If you've just got a puppy, then life in your home will change forever. Not only will this delightful little character bring a lot of laughter into the house, but they will also take up a lot of your time. Looking after a puppy is a full time job because there is so much they need to learn and be taught.
One stage of a puppy's life which is hard for them and owners to get through is when they start teething. This can start anything between the ages of 12 and 14 months, depending on the breed. It's a painful time for puppies which often results in quite a bit of destructive behaviour if you don't help them through it always showing a lot of patience and gentleness.
It's a time when many new pet owners find a little challenging because puppies start to chew on just about anything they can get hold of. This includes chair and table legs, banisters, shoes, socks and the children's toys. In fact, anything that's at a puppy's level is fair game when they are teething.
Smaller breeds take longer than larger dogs to get their full set of adult teeth and it's during this time you need to keep an eye on things to make sure no baby teeth are retained which is not only very painful, but it can lead to all sorts of other problems too which includes puppy chewing on things they shouldn't.
Occasionally, an adult tooth fails to push a baby tooth out and grows alongside it instead. If this should happen, the baby tooth would need to be removed by the vet otherwise a painful abscess might form which could cause permanent damage to the adult tooth.
Another thing to watch out for is misaligned teeth. If the upper teeth don't meet the lower ones correctly it can cause all sorts of problems. If the teeth are very misaligned, it can make it hard for a dog to chew their food. It's usually one tooth that causes the misalignment and when caught early enough, a vet would be able to correct the problem by removing the tooth responsible. This takes the pressure off the jaw which can then grow and develop normally as it should.
It goes without saying this is a difficult and painful time for a puppy which is why it's not a good idea to do any sort of serious training with them, but rather to keep to the basics. Their gums will be sore and they will be feeling pretty miserable which means they are going to be a little too preoccupied to learn new things preferring to chew on something to alleviate the discomfort.
To make life more comfortable for your puppy, there are certain things you can do to help them through this difficult time. This includes giving them specific treats to chew on and to teach them very basic commands which will stand you in good stead when they are adult dogs.
This is the ideal time to teach a puppy the "leave it" command. It also teaches puppies that tug of war with an object is not an acceptable behaviour. The best way for them to learn the command is to let them pick up a favourite toy and then to take hold of it while giving them the command to "leave it". As soon as puppy releases the toy, you have to reward them generously but calmly. Pretty soon they get the message and when they do, rather than give them a treat when they release the toy, you can offer them another favourite toy they can chew on and play with,
Teething time offers the perfect occasion to teach a puppy the "no" command as well. If you catch them chewing on something they should not, it's important to say "no" before offering puppy a favourite chewy toy to play with. As soon as they start chewing on the toy, it's important to calmly reward them. One of the best ways to train a puppy is to make sure they get the impression of doing things "right" which in turn teaches them the value of praise and rewards!
There are some brilliant bitter apple sprays around which when used correctly have prevented many a puppy from chewing their way around a home when they are teething. These sprays have a nasty taste to them and when sprayed on objects and items that puppies like to chew on, it puts them off straight away. One of the best around is called Grannick's Apple Spray which effectively stops a puppy in their tracks if they go anywhere near furniture legs and other things they like to chew on.
Soft mouth training a puppy is really important because when they grow into mature dogs it makes it so much easier to give them a pill when they are unwell. It also makes it a whole lot easier to retrieve things out of their mouths before they get a chance to swallow them. It also teaches a puppy not to nip which although you may think is "cute" can actually be quite dangerous especially if there are kids in the household.
The best way to go about soft mouth training is to lie on the floor with your puppy and play a gentle game of tug with them. You then have to take the toy out of their mouths before carefully playing with their lower jaw. If puppy wants to mouth your hand, that's fine but if they attempt to bite down, you need to quickly and loudly say the word "ouch" before clamping down on their mouths firmly but gently for a couple of seconds but never any longer!
When you release their mouths, puppy continues to try to bite your hand, you have to say "no" and firmly but gently clamp their mouths shut again but only for a second or two. This imitates mum's behaviour when telling her puppies off and pretty soon puppy will get the message and they will give up trying to bite down, preferring to just mouth your hand.
Puppies are glorious creatures and great fun to have around, but they are a full time commitment albeit a very pleasurable one. Getting through the "teething" stage can be challenging, but if you go about it the right way, you make life a lot more comfortable for puppy with the bonus being that your furniture stays intact and the whole process is not so challenging for you either!