Puppy Training Diary

Chewing and Exploratory Behavior

In an attempt to limit her destructive chewing and control her exploratory behavior, I have 2 crates, an indoor pen, 2 outdoor pens and 3 tie-down areas. Every countertop is covered with rolls of paper towels, timers, cleaners, bitter apple bottles, water spray bottles and all kinds of puppy training paraphernalia.

The floor is a tripping hazard as there are toys and chewies everywhere. I keep an abundance of toys in her crates and pens and tie-down areas. In addition she has a basket full of toys so she knows exactly where to find them. She goes to her basket, takes out one toy; shakes it like she's going to give herself whiplash; pounces on and attacks it; then promptly leaves it behind and repeats the process with the next toy until the basket is empty.

So it's amazing to me that even with all her toys and supervision and confinement, she can still at the speed of light leave a trail of destruction in her path. We play fetch, we wrestle, we play tug, so I think maybe she's tired. Then all of the sudden she bursts into full gear and makes 10 mad dashes around the living room, on the bed, or in the yard. I don't know how she physically can get anything into her mouth at that speed, but she does. She leaves in her wake a trail of chewed papers, cushions, boxes, potting soil, leaves, magazines and things I haven't seen in years. I constantly ask myself, "Where did that come from?" I thought I had the house pretty well puppy proofed, but all it takes is a puppy to show you what you've forgotten.

It's often advised not to play tug of war or wrestle with dogs, but it can be an excellent training exercise when done properly; and it can also cause big problems if done improperly. I discuss this subject at length in the "Help! My Dog has an Attitude" book.

The bitter apple works great when she approaches an item or piece of furniture slowly and has time to taste it. But at full speed, it goes into her mouth and out of it just as fast. She loves to chew everything: the walls, the patio concrete, the stucco, the fencing. If it exists and she can reach it; it's in her mouth one way or another.

This of course is just puppy exploratory behavior and will subside as she learns about her environment. She eventually will distinguish between what is edible and what is not. She'll learn her toys and treats are far preferable to things like walls, tables, chairs, bricks, rocks, etc. So I usually don't make a fuss or even scold her for it. She gets bored pretty quickly and is onto something else anyway before I have time to say or do anything. Sometimes I will distract her and give her a bone to chew on instead, especially if she seems to be enjoying the forbidden item or staying with it too long. I don't want her developing bad habits. Most of the time she rejects the bone because she already knows about it. She wants something new and different. And that's my job to provide it.

I constantly put out new and different things for her to explore. This facilitated her exploratory development and was a critically important socialization opportunity. She met Mr. Vacuum Cleaner and Ms. Hair Dryer as well as anything else I could think of. Even when she's not moving, if there is anything nearby, it somehow ends up in her mouth. She has to bite it, mouth it, taste it or eat it. She's endlessly entertained by everything, but generally only for a short period of time.

I'm also introducing different foods to her. She generally barks at it first, then sniffs it, pounces around it and eventually puts it in her mouth. Often she isn't sure if she likes it on the first taste, but by the second taste, she's all over it. So far she loves raw cabbage and carrots. Today she had some banana and hard-boiled egg. It's important for me to introduce different foods to my puppies so they don't develop a "sensitive" stomach. I want my dogs to be able to eat veggies especially as they are crunchy, low calorie, healthy and fun to eat. I believe dogs should have some fresh food in their diets and not just eat processed food from a bag or can.

It wasn't too terribly long before I could leave food on the coffee table and she won't even think about touching it. For the first month or so, f I left anything on the table, I know she'd be up there in a micro-second. She is so much fun!!! I wish I could train her all in one week to do all the things I know she'll learn. The first few weeks we worked on "sit, lie down and stand." She caught on rather slowly, but eventually she will learn hand signals as well as verbal requests. I don't want to rush her training, but I know how fast puppies learn, that I don't want to miss any opportunity I have with her.

For now, it's just puppy basics, like where and when to pee and what to chew. Once those are under control, she can have so much more freedom in the house and we can do so much more together.

Chewing and Exploratory Behavior

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