Why Does My Puppy Think I’m a Chew Toy?

Most puppies are born with a strong desire to chew. The need to chew on things – anything, anyone – gets worse as they age before tapering off as they reach social maturity.

Most of us know to give our teething puppies chew toys. But what do you do if your puppy would rather chew on you than chew on a toy?

In the latest “Ask a Behavior Consultant” question, we’re exploring how to deal with puppies who chew on people.

Our 2 month old Shepherd/lab mix prefers to chew on our hands and sleeves than his chew toys. How can we teach him not to use his teeth on us? We understand he’s teething and a rambunctious puppy, he’ll play with his toys but not if he prefers to chew our hands.

Sincerely,

Arms for Puppy Chow

We love helping owners work through puppy problems. If you’re struggling with your puppy’s behavior and don’t know where to get help, give us a shout out and we’re here for you!

We offer 15 minute behavior help calls1 hour calls, and month-long email support packages to suit your needs, no matter where you live.

X Strategies to Get Your Puppy to Chew on Toys, Not You

“Arms for Puppy Chow” (can I call you Chow for short? Great, thanks) says that they’ve tried yelping to discourage their puppy’s mouthy ways. They’ve also tried giving the puppy a chew toy instead, but he really wants arms.

If you haven’t tried handing your puppy a toy yet, do that. But if you have already tried that, here’s what to do next:

1. Get better toys.

Often, the problem simply lies in the fact that we’re not offering our puppy toys that are awesome enough! Give your puppy a Kong stuffed with frozen wet dog food, a pig’s ear, or a rag soaked in boullion and water (then frozen). A more satisfying treat will help tempt your puppy into good behavior!

2. Make the toys more fun than your arms. 

Sometimes, we fall in the trap of waving our arms around to avoid a mouthy puppy. In the process, we make chasing our arms (and chewing on them) into the MOST FUN GAME in the house. Try to gently fold your arms and stand up. If your puppy keeps jumping and biting, see step #3.

When you return, come armed with a flirt pole or some treats.

3. Remove yourself or your puppy if needed.

If toys and being still aren’t cutting it, it’s time to escalate our efforts. And no, I don’t mean we’re going to swat or tap or correct the puppy. She’s just a baby! We’re going to use what we call negative punishment.

This means that we’ll REMOVE (negative) something good from the puppy’s life to reduce an unwanted behavior (punishing the biting, in this case).

If the puppy bites, jumps, chews, or mouths at you, calmly stand up and fold your arms.

Then walk away from the puppy without saying anything or looking at the puppy.

Go behind a closed door or over a baby gate if needed. Wait for 30 seconds, then return.

When you come back, return armed with a chew toy (above), flirt pole (above), or a tasty treat!

4. Use baby gates and leashes as needed.

You might need a bit of help implementing #3. It’s not usually practical to leave a 2-month-old puppy running free around the house. Imagine the destruction!

Instead, use a leash to tie your puppy to a chair leg, doorknob, or counter. Set up a puppy station where you can leave the puppy if she chews on you.

If you’d rather use baby gates, exercise pens, or crates instead, that’s fine. (My personal go-to is exercise pens).

Setting up a puppy playzone can help you get away from your puppy if you need. This is good for your mental health and your puppy’s learning of independence!

5. Redirect biting with training.

If your puppy starts getting a bit wild-eyed (you know the look), interrupt her before she starts biting and chewing! How?

I use my dog’s daily kibble rations for training. Your puppy can’t chew on your arm and practice her sit-stay at the same time.

I recommend checking out our list of 13 Training Games to get started. You can play these as often as you like to interrupt biting or tire out your pup before she even thinks about chewing on you!

Best of all, many of these games teach your puppy gow to get what she wants without chewing on you.

A tired, educated dog is a good dog.

6. Address your puppy’s behavioral wellness.

Puppies chew. That’s normal. But if your puppy’s chewing seems intense or unmanageable, it’s probably because your puppy needs something from you.

When Sarah Stremming talks about Behavioral Wellness, she outlines four main concepts:

  1. Exercise. Be sure your puppy is getting plenty of time to run around and play like a growing dog should!
  2. Enrichment. Give your puppy mental challenges EVERY DAY in the form of training, puzzle toys, hidden treats, and hard chewies.
  3. Nutrition. Ensure that you’re feeding your puppy a high-quality, age-appropriate food.
  4. Communication. Training your dog is the only way to make sure you speak the same language. We can help with this.

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