How to prepare for a new retriever puppy in your home
Many people adopt a puppy with no idea what that will mean for their home and family. They think it will just be all cuteness and love. And don’t get me wrong, there will be a lot of that! But if you have not prepared your home for a puppy, you are also going to experience a lot of pain and frustration.
Puppies are full of energy and can quickly make shambles of your home because they chew on everything. And I mean everything! This leaves many unprepared new puppy owners crying, “Help, my puppy is chewing up my house!”
Natural puppy behavior
Let’s start with an understanding. Just because your puppy is chewing up your house does not mean you got a defective puppy. It also does not mean that your puppy is a crazy, demotic terror. Chewing is a natural and normal behavior for puppies.
However, that does not mean that you should just let them terrorize your home and chew up everything you own. Just like you should not let your children throw your dishes against the wall for fun, you should not allow your puppy to destroy your property just because they are puppies.
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Why do puppies chew?
Puppies are born with a natural desire to chew. It is a part of their genetics.
There are several reasons your puppy will chew.
The puppy is teething.
As your puppy gets his teeth in, there is discomfort associated with that process. To alleviate that discomfort, puppies chew on things. They don’t get their adult teeth until around 5-6 months.
Natural desire to chew.
As I have already stated, puppies have a natural desire to chew. You must look back to their genetic history. Before domestication, dogs hunted for food, took it back to their den and ate that food. They used their teeth to capture and eat the animal they caught for food.
Now that dogs have been domesticated, they no longer need to hunt for food, because we feed them. But they still have the desire to chew on something.
Your puppy is bored.
Some puppies chew due to boredom. Chewing is a way for them to pass the time and, as a bonus, it helps keep their teeth clean.
The key is preparation.
Most people understand that they need to child-proof their home before bringing home their baby. Unfortunately, many people don’t even consider that they may need to puppy proof their home before they bring home a puppy.
Why you need to puppy proof your home.
You need to puppy-proof your home because puppies, like babies, are naturally curious. But they don’t know that there are many things they should not eat, or drink or chew on.
Because of this, you must take measures to keep your puppy safe.
Steps you should take to puppy proof your home.
- Move all easily destructible items off low shelves. Move any expensive or irreplaceable items out of the puppy’s reach.
- Move any chemicals or dangerous substances off the floor and out of reach of the puppy.
- Be aware of any electrical cords that are hanging low enough for the puppy to bite or chew. If you can, move them, otherwise be sure to watch your puppy carefully when they are sniffing in that area.
- Buy puppy chew toys that cannot be broken down and ingested. Bamboo bones and nylon bones work great.
- Buy a puppy sized crate and learn how to crate train your dog.
- Buy a child-gate and decide what room you are going to use to isolate your puppy, at least for the first few months.
- Learn how to housebreak your puppy.
- Teach yourself and your family to not leave valuable items on the ground in the designated puppy area. This includes shoes, which puppies love to chew.
Don’t give puppy full run of house!
It is very important that you do not allow your new puppy access to every room of your home. If your puppy is allowed to go in all rooms of the house, he/she will be getting into things, and you will have a very difficult time keeping watch over your puppy.
This will lead to mishaps. Shoes getting eaten, sofa legs getting chewed and most likely many potty accidents.
Limiting your puppy to only one room will help you avoid many chewing mishaps and potty accidents, making your relationship with your puppy a much happier one.
How to handle mishaps once they happen
Even if you do limit your puppy’s access to one room, you will still have some mishaps. You need to understand this and be prepared for them so that you don’t overreact or react with a lot of emotion.
If you catch your puppy chewing on something he/she shouldn’t be, say NO firmly then take the item away and replace it with an item that the puppy CAN chew such as a puppy toy or chewable.
If the puppy returns to the forbidden item, you may need to be firmer in your correction. A tap on his/her nose, a stronger NO and physically moving the pup away from the item if it is something that cannot be taken away such as a sofa leg.
If you give a NO correction twice and your puppy is determined to keep chewing on the forbidden item, you may have to resort to putting the puppy in his/her crate for a few minutes to make the point. This works as a sort of time-out for the puppy.
All these corrections should be done in a calm, controlled manner. Yelling and screaming is not needed or helpful.
Using a crate to avoid mishaps.
The best way to avoid mishaps is to prevent them from happening in the first place. You can do this by making sure that your puppy is being supervised, even in their designated room. This is especially vital if you are trying to housebreak the puppy. Every time your puppy has a potty accident that is not witnessed and immediately corrected, will make it more difficult to teach your puppy not to potty in the house.
Balancing play time and crate time
Using a crate is a great way to avoid mishaps. Use periods of rest time – time when your puppy is being crate trained, and periods of supervised play time. This will help you avoid many mishaps where your puppy is chewing up your home or things you value. And it will allow you times of rest when you don’t have to be hyper-vigilant about knowing where your puppy is and what he/she is doing.
Chewing on you and your kids
Chewing on shoes, sofa legs or rugs is one thing. But if your puppy starts chewing on you and your family, that is a much bigger problem.
It must be unacceptable for your puppy to bite and chew on you or your family. This must not be tolerated. Puppy teeth are very sharp and can easily cut through the skin. If the puppy is allowed to continue biting on a person, it can become a very unsafe environment.
This sounds like common sense, but we have people bring their dogs to us for training and their arms are literally bleeding and scared from their puppy’s biting. After talking with them it becomes clear that they have misinterpreted their dog’s natural desire to chew on things as love. I assure you; this is not love. The puppy does not bite you or chew on you to tell you he/she loves you. They do it because they are allowed to do it and are not corrected for this terrible behavior.
What are appropriate chew toys?
Many people like to buy their dogs fluffy, stuffed animal type chew toys. While these might be okay for the first couple weeks of a puppy’s time at his/her new home, they are not the best option going forward. A puppy’s sharp teeth means they can easily destroy these types of toys and will likely then eat the contents of the toy.
Stringed bones and toys are also very dangerous for puppies. Many dogs have had to undergo surgery to get these strings out of their intestines. The strings will create a blockage, and this is very dangerous for the puppy.
The best toys for puppies and adult dogs for that matter are bamboo bones or nylon bones. Both are very difficult to break down and the resulting breakdown is in very small pieces that will not cause any type of intestinal blockage.
Real bones can also work, but they must be large, hard bones. Antlers are also a great option. Never give your puppy chicken or bird bones, which are very weak bones. Any real bones must be from a cow or another large animal.
Rawhides can be okay, but some dogs swallow large pieces of the rawhide and that can be dangerous.
Final thoughts on Help, my puppy is chewing up my house!
Preparation is key. If you are planning on getting a new puppy, or you already have a new one that is driving you crazy, take some time to puppy proof your home. Remember, your puppy does not need to chew up your valuables to be happy.
Prepare a room for your puppy and incorporate crate training so that your puppy doesn’t spend a lot of time unsupervised. Spend some time teaching your puppy what he/she can and can’t chew on.
As your dog grows, the chewing generally will become less, and your dog will learn what is okay to chew and what is not. This is not something you will have to deal with forever. Just a few months, or more.
Until next time, happy retrieving.