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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Our puppy is now 4 months old, and we are able to enjoy time in the backyard with her for the most part. The only problem is that she is absolutely obsessed with garden mulch. We have it on our pumpkin patch, on our raised vegetable beds, and on the side bed.

Removing or covering the mulch is not really an option, nor is fencing it off. She loves to run up, grab a chunk, then run like mad and chew on it. I think it's more about the fact that we chase her than it is about the mulch, but if we don't chase her down and force her to drop it, she tries to swallow it.

I tried spraying it with lemon juice to make it taste bitter (can't use vinegar because that would harm the plants), but she proceeds as if nothing has changed. We are working with her on behavior modification, but she thinks it's one big game.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can break this focus on chunks of mulch?
 

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Try a commercial biter apple spray or a pet safe repellent like Ropel. Stop chasing her, that's her reward for getting mulch, play time with you. Is she actually swallowing the chewed up wood or, is she just shredding it? Puppies chew, that's what they do.

Don't chase her, redirect her to an appropriate chew like a bully stick or Busy Bone, even a rag bone - play with her with that, chase her for that, not mulch bits.

I don't fret over my pup chewing wood now and then as long as it's just sticks and bark outside, she shreds it but isn't swallowing it and, were she a wild canine, that would be her chew toys, it's natural to a dog that wants to chew to get wood when nothing better tasting is available.
 

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This answer made me feel better too, as we have a 4-month old Wheaten who heads right for the mulch when we go in the backyard. It has become a game because she makes eye contact, grabs the biggest piece she can find, and waits for me to step forward to take it before sticks her butt up in the air and begins bouncing away. I'll try to replace it with something else to chew on. Strangely enough, she drops it from her mouth right before she comes back in the door. She must know it belongs outside!
 

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My 3 month old Kaila does the same, the moment she's out the door, she grabs a stick or piece of bark - wooded property so, plenty around for her to grab. She leaves them outside when we come in - her bully stick and rope bones are inside so, she doesn't need the wood in the house.

They do outgrow it, none of my adults chew wood now and, as long as they aren't getting splinters or swallowing more than a few crumb, I don't think it's a problem. Just make sure there are no chemicals on the wood and, that it isn't toxic to dogs.

If you have oak trees, don't let the dog eat acorns.

Cherry, apricot, peach, and plum trees leaves, stems, pits, wood contain cyanide toxins.

Red maple trees, swamp maple, scarlet Maple, curled maple, and soft maple have an unknown toxin that impairs red blood cell function.

Black Walnut Trees can have a toxic mold on them.

Pine knots (lighter knots) are full of sap and, thus high in turpentine, not good for dogs but, dry pine wood and bark isn't a problem as long as they don't swallow it.

Of course if the dog is actually eating wood, you need to correct that with training and, alternative edible chews.
 

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Some ideas to ponder:

1) I would try the gross bitter apple spray. Maybe if you see she has a chunk of mulch, distract her with some super high value food (meat, chicken, cheese, etc) and take it from her. Spray it and then give it right back. See how she responds. I did this with my puppy and kleenex.

2) Work on "leave it" making it a super FUN rewarding game that pays with yummy treats and praise!! Take some mulch and play "leave it" in various rooms like kitchen or outside on a walk, etc. in addition to backyard.

3) I have lots of "legal' options for Puma to chew on in our backyard such as bully sticks and chewies. But yup, she still sometimes does love to grab sticks and chew, so I let her. Hoping she will outgrow this.

4 )I also keep her busy outside with kibble treasure hunts. I simply toss some of her breakfast outside in the yard and on patio for her to use her little puppy nose to find. Very fun for her!

5) Oh and I just put up a homemade flirt pole that hangs from a tree.

6) And... Puma loves me to play "hose game" with her in the yard! I got one of those hose nozzles (about $5) and change the water stream and ask her to "jump" and "get" the water...or I have her chase the water around the yard as she bites it! Such GREAT EXERCISE for her! 15 minutes of hose game guarantees me 5 hours of puppy snooze time as I work:)

Lately Puma is chewing less sticks and doing more lazy sunbathing outside since I have given her these fun activities to tire her out!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Some ideas to ponder:

1) I would try the gross bitter apple spray. Maybe if you see she has a chunk of mulch, distract her with some super high value food (meat, chicken, cheese, etc) and take it from her. Spray it and then give it right back. See how she responds. I did this with my puppy and kleenex.

2) Work on "leave it" making it a super FUN rewarding game that pays with yummy treats and praise!! Take some mulch and play "leave it" in various rooms like kitchen or outside on a walk, etc. in addition to backyard.

3) I have lots of "legal' options for Puma to chew on in our backyard such as bully sticks and chewies. But yup, she still sometimes does love to grab sticks and chew, so I let her. Hoping she will outgrow this.

4 )I also keep her busy outside with kibble treasure hunts. I simply toss some of her breakfast outside in the yard and on patio for her to use her little puppy nose to find. Very fun for her!

5) Oh and I just put up a homemade flirt pole that hangs from a tree.

6) And... Puma loves me to play "hose game" with her in the yard! I got one of those hose nozzles (about $5) and change the water stream and ask her to "jump" and "get" the water...or I have her chase the water around the yard as she bites it! Such GREAT EXERCISE for her! 15 minutes of hose game guarantees me 5 hours of puppy snooze time as I work:)

Lately Puma is chewing less sticks and doing more lazy sunbathing outside since I have given her these fun activities to tire her out!
These are fantastic suggestions. Thank you so much!

With the heat spiraling upwards lately, I've been filling a large underbed storage bin with water and letting her play in that. She LOVES it and it distracts her from the mulch. She also likes to attack the water from the hose as I fill it, so that helps too. Sometimes I throw a toy in the water and the splashing makes it extra fun to play with.
 
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