Congratulations on your new puppy! This adorable, four-legged family member is going to bring you love and affection — and also some challenges, including how to survive teething and nipping.
Puppies’ mouths are filled with 28 tiny, razor-sharp teeth that seem to be attracted to nipping at your fingers and toes. Although an annoying behavior, this is completely normal for teething puppies and something you can train away.
When Do Puppy’s Teeth Fall Out?
Puppies get their baby teeth at a much younger age than human babies — as early as two-weeks old. As puppies grow, they explore their world with their mouths. When a puppy is about 3-to-4-months-old, puppy teeth begin to fall out to make room for 42 adult teeth. (That’s about 10 more teeth than people have.)
This process can be awfully painful for your pup — his gums will be sore. When teething occurs, you might notice the puppy drooling or see little spots of blood on his toys, although if you notice anything unusual, talk to your veterinarian since both symptoms could also be related to a more serious issue.
Once your puppy is 6-months-old, his baby teeth should have fallen out. According to AKC Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein, “You may find puppy teeth on the floor, although the puppy is likely to swallow most of the teeth. If you find that some don’t fall out, be sure to tell your veterinarian. They may need to be removed by a veterinary professional.”
View a complete timeline of puppy teething.
How to Survive Puppy Teething
The teething process is very uncomfortable for a puppy. Your job as a responsible owner is to provide something your pup can chew on to soothe sore gums and help make this process a little more comfortable. By doing so, you’ll be preventing the puppy from finding something on his own to chew, whether it’s your shoes, your couch, or your children’s toys.
The best objects to offer teething puppies depend on your dog’s size and level of activity. They include rubber teething toys that you can put in the freezer, such as a Kong, edible puppy teething rings, and flavored puppy chew toys.
Ask your veterinarian what the safest chew toys are for your puppy, and whatever you choose, always supervise chewing and playtime because nothing is safe for every dog. Dr. Klein suggests that allowing puppies and older dogs to chew anything very hard can cause damage to their teeth. Check the toys periodically to ensure they aren’t falling apart. Your puppy should not be able to chew chunks off or pull pieces of fiber or stuffing from them. Sticks can also be hazardous, although many puppies chew them.
How to Stop a Puppy From Nipping
Puppies naturally nip at each other while playing and sometimes don’t realize how hard they’re able to bite down without hurting the other dog. If they bite too hard, another dog will make a loud yelp, warning the puppy, “Hey, that hurts!”
You can teach your puppy that biting hurts with a loud, high-pitched “OW” if he bites you. Then give him a treat or verbal praise for backing off. Beware that some puppies get even more worked up if you yell. In this case, turn around quietly or walk away, or gently put the pup in a crate for a few minutes to calm down.
Now is the time for them to learn how to moderate the force of a bite, called bite inhibition. Any adult dog might put their mouth on you or someone else, like your vet, if they’re in pain, but the outcome will be harmless if the dog has learned bite inhibition.
After teaching him that biting you is painful, let him know what he can bite or chew on. If he starts nibbling at your fingers or toes while you’re playing, offer him a toy instead. Keep toys where you can easily reach them so you can quickly offer an acceptable alternative when the puppy feels a need to chew.
If he continues to nip you, stop the play session so that he realizes that biting is not rewarded. You may also need to redirect that excessive puppy energy with outside playtime, a walk, or a training session. Never hit your dog or otherwise physically punish him. If your pet seems to be biting out of aggression (not during play), speak to a veterinarian or dog trainer about ways to deal with that behavior.
Caring for a Puppy’s Adult Teeth
Once your dog has all of his adult teeth, you want to ensure that they stay pearly white. Begin a healthy-teeth routine by getting your puppy used to having his mouth and teeth touched at an early age.
You can purchase a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste (an enzymatic product is recommended as it works both mechanically and chemically to remove plaque). Do not use human toothpaste because it can include ingredients like xylitol that are toxic or even deadly to dogs.
Also keep in mind that even though they are no longer teething, adult dogs still like to chew. So continue to give your dog chew toys and edibles that will satisfy this natural instinct and can help keep teeth clean, too.
Good luck with your new puppy, and enjoy guiding him through this important time. Before long, the memories of your pup as a nipping, chewing little monster will be something you look back on fondly.