“PUPPY PROOFING THE HOME”
– By Shirin Merchant
Aargh! That puppy’s at it again! It’s been only a month since the adorable animal stepped into your home. But within weeks, that cute fur ball has turned into a not so cute demolition army that has singly gone about destroying your home. As you look around you realise the curtains have been ripped, the cushions have foam sticking out at different angles, and the coffee table looks like it has survived two world wars. Why is he doing this? Because he’s a dog – it is a normal and necessary part of their learning process. Puppies chew to relieve the discomfort of teething and to investigate the world around them. In fact, chewing is good for a pup – it stimulates gastric juices that aid in digestion and helps clean your pet’s teeth. That’s all wonderful, you say, but must he chew your Jimmy Choos? Can’t he be taught to chew his bone and leave your desk bite free? Yes he can, with a bit of guidance and plenty of prevention, you can ensure your home remains damage free. There are various factors that can often cause a pup to chew; understanding them helps put the problem right easily.
A pup is quick to learn that a great way to get and keep an owner’s attention on itself is to chew items that belong to the owner. That is a guaranteed way to get your owner to jump, shout, chase and wildly flay his arms at you. And there can be no better reward for a pup than that. So, over time the pup learns to selectively chew the expensive carpet, over the rubber toy and get the attention it craves. If you think your dog is chewing to get your undivided attention, all you have to do is to ignore it when it chews your stuff, but praise it enthusiastically for chewing a rawhide bone. It often takes awhile for the pup to figure out what it now gets attention for, but within a week you should see promising results.
Most city dogs are bored out of their minds. They loll all day with nothing much to do except eat, sleep and go for a short walk around the corner. Yawn. Can you then blame a pup for redirecting his energies into tearing up your home? If you want to keep energetic Eddie off your plants all you have to do is increase his outdoor exercise (a dreary walk won’t do, it has to be a free run in a park), play fun games (such as hide and seek), and give him plenty of interesting objects to chew on at home. You may, at this juncture, point out the Eddie has a basketful of toys; what more does he need? Well, most dogs are bored with their toys, and if the toys are all the same in texture (rubber bone, rubber ball, and rubber ring) it further ups the ennui. Why not try giving your dog a rawhide bone stuffed with cheese, or a Kong toy stuffed with liver pate or cut up a milk carton, freeze chicken soup in it; peel off the carton and then hand it over to your dog to lick – a messy but delicious way to keep him occupied for at least an hour.
If your pup is around six months of age, it is likely that the chewing is partly an outlet for relieving teething pain and partly an exploratory phase the pup is going through. If that is the case with your pup, give it plenty of chew toys to relieve the pressure on its gums and give him interesting chew items made from a variety of substances, for example, don’t just give him rubber toys, be creative and give a rubber ball, a plastic toy, maybe a sock stuffed with cloth, etc. And take your pup out for walks – dogs that age need to explore their natural environment, if they are denied that activity, they will soon turn to exploring the insides of the house they are confined in.
An owner should also realise that chewing is a phase most pups go through for a few months before outgrowing it. Like you would baby-proof your home when a tot starts crawling, all puppy owners need to puppy proof the home for a few months. Here are a few tips you should keep in mind.
- Most common household plants are poisonous to dogs; if you have a puppy, or even a dog at home, make sure all your plants are out of reach and the leaves won’t fall where you pup can get to them.
- Keep all poisonous or hazardous items out of your puppy’s reach. This includes cleansers, gardening products, insect sprays, medications and any other harmful items. Puppies can be quite persistent; so make sure yours cannot open a cupboard or crawl under a cabinet and get to the items.
- If you own any expensive carpets or heirloom furniture, ceiling to floor painting or designer upholstery pack it up for a few months. Puppies, for some strange reason, prefer to chew on the expensive items and reject the common stuff. Make sure you put your shoes, clothes, stationary, kids toys etc out of reach. And don’t forget to keep your garbage secure and out of an inquisitive pup’s reach.
- A hanging wire is very tempting for a pup to tug. Make sure all wires, and cords are securely taped up or tucked out of your pup’s reach.
When Fido makes a mistake
No matter how hard you try to keep your puppy occupied or out of trouble, you will have some damage around your home. And though you may get angry and frustrated with his chewing habit, it is imperative to remain calm and not hit or punish your dog for chewing. Experts suggest that if you catch your pup chewing an unacceptable item, a short verbal correction, like, “Aah!” is enough to get him to stop. Then offer it an acceptable item to chew on.
Make sure you only correct your dog if you catch him in the act. Never correct a dog when you discover destructive chewing after the act. Your dog won’t understand the cause of your anger and will simply become afraid of you.