Welcome to the first article in our series of blogs that will help you overcome puppy nipping, biting and chewing.
If you’ve had a Labrador before, you’ll hopefully remember that the early stages can be painful for us humans, very, very painful! For those of you new to Labrador ownership, you’re in for a fun time but be warned… you will feel like you’ve rehomed a dinosaur during their teething stages.
It saddens me that a few people give up on their youngsters during this stage, branding them a ‘dangerous’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘destructive’ dog. I want to support as many people as possible through this chewing and biting stage, so this article will help you understand why your puppy is chewing and help minimise the stress, bringing you a step closer to a well-mannered puppy.
Just to reassure you, most Labrador puppies are not ‘aggressive’ or ‘dangerous’; they are often just doing what puppies do best and are exploring the world using their mouth.
Let’s take a look at why your Labrador needs to chew:
First up, your puppy needs to explore their new world, and they do that by using their mouth. Dogs use their mouths just like human toddlers use their hands to explore and experiment. Most Labradors simply want to know if they can play with it or eat it, and using their mouth help them find out those answers.
Your puppy’s biting and nipping will worsen when overtired and overstimulated. Puppies need a massive amount of sleep, but when left to their own devices, they simply don’t sleep for as long as they should. As a general rule, if your dog has an hour of play and excitement, try and conclude that with an hour of peace, quiet rest and relaxation. It will allow them to recharge their batteries and prevent less desirable behaviour from taking place.
How painful is it when you get a toothache, it’s pretty painful, right?
When your puppy is teething, they have that same discomfort but multiplied by about 42. Your puppy can’t take painkillers, so the only thing that they can do is chew to help alleviate pain and tension in their very painful, uncomfortable mouth.
Chewing can be a coping strategy for puppies suffering from anxiety and stress. Chewing, licking and sniffing are things that will help a Labrador remain calm and relaxed. The first six months of your Labradors life is going to be pretty stressful for them, there’s going to be a lot of new things taking place, they’ve got a new house, they’ve got new people, they’ve left their mother and siblings and now have a whole new universe to get used to.
Because it’s all new to them, they will undoubtedly get anxious and stressed out at times, So give them activities where they can chew, lick and sniff to keep things nice and calm.
Also, pain is a massive part of why dogs chew and bite. I’ve already mentioned teething and how painful that is, but pain can come from many different sources, and there are many other causes. If your dog is suffering discomfort somewhere in its body, you might start to notice it showing itself in chewing behaviour. Because they can’t go and take painkillers to help with the pain, they may alleviate that frustration by chewing to take their mind off it.
Puppies learned behaviour and habits will influence their desire to chew and nip. If your dog learns that biting gets them attention, they’re likely to do it more often. Most puppies don’t care whether that attention is good or bad; for the most part, they just want you to give them some attention. For example, if your dog knows that chewing your foot means you to get up and do something with them, they’re probably going to do it again and again because they know that it gets a particular response.
Similarly with habits, if you allow your dog to chew inappropriate things in the early puppy stages, they probably just think it’s perfectly normal as they grow older, and they will continue that behaviour right through their adult life. Finally, lots of Labradors chew because of boredom. If you’ve got a Labrador with nothing to do, they will get bored quickly. Although Labradors are pretty intelligent, they can’t take themselves out for a walk to get over the boredom. But what they can do is chew the skirting board or nip the kids to prompt a response. It’s our job as their humans to give them acceptable activities to do to prevent that boredom from taking place.
Now that you understand why your Labrador needs to chew, you can start to help them through this stage.
Our other blog articles explore the teething stages in more detail and help you minimise undesirable behaviour. If chewing and biting is a problem, check them out.
If you are finding it tough, please reach out to us. We’ve experienced this many times before, and we can help you put a workable plan into place to see you through the challenges with ease.