Q This might seem a trivial problem, but I don’t know how to go about stopping it. My four-month-old miniature Labradoodle likes chewing hair. When she sits on my knee on the sofa, she always makes a grab for my long hair and has done the same to my friend, too.
We also have a 10-year-old male Golden Retriever. They get on really well and often sleep together on the same bed, but I’ve noticed his coat looking a bit unkempt lately, and now realise the puppy is licking and chewing his coat too.
What can I do? Will the puppy grow out of this behaviour?
Kirsten Dillon advises…
Puppies chew most things, and hair and fur are no exceptions. At four months, your puppy’s biology is driving her to explore the world through her mouth, to lick and groom, and to seek play and interactions.
Hair is particularly fun, as it gives feedback by moving around, and it is also a great attention-getter, as we can’t ignore a puppy hanging off our head!
As long as the puppy isn’t bothering your older dog or over-grooming him and creating bald spots, there is no reason why this should be problematic. If, however, he doesn’t appreciate it, I advise separating them when you are not there (in other words, at night) to head off potential issues.
Check your puppy is getting everything she needs in her diet by providing her with a high-quality, complete dog food, just in case she is seeking something that is lacking in her diet.
Lastly, provide her with every opportunity to lick and chew on other more appropriate things, such as rubber chews suitable for her age, special tuber-root dog chews, frozen Kongs stuffed with her food, and so on. Her teeth are going to fall out over the next months, and she will need to chew lots to strengthen her jaw and ease any discomfort from that.
In the meantime, gently interrupt her when she starts chewing hair and redirect her to something else (and perhaps tie your hair up when you play with her), and I’m sure she will eventually grow out of it.
If she doesn’t, however, then you will need to intervene with the help of a behaviourist to prevent this from becoming a compulsive behaviour.