A reader has a not-uncommon problem: A sofa-eating puppy. I asked my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to help her out with some tips.
Q: My 4-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy ate my sofa. Literally! What can I do? I can’t afford to buy much more new furniture.
A: Congratulations — you have a normal puppy! That’s the good news. The bad news is that without plenty of training and supervision, things can get worse before they get better. Puppies are hard-wired to explore their environment, and since their paws don’t have opposable thumbs, they use the next best thing: their sharp teeth.
But you don’t have to lose any more furniture. Chewing and scratching provide pets with exercise and mental stimulation, but they don’t have to be destructive — at least not to anything other than their approved toys. Puppy kindergarten followed by advanced training, as well as plenty of interactive exercise and playtime, can help you teach your pup how to channel his chewing — and his energy, in general — into more productive and acceptable activities. Here are some tips.
- Put his brain to work with puzzle toys that make him think. Some favorites are the Snuffle Mat and the Nina Ottosson Twister. Believe it or not, a good mental workout can leave him too tired to even think about eating your furniture.
- Provide interesting and long-lasting chew toys. I like the Kong not only for durability but also for its “stuffability.” Load it up with peanut butter, baby carrots, kibble and other tasty treats, freeze it, and then let him go to work trying to get all the goodies out.
- When you see your puppy chewing on something he shouldn’t, get his attention so he turns away from it, and then give him an acceptable chew toy. Praise him when you see him chewing on his toys; it’s important for him to learn what’s OK for him to chew as well as what he shouldn’t. – Mikkel Becker
Read more, including about the new canine family tree, in this week’s Pet Connection!