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Who’s Watching the Baby?

Dear John,

I read your columns in the Toronto Sun faithfully and always think you give good advice, now I need some myself. We have an 8 month old mixed breed female, she is wonderful and has taken to training very well.  Her only fault is she chews constantly, she has chewed up two of her beds and loads of toys, ordinary dog toys from pet shops are useless she makes short work of them.  Now I give her rawhide chews and pieces of wood.  We can’t trust leaving her in the house so she has to stay in our mudroom when we go out. Will she grow out of this?  I have owned 7 dogs in my lifetime and have never had one that chewed constantly.  She is not bored, we live in a rural area so she has lots of room to run and I walk her frequently. Any help appreciated. -Carolyn

Dear Carolyn,

Here’s my rule of thumb for puppies. You can give them all the freedom you want, just not the freedom to make mistakes without someone there to guide them. This rule applies until the dog is at least 18 months of age. Why? Because that’s how it works. Regardless of the social species, humans, dogs, wolves, apes etc. there are limitations on  youngsters access to the complete world. In the wild kingdom also known as my own child hood,my mother and father we respectfully refer to as Attila and Hun embraced the “Where are you going? Who are you going to be with? When are you coming home? What’s the phone number you’re going to be at? “ approach to child rearing. At the time I didn’t get it, but unfortunately for my own sons, I do now. It’s not just about trust. It’s about raising your young to survival so you can reduce the number and severity of their mistakes. A 2 year old child, swiping  chocolate bars from the counter and a puppy running around with half a panty hose sticking out one end or the other aren’t any different. They’re victims of parenting errors. Some pups are worse then others but either way I take no chances. I want them to get the best and least confusing start on life.

Here’s what I tell clients with new pups. Make sure the breeder starts crate training before the dog come home and follow through with scheduled time in it balanced with lots of attention, exercise etc outside of it. When the dog’s not in the crate leave a leash on the dog and supervise like it’s a two year kid in a room full of cacti. What’s left to chew now? At least without getting caught.  If a dog is getting an appropriate amount time for exercise, attention and stimulation, a good diet, toys designed to amuse etc. they spend the rest of their 20 hour day loafing around or getting into mischief.. What difference does it make if they do their loafing in a crate? The difference is they’re not getting into mischief. In the beginning I keep crates in various rooms so we’re always connected and the crate doesn’t become the enemy.

Some people think it’s unfair to structure a pup’s day so rigidly. Sometimes they call and complain, “If a dog has to be in a crate that much then the person shouldn’t have the dog.” My kids sometimes complain the same way too and that’s because Dadzilla doesn’t always give them amount or type of freedom that some of their friends enjoy. Freedom with guidance equals growth. Freedom without guidance, equals trouble. I’m not loosing sleep either way. I want all the members of my family, two legged or four to grow up knowing right from wrong, how to treat others and be prepared to explore the world to the greatest extent possible.

-John Wade the Dog Trainer

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