The Tooth Fairy
Charlie has been a bit irritable lately; he is teething. It’s a tough time for any puppy but he is taking it pretty well. His toys are not. I have picked up the third one this week and tossed it in the trash after he chewed it up trying to satisfy his need to gnaw on something.
I can’t complain, Charlie is still performing his lessons well in spite of the obvious pain. It has to be confusing for a puppy, they are growing at an incredible rate, their mouth hurts as teeth erupt endlessly week after week, and there are all these house rules to learn and lessons to master. It would be easy for a good puppy to go bad at this point.
Ask any person waiting at a bus or train stop who has raised a puppy and they will wince a little when you mention your puppy is teething. It seems a natural response that people just can’t help. They all have stories to tell too of how they survived puppy teething.
One man who spoke as he petted Charlie told me his puppy shredded his sofa, chairs, and pillows then proceeded to chew up the rugs. After he got rid of all the remains the pup took to eating the drywall and cabinets in the kitchen. He said it was quite a mess until the pup got through the teething stage. His story unfortunately was all too common. Puppy teething does not have to be a stressful horrific event in anyone’s life.
We keep baskets filled with dog toys of all shapes, sizes and textures spread throughout the house. The pups learn from their first days in the house right away that thes is the only thing they are allowed to put in their mouths. The rules are they can do whatever they want with their toys and we say nothing. If they try to take something of ours we correct with a stern “NO” and replace the object with one of their authorized toys. By showing them the right thing to do, they learn quickly to just play with their toys and leave everything else alone in the house.
It is this last point that most puppy owners miss. For reasons unknown and not understood by me, people will tolerate a puppy chewing up their house and everything in it. By showing the puppy the limits and sticking to the simple rule outlined here we have kept all our antique furniture and oriental rugs intact through many puppies.
Another point we make no exceptions on during this chewing phase of a puppy’s life is they are never left alone loose in the house when we are not there to monitor their whereabouts. If we go out and leave Charlie at home for example, he goes in his cage where he cannot get into trouble. He is given all types of safe things to occupy him while we are gone. Never trust a teething puppy in the house alone and you will never come home to a chewed up house! At this stage of their growth that type of freedom is not an option.
The last great trick we have learned to help us survive puppy teething is frozen treats. We use a variety of things including a small puppy Kong™ stuffed with different Kong™ fillers like chicken or liver flavored pâté like fillings. The pups especially like Frosty Paws™ a frozen dog treat found in the ice cream section of the grocery store. I think Charlie’s favorite though is small raw marrow bones whose hollow center are filled with peanut butter then frozen. Usually every night as it is time to put him to bed I will ask him, “Charlie are you ready for bed?” He will jump up and pad over to the freezer drawer of the refrigerator and stand there wagging his tail waiting for me to fish out a nice cold bone. Once he sees it in my hand he will prance beside me all the way to his cage. I will tell him, “Go to bed!”, and toss the bone inside his cage by our bed, whereupon he happily dives in after it. He will instantly settle down for a cool treat with no fussing.
Several things are accomplished by this routine that makes it easy to deal with puppies. First we have a routine, which is always helpful for a dog of any age, but for teething puppies it takes away one layer of stress. Also the routine takes away any anxiety about going to bed and being left “alone”. The treat eases the teething pain and helps him satisfy a need which eventually helps him fall asleep peacefully with a pleasant experience as the last thing on his mind. He is learning to follow rules and they are not so bad. It sets the tone for later more advanced training that will earn him the freedom of the house one day.
While playing with one of his toys today, Charlie lost a puppy canine tooth. Being the worse kind of sentimental, I had to save the tooth; especially since it is not that much longer before Charlie will leave me to go to his new home. I have the glass vial with the tooth near my desk. I remember as a child I use to put a tooth under my pillow at night with a note to the tooth fairy spelling out my wish for something I really wanted. I usually woke up to find a quarter instead.
I wonder if I put this tooth under my pillow if the tooth fairy would bring me another great puppy like Charlie.