Oh, My Hush Puppies...!

The first few days of a pup in the new home are very enjoyable and peaceful. The owners are never tired of watching his antics and narrating them to friends. And lo one fine morning the master of the house while getting ready for work suddenly cries aloud, ‘Oh my Hush Puppies…!’ His anger is natural because only a few pieces of his brand new Hush Puppy shoes were left. The remaining had been chewed off by the ‘sweet little puppy’. When it comes to chewing amongst puppies, size does not matter. I have seen even a toy like Pug chew off sofa leg to pulp.
Teething amongst dogs is a complicated process. The milk teeth are lost as the permanent ones push them out. Permanent upper incisors erupt around 14 weeks of age. During teething gums of the puppies itch tremendously. The itching is so much that puppies want to bite something all the time. Teething also coincides with health problems. The round and plump puppy begins to shed weight and becomes lean. At this age a special care of health is essential. In a sick puppy the rate of deposition of enamel slows down. Hence the purpose for which their teeth are meant is defeated if the layer of enamel is not sufficient. Weak puppies have ‘pitted teeth’ because of varying thickness of enamel layer over the teeth. It is the enamel which gives the desired hardness to the tooth and it is the strength of the jaw muscle which gives power to the dog to tear the prey.
They have 22 teeth in the lower jaw and 20 in the upper. The shape and strength of the teeth amply makes it clear that their teeth are not meant for eating puddings. Dogs are carnivorous hence their teeth are designed to bite, tear, cut and grind skin, meat and bones. Their large and sharp canines or ‘tusks’ are meant to hold the prey and tear off skin and muscle. Canines are sort of mainstay of dogs. They are deeply anchored and quite difficult to remove if required. The other teeth like pre-molars and molars are cutters and crushers. Strongest bones break under their pressure. It is said that the molars of an Alsatian (German Shepherd Dog) can generate a pressure of 750 pounds per square inch-strong enough to crush the femur of a much larger animal, e.g. buffalo.  
Dog lovers are blind towards many things. Out of sheer ignorance they rear their puppies on soft foods and even feed sloppy foods to their adults. If you wish to keep the dental treatment (a rarity in India) bills at the lowest avoid giving soft food to your pup. Give him hard and crunchy food to keep his teeth and jaw muscles in condition. This will also take care of plaque formation and gingivitis when your dog becomes a geriatric.
The process of eruption of permanent teeth takes around four months. These are the months when a family dog is at his destructive best. This is the period when some owners start cursing the day when they decided to bring home this cute little bundle of fur! But there are ways and means to make everything smooth and happy at least for the owner. Poor dog has to suffer the itching and pangs of teeth eruption, there is no alternative for that.
You will notice from the moment pup comes to your home he starts ‘biting’ things, hands, feet anything that he fancies. Actually at that stage he is not really ‘biting’. Poor pup does not have hands and fingers to explore. So he explores the world around with his mouth, like our infants do by clutching whatever they touch. This exploratory habit becomes a fun for him especially if the article he just explored was hard and crunchy. It gives him a sadistic pleasure to chew just for the heck of it. Some puppies chew at this early stage then continue to do so during the teething phase and afterwards as well. Such dogs are actually bored to death. They get all comforts of life but no company to play with; therefore they develop a kind of chewing syndrome.
Once I brought home a full grown Lhasa Terrier bitch named Sheeba. During our first meeting she climbed on the sofa I was sitting on and playfully bit me on my shoulder. On her first night at our place she chewed off the straps of the Hold-all of my uncle who had to undertake a long journey the next morning. From telephone Directory to shoes and Tee shirt of my son to nappies of my daughter, Sheeba did not spare anything. I realised that she does all this only when left alone. Her previous owners were a working couple and after they left Sheeba had the house at her disposal. ‘No wonder the intelligent owner ‘palmed off’ the beautiful show specimen free of cost,’ I thought. It took me three months to train her. Since she was past her teething stage the problem was not the routine one. A regimen of exercise and long walks with training of simple commands like Stay and Fetch saved lots of things from her devastating ‘fangs’.
One can teach possibly everything to a dog but one can not teach him not to chew, during the teething period. Thus best alternative is to give them chew toys like we give teething rings to our infants. In my personal experience I found that the Play Pen training comes most handy during this stage. Since dogs never chew the same toy for more than few hours, I prefer to give them a variety. Calcined bones available with the pet shops are a useful chew object. I keep two sets of chew toys with me. The moment a toy is discarded I soak it in meat soup and let it dry. The toy gets refreshed this way for his next bout of chewing. In addition if the itching in the gums is too much which becomes apparent by the behavior of the pup, a useful alternative is to soak strips of thick cloth like old towel in water and freeze them. These frozen strips are liked by them a lot as it soothes the gums.
Giving teething ring alternatives is not a bad idea, but simultaneously training the pup to refrain from mouthing and biting whatever he likes is also important. Procedure is simple. You have to make him understand what is right and what is wrong. Often people give old shoes to the pup to chew. This is a wrong practice, as the pup can not distinguish between your old discarded shoes and brand new ones. For him the smell of leather is lucrative. Therefore keep the pup in the play pen while you are busy doing something else. Let him be free as soon as you are free to let him roam around under strict observation. The moment he holds anything, just go to him quietly, sit close to him; hold his muzzle and pointing a finger at him say a stern No, while showing all the anger in your eyes. If you religiously follow the procedure 99% chances are that the pup will leave the object. Immediately bring all the honey in your tone and praise him a lot for being a good boy. Mind you shouting No at him from a distance or from a standing position is not going to be effective-poor pup is illiterate and does not know that a No means a No.
Constant repetitions of No in an angry tone and praise in sweet tones make your pup understand that chewing objects other than those given to him is bad. He stops chewing at will. Most puppies chew things when left alone and often at night. The Play Pen saves your Hush Puppies and all the expensive items. The pup however, can not be left locked up all the time in the Play Pen. He has to be taken out several times during the day to let him pee and poop and also to roam around and play. Apply discretion and let him get a feeling that the Play Pen is his safe Haven and not a dungeon where he is locked.

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More By  :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

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Comments on this Blog

Comment Well as your pup grows you have to switch over to harder stuff. I think for your Rhyno you may have to go for Calcined Bones-available with some Pet shops. Method is same, keep a pair at least-to replace the used one.

17-Jul-2010 07:30 AM

Comment Arent Chew Sticks too soft? Rhyno just eats them away in a minute!! So are Bones better than Chew Sticks?

Neeraj Trehan
17-Jul-2010 06:51 AM

Comment Well said Sid. But u will find his chew sticks trifle hard to chew while ur shoes are his delicacy.

14-Jul-2010 00:48 AM

Comment  haha...i threaten to chew my pets chew sticks n he has promised me dat he wont chew my shoes :P

Siddharth Bhomkar
13-Jul-2010 09:04 AM

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