Like human babies, puppies have baby teeth that will be replaced by adult chompers at about 4 months of age. Changes in tooth growth and replacement can cause some discomfort, which puppies try to relieve by chewing on or biting objects. Understanding the needs of a teething puppy can make it a tolerable process for your whole household.
A puppy explores much of his world using his mouth and nose, and pups often use biting or nipping as a way to relieve teething pain, get attention, establish pack dominance and taste the world around them. Biting should be discouraged from a very young age, as it can cause injury and turn into a larger, more serious problem as the puppy grows and matures. Don't hit your puppy, but rather treat him as his mother or siblings might by yelping or gently shaking the scruff of his neck when he bites. Repeated biting should result in time-out to discourage it.
Any time your puppy starts to nip or gnaw to relieve tooth pain or starts biting something inappropriate, like shoes or furniture, give him an acceptable chew toy to help ease the pain. Rawhide bones and rubber play things are good alternatives. Don't let your puppy put something in his mouth that he could swallow and choke on. Try to keep non-chewable items out of his space, like children's toys, books, shoes, leather purses and briefcases. Even if you think an old shoe would be a good chew toy, think again. Your puppy doesn't know the difference between an old shoe and new shoes and should only be allowed to chew on appropriate items.
Potential Teething Problems
If your puppy continues to exhibit teething behaviors past 4 or 5 months of age, has foul breath, drools excessively or appears to have pain when eating, consult your veterinarian. Just like with people, teeth don't always erupt and develop as they should, and dental problems can lead to a host of problems for your pup. He can develop a bad bite, dental abscesses or mouth sores that must be addressed by an animal medical professional.
Get your puppy comfortable with inspecting his mouth when he is a young puppy at the teething stage. Dogs need good dental hygiene throughout the course of their lives, and getting comfortable with having their mouth handled will make mouth care easier in the future. Make opening and examining your dog's mouth part of your training. If your dog ever swallows and chokes on something or has a mouth problem, being comfortable with having your hands near his face will make the situation easier and safer to handle.
By Lisa McQuerrey
About the Author
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.