. Like all young Labradoodles, Bella was full of energy and very self-willed. My client had never had a dog before and when she got Bella as a small puppy, simply focused on potty training and let Bella do whatever else she wanted. Now, at nine months, she was “big” and all her undisciplined freedom was becoming a rather large issue for the family.
We initially focused on teaching our client to be Bella’s leader. This would allow her to get Bella’s focus so that she could enforce family rules. It took a little effort, but Bella came around and understood that the days of always getting her way had come to an end. There were many things that we worked on, but there are several that I think are important to share. That is because they are almost universal problems with mature puppies.
First, let’s talk about chewing. As puppies mature past eight months, they are not only reaching 80% or more of their adult size, they have just come out of the teething stage. This is a period of time where they are loosing their puppy teach and their adult teeth are slowly coming into place. This is a very painful time for their mouths and they need to find a way to minimize the pain that they are feeling. They almost always revert to putting things in their mouths and chewing.
This process often loosens the baby teeth and quickens their “falling out”. When the baby teeth are out of the way, the adult teeth can freely and painlessly descend into place. The problem that most dog owners make during this period is to simply observe it. They think to themselves, “Oh, this is a phase and they will get over it after their adult teeth are all in place”.
Although it is true that the pain that caused them to chew ends when they have lost all their baby teeth, the habit of chewing things often remains. Since we “allowed them” to chew on anything while they were teething, they see no logical reason to stop. Now that they are getting bigger and bigger, they will chew on more and bigger things. This is not a good thing and we need to reverse this behavior.
One way to prevent mature puppies from chewing furniture is to paint the furniture with Tabasco sauce. Place a small amount of the Tabasco sauce on your finger and let your puppy lick your finger. You will know that your puppy has tasted the sauce and “didn’t find the taste wonderful” by your puppy’s “I don’t like it!” response. That is normally displayed by the pup shaking their head After letting the pup taste it, paint the Tabasco sauce onto the base of doors, tables; whatever you don’t want your puppy to chew. (Always test the product first in an inconspicuous area to ensure it will not stain or damage your furniture.)
Another effective product that should not harm your pup or your furniture is Bitter Apple spray. Do the same with this as was suggested with the Tabasco sauce.
When using either of these two products to deter your mature puppy from chewing, you need to give him an alternative and better activity. Even though the furniture or object may taste bad, if it is the “only thing to do”, your pup will finally simply chew it because there is nothing else for him to do.
We suggest that you place a “better thing to do” very close to the “I don’t want you to chew this” object. We like using the food Kong toys. These are the rubber Kong toys that have holes to hold goodies. Place some peanut butter in the hole and then place the Kong toy in the freezer. Once the Kong toy is good and cold and the peanut butter is frozen, place the toy near the thing you don’t want him to chew. Once your pup has realized that the thing he wanted to chew was yucky, his nose should pick up on the scent of the peanut butter. The Kong toy and peanut butter will provide an acceptable alternative to chewing your furniture.
Now that we have discussed “chewing up your good stuff”, let’s turn our attention to “just crazy and destructive behavior”. Mature pups are very similar to “tweens”. They are “near full size”, extremely full of unbridled energy, and are still working with a child’s brain. Remember those times with your kids? Fun times, weren’t they! Not!
Area management can be an excellent solution when it comes to general destructive mature puppy tendencies. A pup that is kept in a special area of the house is easier to control as far as protecting your property is concerned. Also, do not give your pup full run of the yard. Instead, partition off a section or build a playpen. Be sure to provide shelter and protection from the weather and provide plenty of toys, food and water. Remember, most destruction occurs when the pup is bored.
If the pup cannot be corralled, then you will need to keep your dog in a portion of the yard using “this is a really great place” method. We suggest creating a digging pit for him. A “Pup digging pit” is very similar the the sand boxes we had in the back yard when we were kids. Find a place in the yard and dig a hole about six inches to twelve inches deep and between six to ten feet wide. Cover the floor of the area with a high strength plastic tarp and fill the entire pit with sand.
Get some of your pup’s favorite things and treats. Place some of the treats on top of the sand, partially bury others, and completely bury others. Every time your pup is outside, get his focus with a treat or toy and then direct him to his “Pup Digging Pit”. Leave a bowl of water right next to the pit so that if he gets thirsty, he doesn’t have to leave the area.
Even after you have “corralled your pup” or “made the perfect place for him”, it is important to consider how long your pup will be left alone. All day is a long time for a mature puppy to entertain himself. While we can fill our lives with television, books, housework or cooking, a pup has none of these and, thus, will fill his day chewing and ripping things up. Spend as much time as you can with your pup; when you have to leave him, make sure he has plenty of toys or bones to occupy himself.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over sixteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.