The time of teeth

I intern with my dog trainer’s school and help out with their puppy socialization class. While watching puppies play is pretty heartwarming, my favourite part is training sessions. By week three, all of the pups have a sit on cue and are working towards their cued downs. It’s fascinating watching their little gears turn as they try to figure out what behaviour gets the hallowed click (and inevitable treat). However, another huge part of puppy class is socialization and handling.

Ok, this is apparently an old dog, but he’s so funny I couldn’t help myself.

We all sit in a circle and while the instructor does a check in with everyone we spend some time ‘handling’ the pups. What this means is that we check ears, paws, between toes, faces and teeth. For some of the puppies it may take a bit of time to work up to allowing a person to feel around their gums. Eventually you can get there. It takes patience.

However, there was one guy (we’ll call him ‘S’) who was having a lot of trouble. S, his owners complained, had been getting worse with the handling and hated having his teeth checked. The instructor got a knowing look and asked to see the little guy. After a bit of coaxing he showed the owners the holes in his gums. Poor S was teething.

This is normal, obviously, and a good thing to know when I’m handling puppies in the future. But what I found interesting was that apparently there have been no studies determining the exact age when puppies lose their teeth. S was around 13 weeks and that’s about when it starts, but what the instructor knew was based off of years and years of running puppy class, not an empirical study. I did a quick google scholar search on teething in Canis familiaris and the first few hits were not encouraging. To be fair, even human teething is fraught with myth and misinformation and these are our actual children (1), it’s not surprising that there is a research gap for dog teething.

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Aside from going off their food (if it’s hard kibble) and chewing a bit too enthusiastically, it’s not as though dogs are wailing and fretful the way babies can get when their teeth are first coming in. When my dog lost his baby teeth, we didn’t notice much of a change. Mind you, he’s also pretty hardy. I’ve seen him run into walls, shake it off and continue whatever high speed activity he was engaged in. As for where his teeth went? I’m pretty sure he swallowed most of them. We only found one or two canines, so they must have gone somewhere.

Anyway, i just thought it was interesting that no one’s looked into it yet.


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1) Ashley, M. P. “Personal View: It’s only teething… A report of the myths and modern approaches to teething.” British dental journal 191.1 (2001): 4-8.

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