You’ve done it, you think to yourself. You’ve survived the teething and your puppy is being more or less well behaved. You start to think about putting the drawer pulls back on your kitchen cabinets, maybe even enjoying some Halloween decorations, giving a little less supervision. Then, boom. Your puppy regresses and blows up your house.
It turns out puppies go through up to three normal chewing phases, but only the first one (when their adult teeth are coming in) is generally talked about. The first begins around 4 months and can last up to 6 months. The second can begin anywhere from 6 months and last until 12 months, likely depending on when your puppy ends their first chewing phase. And the third can take place sometime after one year old. It’s unknown whether the second chewing phase is just your puppy really beginning to explore the world, or if it’s instrumental in setting their adult teeth in place. Whatever the reason, suddenly it’s like they regress back to when you first got them. The good news is, it is a phase.
During this time they can also enter a second fear period. Roe, for example, suddenly startled at his own reflection in a window and wouldn’t stop barking until I took him over to investigate it. They may suddenly startle and bark at strangers, even if they weren’t concerned about them before. It’s extremely important to shield your puppy from negative experiences during this time, while setting them up to have calm and positive experiences. A negative experience during a fear period will hold more weight in your puppy’s future behaviour than any positive experience they have had or will have. No pressure.
For the chewing, hopefully during the first (and less destructive) chewing phase you will have taken the time to teach your puppy what things are appropriate to chew on, and paid attention to the types of chews your puppy tends to prefer. That way you can simply provide them with a combination of structure and lots of their favourite chew toys, and the second chewing phase should pass without too much trouble. Cardboard boxes are especially loved because they can be torn into shreds. While cardboard is Roe’s favourite, he also really enjoys soft silicone/rubber style toys, leather, and regular cotton/jute rope toys. Other puppies may prefer canvas toys. Observe not only the material of your puppy’s favourite toys, but also the shape. I have an assortment of toys for the dogs, but these are the ones that Roe always gravitates back to. I trim any excess cotton strings off the ends of rope toys so they can’t be chewed off and eaten. Yes, my floor is perpetually covered in shredded cardboard. Better that than shredded couch.
He also gets half a duck neck once or twice a week. Once I can source whole mackerel or herring he’ll also be getting those. Other options are poultry wings and feet, or even whole quail or chicken quarters for very large puppies. Before feeding bones to your puppy make sure they are not a food gulper and chew thoroughly. I also fed Roe his first neck during a time when the vet’s office was open. Y’know, just in case. And if your puppy is a powder chewer it may be best to avoid very hard bones, such as weight bearing bones or antlers from large herbivores, as these bones are harder than a dog’s teeth and can cause dental fractures if they try to bite chunks off. And remember, no cooked bones because those are both harder to digest (digestive blockages) and more likely to splinter into sharp pieces (digestive perforations). Only feed bones (and dried meat chews) when you can watch your puppy. Just, y’know, exercise some caution, make your own educated decisions, and I’m not responsible if you decide to give your puppy bones.
If you haven’t taught your puppy appropriate chewing behaviour, either because you got your puppy later into adolescence or because you didn’t know to do that, don’t despair. You can still teach them now. It’s just easier to do it when they’re small because they’re not as capable of mass destruction. That being said, even puppies who have been taught are likely to test the boundaries from time to time. Whenever your puppy is chewing on something they shouldn’t, simply trade them for something they should chew on. I find it helps a lot to look at the item they selected themselves, and give them something similar.
And my final, and possibly the best advice: Anything you don’t want chewed up should be kept locked away and well beyond your puppy’s reach. Only bring these items back out with the most tentative caution.