Puppy teething: A survival guide for sore hands

5 December 2023 - 3 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS on 1 December 2023 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

Puppy's mouth with arrow pointing to tooth

Just like tiny tots, puppies experience the growing pains of teething.

It's a time of exploration and discovery, but also of chewed shoes and slobbery toys.

Don't worry, though—with some insights and strategies, you and your pup can navigate this phase paw-sitively.

When do puppies start teething?

Every pet parent wonders when their little furball will start teething. It's a significant milestone in your puppy's life, much like a baby's first tooth. But it might last longer than you're expecting it to.

“Many people believe that puppy teething is only something that lasts the first few months of puppyhood,” says Lisa Mullinax, a Seattle-based Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant. “However, puppies go through two teething phases: the first is between 3-6 weeks, and longest begins at 12 weeks and lasts until 24 weeks, as adult teeth emerge.”

Here's a quick guide to help you identify when your puppy has entered the teething phase, complete with timelines and telltale signs.

A puppy teeth timeline

Puppy's age What's coming in? What to expect
2-4 weeks Dediduous baby teeth Typically, the incisors are the first to appear.
5-8 weeks Full set of deciduous baby teeth By around five weeks, all 28 baby teeth should be present (with some exceptions).
12-16 weeks Adult teeth You might find tiny teeth around your home, but it's normal for puppies to swallow most of them.
16-24 weeks Premolars This is another stage where teething can cause discomfort.
20-28 weeks Final set of adult teeth The final stage in the teething process is the emergence of molars. By the end of this phase, your puppy should have a full set of 42 adult teeth.

Puppy teething symptoms

  • The chew factor: Your puppy's new hobby? Chewing. Everything. This helps soothe their aching gums.

  • Drool diary: Expect some extra slobber as their teeth grow.

  • Picky eaters: Don't be surprised if your puppy turns up their nose at dinner; teething can make eating a bit painful.

  • Tooth fairy visits: Finding tiny teeth around the house? It's all part of the process.

  • Gum gazing: Red, swollen gums and frequent pawing at the mouth are clear signs of teething discomfort.

Still wondering if it's teething or if your puppy's just engaging in rough play?

A person high fiving a dog

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A person high fiving a dog

Is your puppy teething or play-biting?

Understanding whether your puppy is teething or just exhibiting playful behaviour is crucial to guiding their development.

A couple ways to tell the difference: If the biting is gentle and seems focused on objects, it's likely teething-related. However, if your puppy nips at you or others during interactions, especially when overstimulated or seeking attention, it's likely more behavioural.

Recognising these differences is key to addressing them appropriately: providing chew toys and soothing aids for teething, and consistent training and routine to curb behavioural biting.

So you've determined it's just teething? Onto the next step.

How to help your teething puppy

Teething can be a tough time for your puppy, says Heather Lawrence, PhD, a professional dog trainer.

“As puppies approach approximately 16 weeks, they begin to lose their teeth and often feel discomfort both for the slack tooth and for the new ones growing in behind,” she says. At this point, they will often desire something to chew on, to really bite down on, and to give themselves some relief.”

From the right toys to simple routine adjustments, here are some effective strategies to ease your puppy's teething discomfort.

Buy safe chew toys

Create a paradise of chew toys. Think different textures, shapes, and some that can be chilled. Just make sure to avoid anything that could be a choking hazard, and don't leave your pup alone with a new chew toy.

By the way, it's also a good time to start brushing your puppy's teeth. This will lay the foundation for a lifetime without painful dental issues.

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Redirect chewing

Introduce a chew toy whenever your puppy gets the urge to nibble on something less appropriate, like your hand. This not only protects your belongings but also teaches your pup what's acceptable to chew on.

Ask a professional

If biting persists beyond teething, don't hesitate to seek help from your vet and potentially a professional trainer. They can provide targeted strategies to improve your puppy's behaviour and strengthen your bond.

Navigating the teething phase with your puppy is a journey filled with learning, laughter, and sometimes, a destroyed shoe or two.

Thankfully, with a little patience and some consistency, your pup should grow into those adult teeth and less nippy behaviour, in no time.