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The trials and errors of puppy training

From oven mitts to peppermint extract, this writer is willing to try most anything to put an end to puppy's biting.

Julie 2019 mug.jpg
Julie Buntjer

It only took six weeks, but I’ve finally discovered a surefire way to protect my all-important fingers from the painfully sharp teeth of my furry, pint-sized roommate, Chloe.

Oven mitts.

It occurred to me last week as I pulled a hotdish from the oven that my mismatched mitts could offer nightly protection from my puppy’s playful, yet determined biting episodes.

Yes, she’s just a puppy, and yes, puppies like to bite — and yes, I’ve been told to stick a chew toy in her mouth while she’s clamped onto my appendages. Her response is to spit out the chew toy and lunge at me with mouth wide open. She thinks it’s a game, albeit one I’m not at all fond of playing.

Chloe was initially intrigued by the smell of the oven mitts. She even found some crusty, dried-on offerings that were apparently appealing to her. She's already chewed a hole in the end of one mitt and, fortunately for me, it's not the end I need for protection when pulling a hotdish from the oven.

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Meanwhile, my toes — also a popular destination for a pup seeking a chew toy — were briefly protected by peppermint extract. A friend had recommended I apply peppermint oil to the tips of my socks to ward off Chloe’s attacks.

Peppermint oil is not something I’ve ever purchased, but my mom — the baker of all things delicious — had a partially used bottle of peppermint extract on the shelf. She donated it to me in hopes of protecting the little piggies from going to market.

In my initial experiment, I noted two things — I smelled like a candy cane, and Chloe sneezed when she took a good whiff. The whole scene was worthy of a good belly laugh — the sneezing part, not smelling like Christmas candy — and we can all use more belly laughs in our life!

The peppermint extract worked for a couple of weeks, until Chloe decided she could tolerate the smell — perhaps more than me. The constant exclamations of 'No' and 'Owie' may have also helped, as I've noticed less frequent attacks to my toes. Considering she's ruined a few pairs of socks, and as many pant legs, that's a good thing.

One thing I’ve learned is that other dog owners have lots of advice, and it’s best for me to listen and test some of their suggestions if Chloe and I hope to have a happy home life together.

We are still butting heads on a couple of issues, like her thinking the carpet is the appropriate place to do her business, and me daring to pick up my needlework even when I think she’s asleep. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her hearing, of this I am absolutely sure!

I just wish she understood “No!” as well as she understands “Treat!”

Despite the challenges of puppy training, we are the best of friends — most days. She has certainly been spoiled with me working from home full-time.

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We relax in the recliner before work, with Chloe sprawled out for her morning belly rub. During the day, she comes to my chair from time to time and whimpers. Usually she wants to be held a bit — to lick my face, cuddle in close to my neck or, if she’s really feeling lovey, slip her tongue into my ear, which always causes me to shriek, shudder and then laugh.

I’m amazed — perhaps even a bit jealous — by her ability to sleep. The girl can be curled up in her bed at my feet and snoozing the entire time I’m covering a two-hour county board meeting via Zoom.

Oh, what a life she leads — a dog’s life indeed.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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