Understanding Puppy Teething,
Chewing and Biting

The puppy teething phase is an overall brief developmental stage but it may feel like a very long period of time for puppy owners concerned about those razor-sharp teeth.

Thankfully, when the cuteness factor comes into play, some puppy owners tend to overlook puppy biting and chewing, yet, for some other puppy owners, such behaviors rank high on their list of complaints.

Truth is, like it or dislike it, this teething phase is a natural, integral part of puppyhood just as in human infants.

Understanding Puppy Teething and Nipping

On top of the puppy teething phase, puppies also undergo an oral phase where, just as human infants, they explore the world with their mouth.

Teething, chewing, nipping, mouthing and biting are all gerund verbs present on the repertoire of typical puppy behaviors. Because these behaviors are inevitable, all the puppy owners can ultimately do is find ways to alleviate those sore gums and teach the puppy that humans are equipped with very sensitive skin.

Good bite inhibition typically starts in the litter when the first baby teeth erupt. During this phase, puppies learn not to bite their litter mates too hard. Because this bite inhibition phase is so important, it is imperative not to adopt a puppy until it is at least 8 weeks old. However, this does not automatically translate into a puppy that does not bite.

Once adopted, the puppy must undergo more training with humans to learn that human skin is much more delicate than dog skin.

Puppy Chewing

The Typical Puppy Chewing and Biting Candidate

A typical biting puppy is on average a puppy between the age of 8 weeks and 7-8 months old. However, once the permanent teeth set in by 7 to 8 months of age, not all trouble is over. A second chewing phase, which sadly causes many young dogs to be surrendered in shelters, takes place around 6 to 10 months of age.

A puppy that bites for attention is often quite a challenge because scolding may exacerbate the problem, simply because the puppy gets what it wants: attention!

Puppies that bite for play usually enjoy nipping on pant legs and fingers and love it when humans move quickly away as it signals the chasing game is on!

Puppies that have learned little bite inhibition in the litter may pose some challenges.

How to Stop Dog Chewing

There are many ways to help sooth sore gums during the puppy teething phase and they don't have to involve shoes, curtains, table legs and couches, which are some of the favorite items puppies chew.

In general, chew toys designed for adult dogs are not recommended for young puppies. But there are several dog chew toys that are specifically designed for puppy teething.

A great way to help teething puppies is wetting a rag, twisting it into a stick and then freezing it in the freezer for a couple of hours. This "chew toy" will help sooth those sore gums, but it's always good practice to keep an eye on puppies with a vacuum-cleaner reputation!

Another great way to put a chewing puppy up for success is management. This entails keeping items you do not wish chewed on out of the way. If there are items you cannot move, such as furniture, your best bet would be to invest in a taste aversion spray. Bitter Apple Spray icon is a common option.

It is also important to redirect a puppy chewing on a prohibited item by offering an appropriate item to chew on. For example, a stuffed Kong icon may be a great toy to keep the puppy occupied for some time. Following are some more tips to reduce puppy teething, chewing and biting.

Tips to Reduce Puppy Chewing

  1. Offer ice cubes every now and then so to sooth the puppy's gums
  2. Hand-feed your puppy to encourage polite mouth manners
  3. Smear butter on your hand to encourage licking and discourage puppy biting
  4. Go limp rather than withdrawing your hand suddenly when your puppy bites you
  5. Re-direct any biting at pant legs to an appropriate dog chew toy
  6. Smear some peanut butter on chew toys to make them more enticing
  7. Freeze some carrots and offer them to your puppy for a soothing, healthy delight
  8. Massaging the puppy's gums may be helpful and helps get your puppy used to getting his mouth touched
  9. Dedicate some time in dog training chewing, by teaching the "leave it" command to older puppies
  10. Praise your puppy for chewing appropriate items
  11. Routinely rotate the chew toys to keep them interesting and appealing
  12. Set realistic expectations; all puppies and dogs will eventually chew something they are not supposed to
  13. Avoid using your hands or feet as toys to play with to prevent puppy chewing and biting
  14. Never hit your puppy for chewing, nipping or biting

Here is a brief video that talks about some of the things we just covered in this article...

Final Thoughts...

Because puppy chewing and biting feels good for those sore gums, these behaviors are ultimately reinforcing during the puppy teething phase. The puppy will therefore continue biting and chewing for relief.

Expecting a puppy to completely stop chewing would be wrong. Puppy chewing is a totally natural behavior in puppies and dogs and its soothing effect helps release endorphins.

Help put your puppy up for success by providing proper puppy teething chew toys while minimizing access to inappropriate items.

Related Articles

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Want to learn more?

Puppy Training

For more advice on how to stop puppy biting, I highly recommend you read and follow this dog training guide. You'll find lots of information on dealing with many behavioral problems, including biting and nipping.


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