Puppies have sharp teeth to signal to the mother when it’s time to stop nursing the pups. Puppy teeth take about three weeks to break through the gums, then another two to three weeks to fully develop. The sharp teeth cause discomfort for the mother, which signals that it’s time to stop nursing.
If you’re asking this question, then you have likely experienced the razor-sharp sting of a puppy bite. When a puppy nips at you, you probably wonder two things. First, how can you get your puppy to stop nipping? Second, why in the world are puppy teeth so sharp?
Reasons Puppy Teeth are So Sharp
A Signal For Weaning Off Mother’s Milk
Like human babies, puppies are born with no teeth and get their food and nutrients from their mother through nursing.
Puppy teeth or “milk teeth” develop around 3-6 weeks of age. This begins the natural process of weaning off their mother’s milk. Just like your puppy’s needle-like teeth might hurt your hand, these teeth are uncomfortable on the mother’s nipple and signal that it’s time to start the weaning process.
Sharp Teeth Make Up For a Weak Jaw
Once a puppy is weaned from its mother’s milk and switches to wet food or dry kibble, these sharp teeth are necessary because of a weak jaw. The teeth help the puppy break down food until their jaw muscles develop further.
Helps Teach Bite Inhibition
Bite inhibition is another way of saying “soft mouth,” and it’s how a puppy learns to balance the intensity and pressure of his bite.
By gauging the reaction of his playmate (whether that’s you or another furry friend), the puppy discovers how much his teeth can actually hurt.
For example, when he played with his littermates and bit down a little too hard, they most likely yelped in pain, which signaled that your puppy should back off.
Helps Explore The World
No doubt your puppy is constantly curious about everything. Your pup explores and learns about his new environment through biting, chewing, mouthing, and licking. They can feel the texture of different items, which is why soft and flexible toys are best to buy for a teething puppy.
Training Your Puppy to Have a “Soft Mouth”
Just like when you were a baby and had to learn the right and wrong way to do things, so does your puppy. He simply doesn’t know any better.
Training your puppy to have a soft mouth doesn’t mean teaching him not to bite at all. Yes, he has sharp teeth, but bite inhibition is about teaching him to apply appropriate pressure when he bites.
What are some ways to appropriately train your dog to have a soft mouth?
A helpful tip for training your mouthy puppy is to never react harshly or punish him for biting too hard. He isn’t intentionally trying to hurt you and will never learn unless you teach him.
This requires patience and understanding on your part. One way you can teach your puppy to have a soft mouth is to say “ow!” or a high-pitched yelp when he bites you so he knows it hurt you.
As mentioned above, your puppy might even find this reaction familiar since he probably experienced it with his littermates.
How to Keep Those Sharp Teeth Clean
It’s not necessary to brush your puppy’s teeth until his adult teeth come in (around 6 months), but you can start brushing his teeth any time before then so that he gets used to it. Starting early will make your life (and your puppy’s life) easier as time goes on.
Use Dog Specific Tools
You wouldn’t brush your teeth with a toothbrush or toothpaste made specifically for dogs, right? Gross! So, give the same courtesy to your furry family member. Plus, toothpaste made for humans contains Xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs.
Finger brushes are okay to use while you’re introducing brushing to your pup, but they are not to be used long term since they don’t adequately clean plaque and bacteria off the teeth. They also don’t clean below the gumline.
Be Gentle and Patient
Your puppy might not enjoy having an object in his mouth that he isn’t familiar with. Start by putting your finger in his mouth and gently moving along his gums.
He might be confused, and that’s okay. Just let him sniff and lick the brush and toothpaste until he learns that there’s nothing to fear. Be generous with treats and pets to make it fun.
Help Your Puppy Get Comfortable
You want to make sure your puppy is comfy but not able to wiggle out of reach. Try sitting on the floor with him, or if he’s small, you can hold him securely in your lap.
Until your puppy is more used to getting his teeth brushed, you might need someone to help you hold him still or pet him while using a soothing voice.
Brush At The Same Time Each Night
Routine is so important to puppies. Just like you should feed your pup around the same time in the morning and evening, try to brush his teeth around the same time every day too.
If you’re unable to brush your pup’s teeth daily, it’s highly recommended you do it at least 3 times per week. Start small with 5-10 seconds of brushing and increase the time each day.
What if I Don’t Take Care of My Puppy’s Teeth?
One of the most common diseases in dogs is gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gingivitis is gum inflammation caused by bacteria that will lead to periodontal disease if not treated promptly.
Periodontal disease is inflammation or infection of tissue around the tooth caused by the buildup of tartar and plaque.
This can spread to the tooth socket if not treated properly, which can lead to tooth loss and chronic pain.
Studies show that by 3 years of age, 80% of dogs have developed periodontal disease. Thankfully, this is preventable with good oral hygiene and a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Like many dog owners, you might only look at the teeth in the front and disregard the ones that are harder to reach in the back. Make sure you clean all of your dog’s teeth thoroughly.
We have all been around dogs with awful breath. You don’t want that to be your dog!
One of the most common causes of this is dental disease and poor oral hygiene. Yes, sometimes a dog might be more genetically prone to bad breath, or the ingredients in his food might make his breath smelly, but regularly brushing his teeth will help.
They’ll Have Trouble at the Groomers
The longer you wait, the harder it’ll be to start a brushing routine later on. When you brush your puppy’s teeth, you get him used to hands around his mouth, and he’s less likely to shy away or potentially bite strangers that come near his mouth.
I guarantee you hate seeing your pup in pain. By implementing these preventative measures, you’ll save your puppy years of chronic pain.
If you’ve ever had tooth pain, then you know it radiates to your head and drives you nuts. Sometimes it feels like the pain spreads to the rest of your body just because it’s so frustrating.
You can’t always control the genetic predisposition of your puppy, but you can do everything possible to protect his long-term health.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.