The word 'teething' makes anyone with a human infant shudder, at least a little. Teething is no fun for parents or toddlers. But what about canine owners? How worried should dog moms and dads be about this crucial part of a puppy's development? Puppy teething, when baby teeth fall out, and new teeth come in, is challenging but manageable if you know the basics.
Puppies are born toothless and gummy. In general, they start to develop their temporary teeth at week three and have a full set within the first six weeks of their lives. These teeth go by many names—milk teeth, primary teeth, needle teeth, or deciduous teeth. There are 28 teeth at this stage, and they're sharp as tacks!
Temporary teeth come in while puppies are still drinking milk from their mothers, and they stick around for about two months before starting to fall out when puppies are about three or four months old. Puppies usually aren't sent to their forever homes until they're about three months old. This allows them to learn from their moms and socialize with littermates for optimal long-term behavioral outcomes. When a puppy gets to you, you may already start noticing loose teeth, so don't be alarmed if you see some blood. Many of these teeth will be swallowed or end up at your feet or where your puppy sleeps.
Teething is uncomfortable. You'll notice swollen gums before new teeth erupt, lots of drool, and a loss of appetite. Your puppy may be moody and unpredictable until they're about five months old, and the discomfort wanes. In the meantime, chew toys can help with dull pain. Freeze a Kong, and the cold will soothe sore gums.
Puppy chew toys are different to chew toys for grown-up dogs—they're softer and more suitable for vulnerable mouths in flux. Chew toys need to be tough enough to withstand falling apart without breaking your pup's teeth in the process. Or they should consist of high-quality ingredients puppies can digest. Watch out for choking hazards and be cognisant of chew toy size. What works for a pug is probably not the best option for a baby Alsatian.
Your puppy will be keen on chewing and nipping just about anything it can get its paws and jaws on to ease its discomfort. If you're not careful, a teething puppy can endanger itself in your home by chewing on dangerous objects and even swallowing them. It may also wreck some of your prized possessions, including clothing, furniture, and toilet paper rolls. Put up a baby gate or keep doors to off-limit areas closed. Spray a puppy-safe anti-chew product if you need to—these taste bad and are off-putting.
Puppy nips, especially when they come as a surprise, can be downright ouchy. Train your pup with commands and treats, and it will direct its attention away from your body or other pets and toward more appropriate items it can attack and tear. Steer clear of hard ice cubes and bones as they can cause damage to fledgling teeth.
Puppies acquire 42 fully grown secondary teeth by the time they're eight months old. That's 14 more teeth than they had in the first set, and each tooth is larger. After only having premolars, puppies now have the whole shebang with ten molars. It's no longer about transitioning from a liquid to a solid diet—it's game on!
Use positive reinforcement to develop good habits like brushing teeth early on. Puppy breath may start off smelling sweet, but it won't always be that way. And without oral hygiene and sound nutrition, it's more than close cuddles that are at risk—your dog's dental disease can result in other health issues as well.
Sometimes, baby teeth can be stubborn and don't seem particularly inclined to exit the stage. Persistent deciduous teeth cause permanent teeth to erupt in dysfunctional ways. If you notice crowding or anything odd about how your pup's teeth are coming in around month six, book an appointment with your vet. Double teeth are more common in small breeds and dogs with flat faces.
Teething puppies are active, so now's a good time to start teaching them good behavior in the home and getting them used to loved ones and environments you'll frequent together. As always, be patient and expect some regression—housebreaking puppies isn't always about linear progress. It takes time and effort, but it's worth it.
Get your paws on the latest animal news and information