Puppies taste many objects in their quest to learn about their surroundings. Although some things may make a pet parent cringe, your puppy sees nothing wrong with this activity. The problem lies in those times when she mouths something that might be deadly to her, particularly if swallowed. So it’s up to you to curb the natural curiosity of tasting the environment and teach the puppy what is safe and what is not.
Like a young child, a bored puppy will find something to stimulate her interest if she is left to her own devices for too long without enough supervision. Expect her to go exploring. She is not deliberately looking for trouble, but she is likely to find it and you must be prepared to intervene. Small stones are particularly bad because your pet may injure her mouth, gums or teeth. There is also the danger of swallowing one, which can cause a blockage in her bowel, or she may choke on it.
Bitter apple and other spray deterrents are wonderful tools. Try applying some to the stones in your yard. Dogs don’t like the bitter taste and will avoid picking them up or licking them. Locate taste deterrents in pet stores or make your own economical version. When your puppy starts to connect the bitter taste with the stones in her yard she will probably learn quickly to leave other rocks alone as well.
The command to “Leave it” is essential for all dogs to learn. Conceal a treat in your hand and hold it out to your puppy, saying “leave it” in a calm voice. Be patient and keep your fist closed even if your puppy attempts to get the treat. When she loses interest, open your hand and give it up, saying “All right” or some other key phrase. Repeat the process in the same manner, but every third or fourth time offer the treat without the command to “leave it”. This will reinforce the instruction to draw away when the command is given.
You can also try creating a loud noise to startle your puppy whenever she goes after a stone. Fill a soda can with coins, keeping it hidden from the puppy’s view. Whenever she goes after a stone or other unwanted item, shake the can vigorously to disrupt the activity. Continue this behavior modification for one to two weeks or until your puppy catches on.
Be sure to teach your puppy the basic commands such as sit, down, stay and come. Then build on those skills, adding the more challenging ones as she progresses. Your puppy will understand what is expected of her as she grows into a confident, well-adjusted dog.
Remember to reapply the taste deterrent every couple of days and after it rains.
Always supervise your puppy.
If necessary, remove her from the environment or remove the stones.
Take your puppy to the vet immediately if you are aware she has ingested a stone, no matter how small. Stones can cause a blockage, and possibly death.
Seek the help of a professional in behavior modification for especially tough situations.