Puppy Biting and Teething

When I got a puppy, I had already read countless books and blogs to prepare. I thought that I was ready, but a lot of things came up only after puppy was home! One such topic was their teeth.

I found out quickly that baby teeth in dogs are much sharper and prone to ripping your clothes than I ever could have dreamed. And, as my puppies grew, they started chewing everything for relief!

So, how can you combat the little land shark? In this blog post I will talk about teething and puppy biting, and some varied ways of dealing with them.

There are 28 needles headed for your hand (or your face).

Puppies have 28 baby teeth, and they are super thin and sharp like a pin. This helps them learn, through playing and receiving feedback, how hard is too hard of a bite. This learned skill is called bite inhibition – they learn to inhibit (or control) the strength of their bite.

In nature, puppies would play with their littermates and their parents to learn this skill; however, most people adopt their puppy right when they are starting to learn bite inhibition. That means the responsibility normally falls to the human family, who is very frustrated puppy keeps biting them!

Yes, this biting is normal.

Athena chomping on an Amazon package

You do not have a demon puppy; there is nothing wrong with them. Puppies explore the world with their mouth – and their teeth – just like babies would. That means they will bite and chew on just about everything, including you.

They are learning from you, and that means they need your feedback! How you respond to puppy biting during this crucial time will determine how hard your puppy bites when they are a dog, or even if they bite at all. It is up to you to determine the appropriate bite threshold, then teach it to them.

Some dogs respond to yelping, or saying “ouch!” very loudly. If you do this when your pup bites and they back off, shower them in praise! They just did exactly what you want, and now you can resume playing.

Some dogs will only get more riled up, in which case you might try using time outs. Get up and walk away from your puppy, and use a cue word like “enough” or “too rough.” Only return to play when your pup seems settled down. Then, it’s probably time for a nap!

Not the drapes!

Playing tug with Nike to redirect him from my hands

During this time, puppies are also learning what is appropriate to chew on. For example, the curtains are off-limits, but their chew toys are great!

Redirection is a training technique of getting your puppy to chew on something good when they go for something you don’t want them to chew. If your puppy is going for your sofa, say “ah-ah!” to get their attention. If they stop, say “good!” and reward them with a good chew toy. Give them lots of praise if they put their mind to chewing on the toy instead. They’re learning that it’s a great thing to do!

By using redirection, along with positive reinforcement, you teach puppy that they can still bite and chew – just only on certain things.

Be aware of growing pains.

It looks like your puppy is finally learning what to chew on. Hold on – did he just start chewing my hand again?!

Athena around 3.5 months, just lost her first tooth

Around 3 months, your pup will start getting their big teeth. The pain in their gums will cause them to chew more than ever. Give them teething-specific chews, ice cubes, or frozen peanut butter in a KONG toy. They’re just looking for relief, and chewing helps!

If your dogs are anything like mine, you won’t find any of their baby teeth around. This is because most of the time puppies swallow their baby teeth. Don’t worry, that’s normal!

Athena at 5 months, her big teeth are coming in but look crowded

This is a really awkward time for your poor pup. Especially if you have a large breed dog, the teeth will look too big for their mouth. As long as they aren’t coming in crooked or otherwise disfigured, they are probably okay. However, please contact your vet if the teeth appear to be growing in incorrectly. Sometimes, the teeth really are overcrowded and a baby tooth needs to be pulled to make room.

Are these gums normal?

Your dog’s gums will look very scary when they are teething. If you read any article on doggy gum disease, your pup will probably look like they have it. Teething gums are swollen, purple, and bloody. I will attach a photo at the very end of the article so those that are squeamish can avoid the nightmare.

The most important thing is to have a baseline of what your pup’s gums look like normally. Athena has a dark spot on her tongue (known as pigmentation), and her gums are naturally dark instead of bright pink. Knowing about these makes it easier to rule out issues later. Every dog is different, so examine your dog’s mouth when you get them!

If you are worried when looking at pup’s gums, check other areas like eyelids or genitals. If there is a problem, these areas would also likely become discolored.

When will it end?

Depending on the size and breed of your dog, the teething process can last a while. Normally most of your dog’s teeth will be in place by the time they are 6 months old, but don’t worry if it takes them a little longer. As a large breed dog, I would say Athena’s teeth didn’t fully set in until she was about 9 months; her mouth was still growing, after all.

As long as you are diligent with redirection and give your puppy plenty of safe chew to relieve their aching gums, the teething process doesn’t have to be quite so painful. I would still recommend wearing clothes you don’t mind finding holes in!

Last warning for gross teething gums!

I’m about to post those gross photos I mentioned earlier, so back away now if you’re squeamish!

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