My work is centered around puppies. Puppy development, socialization, and foundation work. And to be honest, it rocks, it never ever gets old or tiresome. These little ones have only been on the planet for a number of weeks by the time I meet them, so everything is so new and so amazing for them. And being a part of that start, for me, is a privilege.
But the realty is, my work is actually centered on teaching owners how to understand these little fur balls, cute fur balls that can melt anyone’s heart, that are also fully mobile and come equipped with sharp dagger like teeth.
Out of all of the awesome questions I am asked daily, PUPPY BITING is by far numero uno on every owners list.
So, here is some information to help puppy owners better understand a puppies mouth, and why they do what they do, and why it is so very important. Keep in mind, everything in life is a phase, nothing lasts forever, so take a deep breath, for puppy mouthiness and biting shall also pass! And here is a link to my TEETHING VIDEO!
A puppies mouth is an angry and irritated place for quite some time, some puppies more than others. It’s important to understand that when a puppy is seeking something out to chew on or bite, it could be that their tiny mouth is just not feeling well. Humans take twelve years or more to bring in baby teeth, lose them, and then bring in adult teeth. Puppies whip through this process in six months or less, OUCH!
Puppies bring in 28 teeth (+/- depending on the breed) at around 5-8 weeks. Puppies teeth are referred to as deciduous or milk teeth, meaning that they are all coming out!
Between four-six months all of these teeth fall out and the full adult set come in, including molars, bringing the full tooth count to 42 (+/- depending on breed and breeding)
As the molars push in, puppies, who are now adolescents, need LOTS to chew on to ‘set’ these teeth, and this can last for many months, sometimes up to 18 months.
Puppies explore their world with their paws and their jaws. They pick things up, they taste, they explore, they play, they meet and greet with their mouths. This piece of equipment needs lots of practice interacting with the environment. If you want an adult dog that knows how to use their mouth appropriately, and has good bite inhibition, then be prepared to do your work while they are young puppies!
Always have chew items on the floor, as in everyplace. Things that you consider legal to chew on and play with. Your floor should be busy looking for you, and AWESOME looking for your puppy. If your puppy starts to explore the taste of a chair leg, you simply do an equal exchange with something that you have close by.
Don’t get all excited about it or you will mark that chair, or whatever, as important. Treat this as a non issue, and be prepared, always, to do exchanges. Some days you will do two exchanges, and other days two thousand. This is part of good mouth management, so as the saying goes, ‘suck it up buttercup!’
Some puppies have a favorite person in the house hold that they like to chew on, or launch at, or bite and grab. I see this pretty much every week.
Sometimes puppies are pulled to soon from their mother and litter mates, and miss a critical time where they learn some good bite inhibition. It is recommended that your puppy stay witht heir mom and litter mates, if they are being managed appropriately by the breeder, for 9-10 weeks of age.
It has been documented that puppies that leave their mom and litter mates at an earlier age tend to be mouthier, bitier, and show less bite inhibition as adults.
BUT, sometimes a puppy chooses a person in the household to chew on, because they can get a reaction. And most puppies will work for positive or negative attention. If your puppy launches at your hands, feet, or clothing, and continues to do so, there is a high probability it is because your puppy can get a reaction from you, and if they can, they will continue to do so.
So, if you have become your puppies human chew toy, switch it up. When you see your puppy coming over to sink those little daggers into your hand, have a stuffed KONG ready, a flossie or bully stick, or a soft and half frozen towel for them to suckle on (cold is awesome for irritated teeth). And please, do not get excited if they miss and nick your hand. It happens.
If your puppy bites at your ankles or pant legs, and you ‘yelp’ to try and let them know it is too much, it might work for a moment, and it does work for some puppies, but most it does not. Squealing, yelling, howling, kind of excites most puppies, and most puppies who have owners who yelp like that now have a way to start an awesome game!
It you have a super biter, heavy teether, you have to have MORE to offer their mouth, at pretty much all times that you are not exercising them, or when they are sleeping. This is a fact, and you have to own it, or lose some skin or a piece of furniture.
Puppies have to use their mouths for more than just eating food. This is developmentally healthy and necessary. Creating an enriched environment for mouth exploration is never a bad thing.
Never ever hold a puppies mouth shut and say NO BITE. Never ever swat a puppy on the muzzle and yell NO BITE. Puppies use their mouths for everything, your job is to manage what they can get into their mouths. You need to keep items off of the floor and out of reach if they are important to you in anyway. Always keep in mind how irritated their little mouth is and help them out with things to chew on.
When you have a puppy, it is better to think of yourself as a ‘mouth manager’ instead of a ‘puppy raiser’. If you manage the mouth, and occupy the mouth in a healthy way, it makes everything else that much easier.
If you want to sit down and eat, read, or just relax, you need to have things to occupy your puppies mouth. A stuffed KONG, bully sticks, raw joint bone, Kibble Nibble, hooves, etc. If you pretend all will be well, and that your puppy will want to relax too, well then, prepare to lose some skin, clothing, furniture, or shoes. If you ignore the mouth, your puppy will gladly fly their PUPPY FREAK FLAG to remind you that they are still in fact a teething puppy!
When puppies are bored, or not managed well, they will entertain themselves with chewing, on anything and everything. Please refer to our PUPPY TIPS article to help with that end of things!
So, please understand that puppies are not plotting your demise, or trying to destroy your home, those are just signs and symptoms that you as a puppy owner need to be a better mouth manager, and be on top of it, at all times.
Have fun, enjoy the time you have with your puppy, because it really does go by that quickly! ~ Nancy