This is a short guide to training your puppy to stop chewing your furniture and to play-bite appropriately. This will give your puppy a good grounding in canine manners which will help prevent him becoming an adult dog that bites or a dog that is destructive in the house when left alone.
The first thing to teach your puppy is bite inhibition. This is the process where you show your puppy that it is advantageous for him to play-bite or mouth softly. Puppies have weak jaws and exceptionally sharp teeth and they always use biting and mouthing as a way of playing with each other, with adult dogs and with humans. If a litter of puppies are playing together, there will be a loud yelp and a halt to the play if one of the puppies bites too hard. Once the puppy is away from his littermates, you must continue this instruction so he learns what is correct behavior.
The way to do this is to play with him every day for a minimum of four weeks (little and often is always best in puppy training), allowing him to play-bite until he nips too hard. You must say “ouch” straight away, loudly enough to stop and startle the puppy, then turn away and stop playing for a couple of minutes. Resume play, only stopping when he nips to hard again and repeat the procedure. He will soon learn what he needs to do to keep the game going. When you want to stop playing, even when he is being gentle, praise him and give him a little treat so he knows that he has been good and is not being punished.
As your puppy matures you will need to make the rules of the more strict. After four weeks of the above method, switch to say “ouch” every time his teeth make contact with your skin. Ignore him for several minutes, then start again, thus encouraging him to have a “soft mouth” when playing.
Chewing is a common problem with dogs that are left alone in the house or car, and a lot of damage can be done in just a few short minutes. Training your puppy or dog to chew on appropriate objects is very often a successful way of avoiding a lot of damage of treasured items around the home. You must also train yourself and your family to put away precious items and not leave things out in accessible places. This will help your dog to learn that there is usually nothing of interest on the table or the kitchen counters and he will learn not to look or search there.
You can only scold your dog for chewing something if you catch him in the act. If you arrive home to find some damage, scolding him will only increase his anxiety next time you are out and he anticipates your angry return. He will not be able to make a link between his previous behavior (which has already forgotten) and your scolding.
If you do catch him chewing something he shouldn’t, shout “off” and give him an appropriate toy or chew. Provide him with plenty of these and praise him whenever he chews them. Do not give him old shoes to play with as he cannot distinguish which is old and which is new and precious. A rubber kong is great, especially when stuffed with kibble or some other tasty treats, and raw hide chews from the pet shop are also ideal. Be sure to inspect the chews and toys regularly and make sure there are no small pieces that your dog could choke on.
You may also wish to protect your furniture with a special bitter-tasting spray from the pet shop which discourages chewing. Until he really understands chewing principles, never leave him using inappropriate chewables.
If chewing and destructive behavior continue to be a problem, you may find it helpful to read my article on separation anxiety as this often plays a role in these types of issues.