October 8, 2023

Understanding the Puppy Chewing Phase

Chewing is a normal dog behavior, but puppies often go through a chewing phase. Finding safe items to chew can train your puppy to stop chewing on everything.

puppy chewing phase

Why does my puppy chew on everything?

Chewing is a normal dog behavior. While many dogs chew more as puppies than adults, some dogs will chew throughout their lives. The natural purpose of chewing is about nutrition, however, most dogs do not have to gnaw when eating commercial dog foods. Dogs and puppies will chew on non-food items—sometimes items provided by us, and sometimes items they find in the environment.

A decrease in chewing may be due to changes in preferred activities, or sometimes it may be due to dental problems. If you notice a change of behavior with your dog, please check with your veterinarian. 

Puppies explore the world with their mouths. Dogs and puppies will chew at possible food items if something has a good taste. A dog may chew at an item with an appealing texture to the dog. Dogs will sometimes chew at a restraint, such as a leash or seatbelt, if frustrated or nervous.

In one survey, owners reported more chewing in dogs under a year of age than in dogs over a year of age. 

Best Chew Toys for Teething Puppies

Talk with your veterinarian about safe chew items. While there are many wonderful products, individual dogs have different needs, and your veterinarian can help you determine appropriate objects for your specific dog or puppy.

Items that are too hard may be more likely to cause fractures or damage teeth. Items that are very soft may be consumed in a matter of seconds! Other possible concerns include salmonella for dogs, cross contamination, and salmonella risk for people, choking hazards, or dogs swallowing larger pieces that may not pass through their digestive system (foreign body). 

If you notice your dog chewing inappropriate objects, you can note the size and texture of those items, as it may give you clues as to the types of chews your dog may prefer. If your dog loves chewing sticks and mulch in the yard, you might talk to your vet about dog-specific products that are wood or meant to have a texture similar to wood. Giving that dog a hard rubber or plastic bone may not satisfy the same need as a product that will break apart.

Are food-stuffed toys good for chewing?

Hollow toys, such as Kong classic, are good chew products for many dogs. While dogs need to be supervised with any type of product, and some dogs will tear these apart, they can be good options for many dogs. You can fill this product with canned dog food and freeze the toy so that it keeps your dog entertained longer. One can of food can fill multiple toys. Canned dog food or dry food soaked in low-sodium broth are both lower calorie options than the common recommendation of peanut butter. 

How do I stop chewing in the house?

It is important to have puppy-proof areas for a new dog or puppy. You can look from a puppy’s point of view and find things that may be more tempting for a puppy. Temptations might include decorative objects on an end table, towels dangling off of the oven handle, a rug with a fringe, or wicker furniture with a fiber end sticking out. 

You may choose to remove objects temporarily. The rug might go in a closet, the wicker furniture out to the garage, and the decorative items up on a mantel. Many (but not all) puppies will outgrow chewing without additional intervention. If you have some items that are not practical to move, you may use a product like an exercise pen around the area. A pen around houseplants or across a bookshelf can protect those items from a puppy. Baby gates or dog gates can be helpful to restrict access to certain areas of your house. 

It can be helpful to use a crate or a pen for your new dog or puppy at times when you can’t supervise him directly. As your dog matures and learns more about how to live in your home, your dog can gradually gain more freedom. 

Providing appropriate chew items is helpful. Many dogs and puppies like novelty. If you buy 6 new chew objects, you might only leave 2-3 out at a time. Every few days, or even every day, you can rotate out the items. This will keep your puppy more interested than if the items are always out. You can make a chew object more interesting by putting something delicious on it. Smushing a soft treat or canned food onto the end of a chew object will sometimes help a dog get started.  Some dogs are more likely to chew an object if another dog has already started chewing the object. 

What do I do if I catch my puppy chewing something he shouldn’t have?

If your puppy starts chewing an inappropriate object, you can move out of the room while talking happily. This will usually attract a puppy. After he follows you out of the room, you can direct him to another activity.

Sometimes, that does not work. You can trade your puppy with a treat. While this isn’t a perfect training plan, it is not going to make the problem worse, and it will decrease the chances of your puppy guarding the object. In the long term, you can train your puppy to give you items rather than using a bribe or trade. 

When a puppy chews an object and you go over to scold him, some puppies learn to only chew if you are not present. This can be very dangerous, and can be a much harder behavior to change. 

When will my puppy chewing phase end?

All dogs are different. While many dogs will chew less as they get older, many dogs enjoy chewing as adults and even as seniors. 

Puppies seem to chew more when they are young and exploring the world, as well as times when they are teething. This often declines after about 6 months of age. 

Some dogs seem to chew more often when stressed or excited. Monitoring your dog’s excitement and stress levels may be helpful for recognizing the needs of your dog and when he may need a break or when he may need you to provide an appropriate chew object.