Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Dreaded Second Chewing Phase

I blogged a while back after I discovered that puppies actually go through a second chewing phase. I didn't look into it too much at the time, but after he tried to eat our house, I started thinking about it again and decided to see what I could find out about it, if only to try to get an idea of how much longer this will last.

I have read that the second chewing phase can kick in anywhere from 6-12 months. Apparently it can last quite a while in some dogs - up to several months. (I have this sinking feeling that Oscar might be one of those dogs.) I have read that it is a part of them exploring their territory more, but I have also read that it has something to do with their teeth getting set in their jawbone. I'm not sure what it is, but it's no fun - for us, at least. Oscar is having a ball!

The saddest thing that I read is that this second chewing phase is not well-known by many owners, so some people give their dogs up because they think that the dog is having behavioural issues out of the blue. That's apparently one reason why there are so many dogs in shelters that are around this age. I can understand why owners get so confused and frustrated when this happens (though I couldn't imagine giving Oscar up because of it). While Oscar was already a bit of a troublemaker before this second chewing phase started, it was like a switch flipped and he got so much worse, literally overnight. It was crazy! What a shame that dogs are abandoned because their owners don't understand the source of their behaviour - especially when it's something that many dogs naturally go through and which will eventually pass.

It is recommended that dogs, if they're not already crate trained, be crate trained rather than being given the run of the house. That way, if you can't be around to watch them at every moment, you know they aren't off shredding something that they shouldn't. Oscar is crate trained, but he is not used to being in the crate when we are home. I am working on leaving him in his crate when we are busy around the house. As soon as he's out of sight, he's usually doing something bad. He has a short attention span and he's quick, so he can get up to no good pretty fast. Right now he hates being in the crate during the day, frankly. I put him in there with a stuffed Kong and he's good for about five minutes, and then he starts his frantic barking (really high pitched, with a hint of whine) and shakes the crate. I wait until he is quiet before giving him a really good treat and letting him out. He's not in there very long at a time - maybe fifteen minutes - but it drives him crazy. He still has no issue getting into the crate at night, so I don't think there are any negative associations with the crate - he just wants to come out and play. However, I want him to be able to sit quietly in his crate, even when he can hear us moving around, so that he gets used to being on his own when we can't watch him.

I also think it will help him with his focus, which I think we really need to work on and which I think is the root of a lot of the other behavioural problems we experience with him. When he gets excited, he's all over the place, and I don't think we wait long enough to ensure that he's truly calm before we do things like pet him or open the door or whatever it is he wants us to do. We consistently make him sit before he goes through doors or gets his food, but I think we need to start asking for longer sits so that he has to work on controlling himself more.

Apparently dogs are pretty much guaranteed to be fully over the second chewing phase by 18 months. That's over half a year away! I am hoping that if we can work on calming him down and working on his self-control that some of the destructive behaviour might slow down a bit. We are trying to go back to basics with training, like correcting when he chews something bad by taking away the object and giving him something he's allowed to chew, rather than just correcting and taking the bad object away like we have been doing. It's so easy for us to slip into lazy training habits! We're also going to work on picking toys up off the floor rather than just leaving them around. I saw on a forum that someone thought that leaving toys around might lead a dog to think that anything lying around the house is up for grabs, so leaving just one or two toys out is better. We're also going to focus on keeping him active. A tired Oscar is a less destructive Oscar...but even then there are no guarantees!

Oscar enjoying his antler, which we have
since lost. It was a great chew - no mess
and long lasting. I have to find it again!


Two Grad Students and a Pittie said...

thanks for sharing, Oscar! Today we asked what a good chew free crate mat is - any suggestions?

Adien Crafts said...

Oscar, Louis went through a second chewing stage, the door frames still remind us of it, good news is that it does pass...eventually! xxx

Diana Chiew said...

Ours did chew on a couple of furniture and most of their toys while we are not looking but most of the times I am there to watch over them so I'm able to stop their chewing on things that they are not supposed to.

Brandon - The dog with a blog said...

I've never enjoyed the chewing stage, but somehow (with every guide dog puppy) we always seemed to get through it - and our house was still in one piece!

Rudy's Raiser

Kira said...

My parking brake was a victim of Murphy's "second chewing phase"! I'm not sure which was worse. The shark teeth phase as a puppy, or the later chewing phase with duller teeth but infinitely more powerful jaws :)

Kira and Murphy

-- said...

I know what you mean about being a lazy trainer. We were so good about regularly training her when we were doing the obedience classes, but now that those have stopped, I keep forgetting to do it!

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