Your newest family member, the most adorable puppy in the world, has finally settled into their forever home. They've gotten used to their new crate, started potty training, and even learned to respond to their new name! However, your work as a dog parent is now over just yet. All of a sudden, you catch your puppy chewing on your favorite furniture or your fanciest dress shoes, and you ask yourself: am I doing something wrong? Nope, you're just dealing with a teething puppy!
Puppy teething is the process through which the 28 baby teeth — also known as milk teeth or needle teeth — gradually erupt. These deciduous teeth will help your puppy accustom themselves to hard food until 12 weeks of age, when they're gradually replaced by 42 adult teeth; they either fall out or are painlessly swallowed when eating.
The teething process is as uncomfortable for dogs as it is for human babies, which is why puppies target everything chewable for pain relief: furniture, wooden and leather objects, and, a canine favorite, shoes, are sitting ducks when a teething puppy feels the need to chew.
Through today's article, the Volhard team of expert canine nutritionists will teach you how to survive your puppy's teething phase with your shoes and furniture intact!
What is the Purpose of Your Puppy's Baby Teeth?
Before we dive into the subject of puppy teething, let's first examine the purpose of each of your puppy's pearly whites:
- First, you have the incisors, i.e., the tooth every dog uses to carve their way through meaty meals and to groom themselves. They are easily noticeable in the front part of a canine's mouth.
- Second, you have the canines, i.e., your dog's sharp weapons capable of stabbing and slashing. Let's hope your dog doesn't need to use them in a dangerous situation!
- Third, you have premolars, which canines use for chewing. Ever caught your dog chewing on a bone with the side of their mouth? That's how they put their premolars to good use!
- Fourth, you have molars, the optimal tools for crushing and chewing food.
Puppy Teething Timeline
Now that we have a better understanding of how puppy teeth work, let's learn how puppies develop, then lose their baby teeth. Although there's no one-size-fits-all timeline for all breeds, most dogs experience teething within the following lines:
- Birth - 2 weeks old: puppies are toothless and rely solely on their mother's milk.
- 2-3 weeks of age: the razor-sharp milk teeth gradually erupt, starting with incisors and canines. Premolars generally erupt later.
- 6 weeks old: all 28 baby teeth will have erupted by now.
- 8-12 weeks old: the first baby teeth will start falling; as mentioned earlier, they either fall or are painlessly swallowed during feeding.
- 12 weeks old: it's time to puppy-proof the house; your puppy's adult teeth will start erupting!
- 6 months of age: if everything goes as planned, the deciduous teeth will have all fallen out, and the permanent adult teeth will have erupted.
Puppy Teething Symptoms
Although you're now fully equipped with a puppy teething timeline, how will you know when the teething process actually begins? Don't worry; your puppy will manifest enough telltale signs, such as:
- Inflammation and bleeding in the gums;
- Increased chewing and nipping;
- A predisposition toward eating less food.
Some Breeds Do Retain a Few of Their Puppy Teeth!
With the 8-week mark quickly approaching, dog parents expect the second teething period to finally commence. The following weeks will be a mix of baby teeth falling and adult teeth erupting. This process cannot be a success unless all the baby teeth fall.
Unfortunately, that's not the case for all puppies. Certain dog breeds, such as the brachycephalic (i.e., short-nosed) ones, might need a helping hand because some of their baby teeth staunchly refuse to come out! The retained baby teeth will make it harder for adult teeth to erupt in an already crowded space. Baby and permanent teeth don't do well together; the more a baby tooth stubbornly refuses to fall, the higher the chances for your dog to develop a malocclusion (i.e., tooth misalignment). With malocclusions come other oral health issues, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease, which is why retained baby teeth should be removed before adult teeth start to erupt.
Keep an Eye on Your Puppy's Mouth
Albeit natural, the teething process is not always devoid of roadblocks. Dog parents need to be on the lookout for certain oral health issues once the puppy teeth erupt, such as:
- Malocclusions caused by tooth misalignments;
- Cracked teeth, which expose the tooth nerve and leave it vulnerable to infections;
- Blood spots, plaque, tartar build-up, and sore gums (i.e., signs of impending periodontal disease);
- A baby tooth preventing an adult tooth from erupting properly;
- Loose teeth, especially adult ones.
Why Does Chewing Matter So Much for Puppies?
Puppies don't use chewing just for relieving teething discomfort; it's also a way of discovering the surrounding world! Everything that incites a puppy's curiosity gets chewed on, either gently or harder, that is, until they're taught how to tone it down a little. For example, an adult dog that's teaching a puppy about gentle biting will correct them when the bite is too hard. But, unfortunately, puppies are not always taught about proper chewing behavior, nor do they understand impulse control.
Now Is the Time to Play With Your Dog's Mouth!
The moment when your puppy's baby teeth start erupting is also the ideal moment to pay more attention to their dental health. As we've discussed in a previous blog, our canine companions have a limited number of tools at their disposal, such as bone-eating, to keep their teeth healthy. That is why they need our help to keep their pearly whites brilliant!
The first step towards proper oral care is getting your puppy used to foreign objects in their mouth. A dog's natural instinct is to shy away from oral touch, but the more they learn that you mean them no harm, the keener they'll be to the whole concept!
Once your puppy approves of having their mouth area touched and have your fingers in their mouth, you're ready to implement a consistent oral care regimen. More than 80% of canines over the age of three run the risk of active dental disease; it's safe to say that prevention couldn't start early enough! Therefore, brushing your dog's teeth at least 2-3 times per week with a dog-friendly toothpaste, such as an enzyme toothpaste, and an ultrasonic toothbrush, will prevent plaque buildup, which is the first step toward periodontal disease. Also, be sure to take your furry friend to a veterinary dentist twice a year for routine check-ups. Oral health issues are both painful and expensive, which is why prevention is you and your puppy's strongest ally!
It's Time to Puppy-Proof Your Home!
So, the chewing frenzy is about to begin, and you want to make sure that your puppy doesn't accidentally chew on an object that's too hard for their puppy teeth. How do you go about that?
First, you must puppy-proof your home ahead of time, just like you would for a baby; it's all about preventing accidents. Your puppy will probably aim for dangerous objects, such as cords and wires, and inappropriate ones, such as your slippers and your favorite book! Be sure to cover any open wires and cords and put your valuables somewhere out of reach. Also, don't hesitate to gate off rooms where puppies might cause a disaster. The safest place for a puppy when you cannot watch them is in a crate.
Second, there's always a chance for your curious puppy to stumble across day-to-day household hazards, such as:
- Fabric softeners;
- Dryer sheets;
- Harsh cleaning chemicals;
- Antifreeze, herbicides, and insecticides;
- De-icing salt;
- Lilies, hydrangeas, and ferns;
- High-strength glue; and
All of these objects can be poisonous to canines, so be sure to keep them either safely stored or far away from your furry friend!
Choose Only Safe Chew Toys for Teething Puppies!
Next, you need to redirect your puppy's chewing frenzy toward baby tooth-friendly toys! Although baby teeth are razor-sharp and can leave marks (all puppy parents can attest to that!), they're not as strong as antlers; once they're met with a hard-rock object, baby teeth may crack and fall out prematurely!
All that said, we have a few guidelines on how to choose (or put together by yourself!) safe chew toys for your puppy:
- First, the dog should be able to chew on the toy without ingesting parts of it. Let's avoid the risk of digestive distress or, worse, choking.
- Second, avoid toys manufactured from hard materials. Trust us, you're not ready for a puppy whining because of toothaches!
- Third, don't give your puppy day-to-day objects like shoes for chewing. Although it might sound like an easy way out, puppies will associate all shoes with chewing toys in the future. What initially presented itself as a practical choice might turn into an unwanted nuisance!
- Finally, avoid the risk of poisoning your puppy by purchasing a toy made without chemicals or crafted dyes. This resource will help you pick the best eco-friendly and non-toxic chew toy for your puppy!
But what about DIY options for canine chew toys? Is there a way to create a safe substitute for commercial options? As a matter of fact, there is! All you have to do is take an old sock, make some knots in it, submerge it in water, and let it freeze. Once the sock is frozen solid, let your puppy chew on it at will. The worst thing that can occur is a puddle of water in your living room, which you can easily clean! Also, once the ice thaws, all it takes is for you to repeat the process. This is how your puppy will have a safe chewing toy at their disposal 24/7! You should always supervise your dog when they are chewing an object to be sure they are staying safe.
Is Your Puppy's Chewing Frenzy Too Much? Obedience Training!
You've puppy-proofed your home, and all your shoes are safely tucked in? Are you out of the woods now? Not yet! As we've experienced countless times, some puppies exhibit excessive or aggressive chewing by nature. In that case, they need extra attention in order to bring the unwanted behavior under control.
Start by making your discomfort known. For example, when your teething puppy is nipping at your fingers or toes, disrupt the behavior with a startling sound; this way, it becomes apparent to your puppy that they've crossed a line. Remember that positive reinforcement is the easiest way to teach canines, so reward your puppy with a treat when they respond adequately to your command.
However, not all puppies are responsive to basic techniques, and that's when dog parents need to step it up a notch. When all methods have failed, calling in a certified dog trainer becomes a dog parent's last resort.
Help Your Puppy Transition from Baby Teeth to Adult Teeth!
The teething process will take your puppy from baby teeth to their permanent teeth over the course of a few months. Although an uncomfortable process, teething is one of your puppy's big steps into adulthood, and the easier you make it on them, the better. With a bit of help, your puppy will see all the adult teeth healthily erupt and enjoy solid oral health. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert team of nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!