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Q: We have a Labrador Retriever who is 10 months old. He has all his adult teeth, so he should no longer be teething. But he is incredibly destructive still — he chews up everything he can get hold of. What can we do?
A: Among veterinarians, there's a saying about Labradors: "Chew till they're two; shed till they're dead." Of course, every dog sheds his or her whole life — that's normal. In the same way, what you're dealing with now is also normal for many dogs. Retrievers, especially, are known for their love of chewing throughout their adolescence, along with the lifelong fondness many of them have for carrying items in their mouths. Carrying things back — retrieving — is, after all, the job they were developed to do.
To get a handle on the chewing, your family needs to limit your dog's ability to get to those items you don't want chewed. While doing that, offer your dog lots of chew toys to satisfy this healthy, natural behavior, and work on rewarding your dog for making the right choices when he chooses what to chew. You also need to make sure your dog is getting enough exercise — at least a half hour of heart-pumping activity every day to take the edge off his youthful exuberance. Your veterinarian can advise you on choosing healthy, safe chew toys, and there have never been more choices. One perennial favorite is the Kong, which can be stuffed with goodies (such as peanut butter and broken dog biscuits) to make it even more appealing.
If you catch your dog chewing something he shouldn't, don't punish him. (Really, the fault isn't his, but rather your family's for not supervising him better.) Instead, transfer his attention to a favorite chew toy and then praise him for chewing on that. Expect that your dog's perfectly normal and healthy interest in chewing will continue for at least another year.
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