Congratulations on your new puppy! Now that you have your new four-legged family member home with you, you may start to realize some of the challenges that come with a puppy, including how to survive teething and nipping.
Puppies’ mouths are filled with about 28 teeny-tiny razors that seem to be attracted to your fingers or toes (especially when you’re sleeping, we bet!). Although an annoying behavior, this is something that’s completely normal for teething puppies and something you can train away.
Puppies get their baby teeth at a much younger age than human babies—at as early as two weeks old, while the puppies are still with their breeder and their litter, those mini daggers start to come in. As puppies grow, they explore their world with their mouths (and when they come home with you at two to three months of age, they’ll have a whole new world to explore).
When do Puppy's Teeth Fall Out?
At about three to four months of age, puppy teeth begin to fall out making room for his 42 adult teeth (fun fact: that’s about 10 more than people!). This process can be awfully painful for your pup—his gums will be sore (anyone who has ever cared for a teething baby knows how uncomfortable this can be).
Once your puppy is six months old, his baby teeth should have fallen out. If any remain, be sure to tell your veterinarian. They may need to be removed by a veterinary professional.
View a complete timeline of puppy teething here.
What Are the Symptoms of Puppy Teething?
You might notice him drooling a bit or even little spots of blood on his toys, both related to teething (though if you notice anything unusual, talk to your veterinarian since both symptoms could also be related to a more serious issue). During this process, which is undoubtedly uncomfortable and confusing for your puppy, he’ll look for items to chew as a way to soothe those sore gums. The best thing you can do for him at this stage is to provide him a safe outlet to chew to his little heart’s content.
It’s extremely important to monitor your puppy during play and check the toys periodically to ensure they aren’t falling apart. Your puppy should not be able to chew chunks off the toy or pull pieces of fiber or stuffing from them.
How to Stop a Puppy From Nipping
Puppies naturally nip at each other while playing, and sometimes they don’t realize how hard they’re able to do this without hurting the other dog. If they bite too hard, another dog will likely make a loud yelp sound, warning the puppy, “Hey, that hurt!” You can teach your puppy this as well by making a loud, high-pitched “OW” sound if he bites you. Then, make sure to give him a treat or verbal praise for backing off.
After teaching him that biting you is painful, let him know what is ok to bite or chew. If he starts nibbling at your fingers or toes while you’re playing with him, offer him a toy instead. The AKC Puppy Teething Pack has several great options and comes in two sizes based on your pup's breed. If he continues to nip you, stop the play session so that he realizes that biting is not rewarded.
Never hit your dog or otherwise physically punish him. If your pet seems to be biting out of aggression (not during a play), speak to a veterinarian about ways to deal with that behavior.
How to Survive Puppy Teething
When your puppy is about three to four months old, his baby teeth will start shedding, making room for about 42 adult teeth to come in. This process is very uncomfortable for the puppy—his gums will be sore as his adult teeth break through, and he’ll want to chew anything—everything—that will soothe the pain.
Your job as a responsible owner is to give your puppy something he can chew on to help make this process a little more comfortable. And by doing so, you’ll be preventing your puppy from finding something on his own to chew, be it your husband’s favorite pair of shoes, your new couch, or your children’s toys.
The best toys to offer teething puppies are made of hard nylon or hard rubber (like a Kong), especially ones that can be filled with water and frozen, which will feel nice and cool on your puppy’s sore gums.
Fortunately, this process doesn’t last too long. By six months of age, your puppy’s teeth should have all come in. If you see a baby tooth still in his mouth at this age, let your veterinarian know—it might need to be removed.
Now the bad news: This age is also the time your puppy will start to go through some hormonal changes that may cause him to act out and chew more often than usual. Make sure you provide him with plenty of toys and teach him, through positive reinforcement, that he’s only allowed to chew his own toys.
Caring for a Puppy's Adult Teeth
Once your dog has all of his adult teeth in, it’s your job as a responsible owner 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 dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste (an enzymatic product is recommended as it works both mechanically and chemically to remove plaque) at a local pet store. Do not use human toothpaste—it can make your dog sick if he swallows it.
Good luck with your new puppy and enjoy guiding him through his important time in his life. Before long, the thoughts of him as a nipping, chewing little monster will be something you look back on fondly.
For more information on caring for your dog's teeth, watch the video below.