There is no more universally dreaded part of puppyhood than the teething stage. Your puppy’s teething stage is no picnic for you or them. As their teeth move, fall out, and move again, your puppy will experience pain and discomfort that can lead to some destructive and unhealthy behaviours.
What is Puppy Teething?
New puppies can be delightful, but when they start to teeth, they can quickly turn into adorable little monsters. But why? What happens to your puppy during teething that makes them so destructive?
The first set of teeth your puppy will get are commonly called milk teeth, but the technical term is deciduous teeth, meaning they are temporary. The term milk teeth are used because the presence of those sharp puppy teeth signals to the mom that she needs to start weaning her pups as nursing starts to become painful.
Puppies have a total of 28 milk teeth that fall out to make room for their permanent adult teeth, of which they have 42.
Teething happens in 3 stages:
- Milk teeth grow in
- Milk teeth fall out
- Adult teeth grow in
Throughout the process, your puppy’s mouth will be tender and their jaws will be sore. Not only are teeth erupting through the surface of the gums, the teeth below the surface move, making not just the gums, but sometimes their whole jaw to hurt.
Puppy Teething Chart
Understanding the puppy teething timeline will help you be better prepared. Most puppies go through the teething process normally, but some don’t follow the average timeline, so don’t panic if your puppy is a little off schedule. Let’s go over the standard puppy teething timeline:
The full teething process lasts about 4-6 months in total. Most puppies don’t leave their mothers until around 8 weeks, so you will likely miss the majority of the initial milk teeth phase.
You may have some concerns over the fact that your puppy is losing baby teeth, but you haven’t found any teeth lying around. Totally normal! You may find one or two, but the reality is that puppies often just swallow the tiny teeth when they fall out.
Puppy Teething Symptoms
Supporting your pooch through the teething process isn’t that hard but you need to be able to identify signs that your puppy is in pain. So, what kind of behaviour can you expect from a teething puppy?
Every puppy handles teething differently. If you are lucky, you may not even notice your puppy’s teething stage, but for most, teething will lead to some easily identifiable behaviours. Here are few signs to keep an eye out for:
- Change in eating habits
- Bloody saliva
- Abnormal drooling
You can’t stop this natural stage of development, and it’s not easy to watch your puppy suffer, but if you can identify symptoms of teething, then you can take steps to reduce the pain, discomfort, and destructive behaviours.
How to Stop a Teething Puppy from Biting
OUCH!! That’s what you say when you get nipped by your puppy’s razor-sharp teeth. Your sweet little pup is not trying to be aggressive or mean-spirited, he’s probably teething!
At any point during the teething process, you may find that your dog is chewing more intensely and even chewing things that they normally wouldn’t. In particular, this can be a time when puppies will try to chew on fingers or toes.
Before your puppy learns their manners, puppies consider everything a toy. This isn't a sign of aggression, but how they explore the world and soothe those tender gums. It is important that you do not allow your puppy to chew on your fingers, toes, or any other body part of yours at this time.
The puppy stage is when many bad habits are formed and these habits can be much more difficult to correct later in your dog’s life. When your puppy tries to take a nibble of your fingers, offer a toy, chew or treat in replacement.
The best method is to have toys available before you start playtime. Being proactive is always better than being reactive.
Before you brought your new puppy home, the bulk of their training came from their mom, their littermates, or other animals that they may have been housed with. The best way to start off any of your puppy training is to treat them the way another dog would.
When they bite - yelp. This is how puppies say ouch! It's also how their brothers and sisters told them that they were playing too rough.
It seems a bit silly, but it will get their attention and help them understand their boundaries quicker. Yelps should be quick and high-pitched, like a puppy. This is especially important with children because your puppy will not see your kids as the leader of the pack, they will treat them like their littermates.
Puppy Teething Relief
While your puppy’s teeth are shifting and falling out, the gums will be extra tender. It may seem counterproductive to us, but chewing is one of the best ways to relieve that discomfort. If you don’t offer them appropriate things to chew on, they will chew on whatever is convenient.
If you want to protect your furniture, your clothes, your shoes, even your fingers, then keep reading to learn about what you can do to soothe their teething pain and curb their bad chewing habits.
5 Puppy Teething Tips
If your puppy is biting, sucking, chewing or just being an absolute menace, then he might be feeling pain from teething.
Puppies already explore with their mouths, so it doesn’t matter to them what they are chewing as long as it feels good. Here are a few puppy teething tips you can use to help curb destructive chewing behaviours:
1. Toys for a Teething Puppy
For more aggressive and long-lasting chewing sessions, puppy chew toys are going to be a safer option. Toys specifically made for puppies will be a little softer so they feel better on the gums as they chew, but still durable enough for that most puppies won't destroy them too quickly.
No toy is indestructible and there are many powerful jawed breeds that will use their sharp puppy teeth to shred the toys, so make sure you are keeping an eye on them and taking away the toy if it starts to come apart.
Here are a few of our favourite puppy teething toys:
Check out 50 Best Dog Toys for even more recommended chew toys for teething puppies. Keep toys close by so you can redirect any of your puppy's destructive chewing habits to their favourite chew toy.
2. Freeze to Numb the Pain
A tip that many parents know from their human baby's teething experience is that cold feels really good on sore gums. You can take a clean washcloth a hand towel or even an old t-shirt, soak it in clean water, and then freeze it.
This is a soothing chew, as the frozen fabric will help to numb the tender gums and will feel good on the teeth as they work their way through the surface of the gums. This tip should only be used when you are supervising them and should be taken away once it's defrosted to prevent them from destroying or eating it.
You can also soak and freeze some of their favourite chew toys. Rope toys are a popular toy to freeze, but you can get creative. Any rubber toys, or hollow toys that that can hold water will also be a hit with your teething pooch.
3. Natural Chews for Puppy Teething
Your puppy will have a natural instinct to chew on everything and anything to help work those teeth out faster. Offering a healthy, natural chew will soothe their tender gums and reduce the destructive chewing habits that come hand-in-hand with the teething process.
When looking for a chew for your puppy, you have to consider how hard it is and how it will break down. Many chews, like smoked bones and antlers, are meant for tough chewers and will be too hard for a puppy’s delicate teeth.
This can make it challenging to help them through the teething phase. The gums will be sore, and a hard chew could make the pain worse. Worse still would be if they were to damage or break a tooth.
Fortunately, many softer chews are safe for your puppy to eat. Here are some of our favourite puppy-safe natural chews to help them reduce pain from puppy teething:
Natural chews have many nutritional benefits, but they are also excellent for supporting dental health. Find out which Long-Lasting Dog Chews can help keep your puppy healthy and busy.
Natural chews add extra calories to your dog's diet, so keep that in mind when you decide how many and how often you give your puppy a natural chew.
4. Frozen Bones
Want to incorporate the freezing technique with a healthy natural chew? Try feeding a frozen edible bone, like a chicken neck or foot. Feeding them fully frozen will provide some quick relief while they crunch down on the tasty and nutrient-dense snack.
Raw edible bones are much softer than cooked or smoked bone. They will be a little bit bone, but also have some meat, tendons, and other connective tissues that are soft enough for your puppy's sensitive mouth.
Check out our Guide to Feeding Raw Bones for Dogs to learn more about how to safely find the right type of bone for your puppy to snack on.
5. Keep them Busy
If your puppy is keeping busy, then they are less likely to be annoyed by the discomfort of teething. A daily routine rich with both physical and mental activities will help keep your puppy's mind off the pain and prevent them from getting into trouble.
Puzzle toys are a great way to keep your puppy busy when you're at home, especially in between training and playtime. If your puppy gets bored, then they are more likely to figure out how to entertain themselves, which can lead to destructive behaviours.
Dental Care for Teething Puppies
You may not think it’s necessary to put much effort into a young puppy’s dental routine. Those teeth are going to fall out anyway, right?
Yes, the first set of teeth fall out, but that doesn’t mean that bacteria in the mouth won’t have an effect on their gums, breath, and even the new teeth coming in. Plus, starting a dental routine early, including brushing your puppy’s teeth and gums, will help them get comfortable with this process faster.
Softer toothbrushes, like finger brushes, are helpful for gently removing bacteria and left behind food particles to help reduce puppy breath, but are also good for the gums. Massaging their gums can help stimulate the adult teeth to breach the surface of the gums sooner, shortening the puppy teething process and minimizing pain.
Always make sure to use a dog-safe toothpaste to brush their teeth. Human toothpaste may contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, like xylitol, and the foaming nature of our toothpaste can be a choking hazard.
Puppy Teething Problems
The teething process is usually uneventful. The process usually runs its course without issue, but some dogs can run into problems.
A common issue that can happen during teething is called tooth retention. This happens when the deciduous teeth don’t fall out when they are supposed to. Nothing will stop the adult tooth from growing in, not even a stubborn baby tooth.
This means that two teeth will be fighting for the same space, causing both teeth to be positioned awkwardly, and in some cases pushing other teeth out of their natural positions. For some pups, a few slightly crooked teeth don’t make much of a difference in the long run, but in most cases, tooth retention can cause bigger problems.
The crowded spaces of retained teeth provide the ideal environment for food debris and bacteria to collect, leading to bad breath and plaque build-up. The awkward placement of the teeth can also lead to the teeth touching the soft roof of the mouth, causing pain and hindering proper chewing.
Additionally, your puppy’s jaw is still developing during teething, and the shark tooth effect of tooth retention can, in severe cases, lead to jaw deformation.
If you see signs of tooth retention or teeth growing abnormally, contact your vet immediately. Retained teeth often need to be removed to allow the adult teeth to grow in properly.
Teething is Temporary
This stage of development is no picnic for anyone involved, but it will pass. The teething process takes 4-6 months, but your puppy will likely not be a terror the whole time. The pain and bad habits will come and go as their teeth are moving.
The trick is to consistently teach good behaviours and reward them. Repeating bad behaviour, like biting and chewing during teething, will stick with them if you are not redirecting them to healthy, safer, and less destructive behaviours.
Untraining bad habits is easier in puppies than in adult dogs who are set in their ways, so be proactive about building good habits and routines while your puppy is teething.
Is your puppy teething? Tell us about your puppy's teething experience in the comments below!