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Shih Tzu Puppy Teething 


One of the most challenging phases to get through as a puppy owner is the teething phase. And, as you may imagine, this is not very fun for the pup either.

While tending to a teething puppy may keep you on your toes, there is no need for this to be a stressful time.

By taking a few steps and following a couple important guidelines, you can help your Shih Tzu puppy get through the teething phase with minimal discomfort and no damage to your belongings. 

Most owners who struggle with teething puppies are those who are unprepared and/or under-equipped. 

So, here we will cover everything you need to know. 

About Teething and Age of Teething

Newborns are born without any teeth at all. By the young age of 3 weeks, milk teeth (also known as puppy or deciduous teeth) are starting to emerge and are fully grown in by week 6 or 7. There will be 28 of these deciduous teeth. 

During the teething process, those 28 will be replaced with 42 permanent adult teeth. 

Shih Tzu puppies start teething at the 3 to 4 month mark, and the phase is complete by the 7 or 8 month mark. This said, some puppies are early or late bloomers. 
This usually happens in a particular order: First the incisors, then the premolars, and finally the back molars and canines.

As the tiny puppy teeth fall out, the roots are absorbed back into the body. The tooth itself does fall out; however, many owners do not even notice this since they are so small. They may drop into food and be swallowed, fall out during play time, etc.

Teething Challenges

When a Shih Tzu puppy is teething, this causes times of extreme itching and discomfort, and in some cases there can be uncomfortable swelling of gum tissue. This in turn leads to strong urges to chew in response to seeking relief. 
Cody at 5 months old,
photo courtesy of Irene Manaloto
The oral sensations often wax and wane, can move from spot to spot in the mouth at any one given time, and may vary in intensity depending on which teeth are erupting. 
Front teeth are usually comparatively less painful that back; molars have a much larger surface and often cause more teething discomfort. 

This is one reason why some owners will remark that their Shih Tzu seemed to be doing just fine with teething, only to have a sudden increase in intense chewing problems as time goes on… 

And why right when you think that you've mastered the art of controlling things, the pup may surprise you with stronger urges than ever. 

The two biggest problems that manifest are puppies chewing on non-toy items and in some cases, nipping or trying to gnaw on owner's hands or fingers. 

How to Handle a Shih Tzu Puppy's Teething Phase

The steps involved in dealing with teething problems are not all that complicated. However, if you do not stick to these or you skip over one of them, you may find yourself still struggling with things. 

Make a commitment to having all the necessary 'tools' at your disposal and be consistent with the rules, and you'll find that you and your Shih Tzu will get through this phase just fine. 
The goal will be to remove temptations in regard to non-toy objects, deter chewing on larger immovable objects, offer teething toys that are effective in soothing teething discomfort and itching, and react appropriately to any bumps in the road. 

#1 Proof the House

A teething puppy will mouth and chew on just about everything within reach to find out if it soothes his woes. And who can blame him? 

Your job is to remove as many temptations as possible, both to keep your things from being destroyed and for the sake of your puppy's safety. 

If your Shih Tzu puppy has chewed your shoes, your shoes should not have been accessible to him. And if your pup gnawed at the stitching on your gym bag, it should have been placed out of reach. 

This can be said for every object other than those too large to move to a new spot (and we'll get to those in a bit). 
Petey, at 3 months old,
photo courtesy of Evelyn Cabral
Here's what to do:

1. All items that can be moved, should be. This includes shoes, books, bags, remotes, clothes, keys, and all other household or personal belongings that are normally on the floor or are within reach of your puppy. These can be placed up high on shelves or counters, or tucked away in closets. 
Zeus , at 6 months old, photo courtesy of Alexandra
2. Use cord concealer for any exposed electrical or cable cable cords.

You'll want to choose one that can be cut to needed lengths, and preferably made in the USA (as many manufactured overseas tend to have odd odors). 
Keep in mind that a good one like the PetCords Dog and Cat Cord Protector works very well as a line of defense; however, this does not mean that your Shih Tzu can chew away with abandon. It simply serves as a barrier in case the pup manages to find a cord. This can literally be a life-saver. 
3. Use deterrent on larger objects if your Shih Tzu seeks them out for chewing purposes and you are not able to restrict access to them.  

The most common household item that a teething pup may veer over to are furniture legs. Carpeting is a common focus point as well, since pulled threads often offer a good chewing texture.

Note that restricting access will work better than a deterrent.  
If your Shih Tzu cannot reach the object, there's a 0% chance that he'll chew on it. And if you use a deterrent spray, you'll just be decreasing the chance. 

This said, not all chew deterrent sprays are the same, some work quite well but even those that have a base of bitter apple can vary from brand to brand. And watch out, because there are quite a few sprays that sound the same and have similar labeling, but are vastly different in regard to effectiveness. 

Also, keep in mind that for this to work best, you'll want to spray every 2 to 3 days, since both the scent and taste fades within that amount of time. 
A good one to try is Grannicks Bitter Apple Dog Chew Deterrent; this one of the more effective ones, is non-toxic, comes in a large enough container to last quite a while, and is safe to use on just about any surface. 

#2 Restrict Access

You may like the thought of your puppy being able to have the freedom of roaming the house. However, this is not realistic during the puppy phase. 

Since both housebreaking and teething are top concerns during the first 6 to 7 months, allowing your Shih Tzu free reign is just asking for trouble. 

You don't have to feel guilty about confining your puppy if you set things up the right way. 

And the rules are simple: When you can keep an eye on your Shih Tzu without distractions, allow him to be by your side. If you have a harness for your Shih Tzu, you can keep him on leash and tethered to you without fear of harming his neck. 
shih tzu puppy
Charlie, at 9 weeks old,
photo courtesy of David Johnson
And for any times that you cannot keep your puppy right by you, he should be in his canine playpen. 

The benefits of a playpen are vast. This is the perfect solution for potty training, is the best environment to help resolve the issues of separation anxiety, and should be used to keep a teething puppy in one safe area when owners cannot be right there. 
One of our preferred playpens, the IRIS 24'' 4-Panel Pet Playpen with Door, is easy to move from room to room, is sized perfectly to hold toys, a bed, water, and an area for pee pads, does not feel confining, and has a cute yet secure door for entry and exit. 

#3 Provide Effective Teething Toys

One of our favorite sayings is that dog toys should be thought of as tools. And in the case of teething, this has never been so true.

The entire goal is to offer the puppy what he wants most: relief. And this is obtained by having a satisfying chewing experience. The way to offer that is to have the right toys. 
Puccini, at 4 months old, photo courtesy of R. Hill
Qualities of the effective teething toys:
  • Appropriate sized. If a puppy needs to struggle to mouth the toy and chomp down on it, he most likely will look elsewhere. 
  • Proper textures. Since oral sensations can change from itching to discomfort in the blink of an eye and move around in the mouth from one spot to the next, you'll want to offer a variety of textures to meet the pup's need at any one given time. 
Tiny nubs are one element that works well. These are great for massaging the gums. 

Rope toys are fantastic as well. The braided textures are great as 'scratchers'.

A helpful tip is to soak a rope toy with water and then freeze it for 2 hours. Crunching on a frozen toy helps ease pain and can bring down swelling around the gums. 
  • Enticement. If your Shih Tzu puppy is rather hyper and has trouble focusing, you may find that an added bonus of scent and/or taste can be just the thing to keep him busy with his teething toy. 
Recommended toys to help teething Shih Tzu puppies are below. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. On mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontally to see all 4. 

#4 React Appropriately to Unwanted Behaviors

Teething puppies are driven by instinct;however, corrections should be made so that bad habits do not develop. 

Non-approved objects:

If you follow the advice that we've already covered of proofing and restricting access, there should be very few times that your puppy is able to be chomping on non-approved items. However, if this happens, it'll be important to react the right way.

Wanting to chew should not be punished. Instead, you'll want to teach your pup that he should be seeking out his toys for this. This training involves interruption, redirection, and praise. 

1. Interrupt. If you catch him in the act of any undesired chewing, clap your hands loudly and/or give a firm 'No' to gain his attention. 

For puppies that do not respond to this sort of interruption, using a behavior interrupter device works well. One like The Company of Animals Pet Corrector is a safe device that lets out a quick hiss of air that is very effective in making dogs take pause. 
It should be noted that this corrector also works well for other behaviors including excessive barking and jumping up on people. 

2. Redirect. As soon as you have his attention, offer one of his approved teething toys. 

3. Give praise. The moment he mouths it, offer happy, enthusiastic praise. 

Repetition of interruption, redirection, and then praise will instill 'right and wrong'. Most pups can be trained within a week. 
Nipping or trying to chew on your hands or fingers:

Some puppies will latch onto fingers or the sides of an owner's hand and nibble away. And many owners allow this sort of thing when the pup is so little that it just tickles. But, when a Shih Tzu nips during teething, sharp tiny teeth can really sting... and even draw blood. 

So, this will need to be nipped in the bud. Pun intended. 

1. Immediately withdrawn with a firm, 'No'.

2. Offer an approved teething toy, and give praise when it is mouthed.

3. If a puppy is charging at you and a bit out of control, you may need to give a short time-out to let him re-group and calm down. If needed, time-outs can be repeated until the lesson is learned. 
You May Also Like:
Shih Tzu Training Tips - 6 pieces of advice that will make training your puppy or dog much easier, faster, and successful. 
Shih Tzu Shampoos and Coat Products - The 3 types of products you'll want to have, for healthy skin and coat, and gorgeous coat texture. 
House Training a Shih Tzu - A great guideline for effectively potty training. 
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