Just like curious toddlers who explore their world with busy hands, Lab puppies use their mouths to "taste" their surroundings. As many owners can attest, Lab pups can seem to turn from sweet balls of fur to overzealous chewers in minutes.
A powerful instinct drives this behavior—Labrador Retrievers are getting their mouths ready for a time when they might be called to "fetch" valuable hunting game. But in a home, chewing can be destructive, and the behavior must be controlled and redirected before it gets out of hand.
Prevent, substitute, and correct
There are three important steps to minimizing the impact of a problem chewer:
- Prevention has two components: Removing chewable items from a teething puppy's reach and removing the puppy. The first involves keeping shoes, socks, clothing, books and other valuables in drawers or closets where they are not easily accessible. The other involves crating your Lab puppy to keep him out of trouble when you're not home or when you're unable to supervise him.
- As soon as you see destructive chewing, redirect your Lab's attention to a substitute, like a favorite chew toy, ball, or plastic ring. You can make a hard rubber bone or plastic toy more interesting to your dog by soaking it in beef broth for 10 minutes. When your Lab is chewing his toy, reinforce this behavior with praise and attention. One note: Cloth chew toys and rawhide bones mimic the fabric on furniture and the leather on shoes. So it's best to offer plastic or rubber toys until your puppy's random chewing is under control.
- The final step is correction, which involves making it unpleasant for your Lab to chew on "bad" things. This is where a safe, non-toxic chewing deterrent like Bitter Apple spray comes in handy. Available in any pet store, it is sprayed directly on furniture, rugs, baseboards, or any surface you don't want your puppy to chew on. It's usually effective for up to 3 days.
Keeping this rambunctious working breed busy with plenty of exercise may be the best chewing prevention of all, because a tired Lab falls asleep!