Limit access to things puppies like to chew when you aren't around to teach them


Last updated 1/15/2020 at 2:19pm

Dear Cathy,

We've always had multiple dogs and now own a black lab who is 9 months old. She is the easiest puppy in the world to potty train, but I have never had a dog chew so much. We have toys and chewies all over the floor and in a toy box, and yet I have lost three pairs of shoes, Christmas decorations, gloves, plants and baskets.

I have a spray that is supposed to taste awful that I am spraying on things and also in her mouth, so she realizes it is nasty. I don't want to have to crate her again. She is with our 11-year-old dog during the day on the main level of the house. Do you have any ideas on how to stop the chewing?

- Jeri, Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Dear Jeri,

Your girl will be a puppy until she is about 18 months to 2 years old, and puppies like to chew. Labs are easy to train though, so here is what I suggest.

Reduce her access to things she can chew. Be vigilant about keeping closets closed, shoes put away, and doors shut to rooms when you can't be present to supervise her. She can't learn right from wrong when you are not around to tell her, so she develops the chewing habit when you're not home or around.

When you are away from home, keep her in a pet-proofed room so she doesn't have access to things she can chew. Leave her with things she is allowed to chew, like stuffed animals or a Kong with treats frozen inside to keep her mind busy. (Don't leave food treats if it will cause your two dogs to fight.)

When you are home, make sure there are things around that she can chew, but shouldn't, and train her to "drop it" or "leave it" if she goes after one. For example, if she picks up a shoe, tell her to "drop it" and hold out a treat so she will. When she drops it, give her a reward word like "bingo" to let her know she did what you asked, followed by the treat. Pick up the shoe and put it back to its original location. If she wanders over to it again, tell her to "leave it," followed by the reward word and treat again.

Put one of the toys she can chew in front of her along with a treat. It won't take long for her to learn what she is allowed to chew and not chew.

Keep in mind, corrections are always verbal, and training is always positive. I say this because you mention spraying what I can only assume is Bitter Apple into her mouth. Bitter Apple is an awful scent sprayed on items to discourage a dog from chewing. So, continue using the Bitter Apple on items you don't want her to chew, but do not spray any of it in her mouth, as that is a form of punishment and doesn't teach her anything. In fact, she may chew more just to get the awful taste out of her mouth.

Train her when you are home as to what is off-limits and what is allowed; pet-proof a room/area that she can be in when you are not home; leave her with toys she can chew; and be patient, as she is still a puppy and will eventually outgrow this behavior with the proper supervision and guidance from you.

Dear Cathy,

I'm curious as to why dog owners apparently feel their dogs can urinate wherever the urge occurs. I've observed dogs urinate on my trees, lawn and flowers while their owners calmly look on.

- Howard, Oceanside, New York

Dear Howard,

Most of the time people are walking their dogs so the dogs can relieve themselves. Male dogs in particular like to mark everything. It's how they communicate with other dogs who have taken that same walk.

While dog owners can't control when their dog decides to urinate or defecate, they always should clean up their animal's feces and avoid yards whose owners might be upset if their dogs urinates there. If it bothers you, have a gentle talk with your neighbors and ask them to steer clear of your yard. If it helps, though, I have not seen a plant die from a dog peeing on it.


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