Puppies explore their surroundings with their mouths, so it's not unusual for them to taste objects that might make their owners cringe. Although the behavior is natural, it's up to you to teach your dog what is safe to put in his mouth. Sometimes puppies do not get enough stimulation. If they get bored, they may seek out objects of interest in their environment like stones, which can cause broken teeth, injured gums, or choking. One of the most helpful things you can teach your puppy is to leave stones where they lay.
Apply a taste deterrent, such as bitter apple, to the stones in the dog's immediate environment. Dogs abhor anything bitter in taste and will not chew or lick anything flavored with it. You can find taste deterrents in pet shops, or make your own with lemon juice or another sour substance. When your puppy connects a bitter taste with the stones in your yard, it will be quicker to leave other rocks untouched as well.2
Teach your puppy the "leave it" command. Conceal a treat in your hand and hold it out to your dog, saying "leave it" in a matter-of-fact voice. Your dog may attempt to take the treat. Be patient and keep your fist closed. When the dog loses interest, open your hand and give up the treat, saying "yes". Repeat the process in the same manner, but every third or fourth time, offer the treat without the command to "leave it". This reinforces the instruction to draw away when the "leave it" command is given.3
Create a loud noise to startle your puppy whenever it tries to pick up a stone. Fill a soda can with pebbles or pennies. Keep it concealed form the puppy's view. Whenever your puppy goes after a rock, shake the can vigorously to disrupt the activity. You will need to continue this behavior modification for at least one to two weeks until your dog catches on.
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