Raising a puppy is one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have, but it definitely has its challenges and teething is a big one. Puppies get a full set of baby teeth when they're around 6-8 weeks old and at around 12-14 weeks those teeth start to fall out so adult teeth can grow in. This process leaves the gums sore and leads to a teething period much like the one human babies go through.
How do you know when your puppy is teething?
If you're here there's a good chance you've already noticed that your puppy is teething. They're chewing on everything they can get their mouths on and you might have even found a little bit of blood or a lost tooth in their gums. Puppies do this because the pressure of chewing relieves the pain they're feeling from the growing teeth and because it encourages baby teeth to fall out.
These should be the only really noticeable signs of teething along with a little bit of grumpiness. If you notice an excessive amount of swelling or other serious changes in behavior that make you suspect something else is going on, take them to the vet.
How long is the teething process?
Puppies will start teething as soon as their baby teeth start growing in at around 6-8 weeks after birth depending on the breed. At around 12 weeks these teeth start to fall out and their adult teeth start growing in, starting with the incisors. Dogs have 42 adult teeth in total, and these finish growing in at roughly 8 months.
In other words, your puppy should finish teething in about five months—which is plenty of time for them to destroy all of your furniture if you're not careful. Many breeds of dog are also prone to chewing on inappropriate things(Labradors, I'm looking at you) well into adulthood, so now is the ideal time to start training them to avoid chewing on your couches. Or shoes, or whatever else it is that your puppy's grown a fondness for chewing.
How can you stop puppies from teething/biting?
Technically you can't stop puppies from teething but you can definitely stop them from biting the wrong things. As long as you're willing to invest in the right tools and stick to a proper training regime, you can stop your dog from chewing up your belongings.
Dog repellent such as our very own Dog Off Spray can coat items with a nasty taste so your puppy will think they're disgusting.
It's a good idea to coat the legs of tables and bottoms of cabinets with some of this spray before you bring them home if they're in the teething stage.
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Also use these tricks:
- Remember that your puppy is in pain
Teething is a painful process and your puppy is probably going to be moody. You have to be really strict about basic puppy manners during this time period, but don't stress them out even more by trying to teach them tricks. Be patient with your puppy and remember that this is only a temporary phase. Freaking out will only scare them and make problems worse.
- Teach them "Leave It"
Leave It is a command you should really start teaching your puppy the moment they arrive in your home. You can do this by picking up one of their toys and engaging in a brief tug of war, then saying "leave it" when you're ready to stop playing. Train your puppy to respond to this command with their toys first and the command will become an easy way to save anything your dog has decided to chew on.
- Trade up
When your puppy starts chewing something they shouldn't be, tell them "no". The moment they stop chewing on it, give them one of their favourite toys. Praise them for playing with the toy. This teaches your dog what they are actually supposed to be doing.
Always try to leave your puppy with a good feeling at the end of a training session. If they haven't made a breakthrough you can still leave them feeling good by finishing with a command they know really well and rewarding them for completing it.
- Make sure you have the right toys
It is essential for your puppy to have toys they can easily chew on if you want them to stop chewing on the rest of your house. Once of the best toys you can get for your puppy is a Chilly Bone, a tough canvas bone filled with a non-toxic gel that freezes quickly in the freezer. The cold helps soothe your puppy's teeth and reduce any feverishness created by the stress of teething.
- Soft mouth training
Soft mouth training is essential if you want to be able to easily give your dog medication when they're adults. A cute nip now could seriously injure you in a few short months.
You can do soft mouth training by lying on the floor with your puppy and playing a gentle game of tug with them. After a couple minutes remove the toy and start playing with their lower jaw with your hand. Remember to be gentle. If your dog closes their mouth around your hand, that's fine, but if they actually bite down say "ouch" in a loud, sharp voice. Then clamp their mouth shut for 2-4 seconds.
- Chilled carrots
Chilled carrots are actually really good for your puppy. They provide high levels of Omega 6 fatty acids, vitamins A and K, and potassium. Puppies also enjoy watching carrots disintegrate as they chew on them. You can give puppies one chilled carrot per day—carrots are too high in fibre for puppies to properly digest more than that.
- Teething treats
You can find a variety of treats designed specifically to help your puppy through the process of teething and even pre-made mixes to make your own frozen puppy treats with. There are also smoothie style treats which will help cool your puppy's gums.
- Set up a puppy room or crate training
There are going to be times when you simply cannot be around to supervise your puppy, but you still don't want them to destroy your things. So you can either buy a large crate to stick your puppy in while you're gone or puppy proof a room and use a child gate to keep them inside the room while you're out. Make sure they have a couple chew toys with them and that nothing they shouldn't be chewing on gets into the crate or the room with them.
- Focus on good behavior
Instead of waiting until your dog has done something wrong and punishing them for it, go out of your way to reward them every time you catch good behaviour. Train them to actively do what you want rather than simply avoiding trouble.
When to call in the vet
If you notice extreme swelling, a particularly foul smell from the mouth, or new teeth growing in where baby teeth haven't fallen out yet, you need to take your puppy to a vet. Dramatic changes in behaviour may also represent a more serious issue.
If you don't notice any serious issues you should still make sure your vet takes a good look at your puppy's teeth every time you take them in for shots. This way they can correct any issues with misalignment before the teeth have fully grown in.
The most important thing you can do for yourself and your puppy during this time period is be patient with them but there are many little ways you can make the teething process better for everyone involved. If you are doing all of the things on this list and still having trouble with your puppy biting you should consider meeting with an expert trainer to find alternative solutions.