Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson
May 2006

Dear Lisa: I have a four month old Golden Retriever who, it seems, was born with a mouth full of razor sharp puppy teeth. A lot of people tell me the teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth at three and four months old. This hasn't happened. When does this normally take place? – Tooth Fairy Troubles in Tucson

Dear Tooth: Puppies do have very sharp teeth, especially when you feel them grabbing at your naked ankles in a friendly game of "look at me." Just like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth, puppy and adult. The puppy teeth appear at about three weeks old. Because puppies don't eat a lot of hard food when they are young and still relying on mother's milk for nutrition, they don't have any grinding molars.

At around four months of age – and it can vary from breed to breed and even from dog to dog – the 28 puppy teeth are replaced with 42 adult canine teeth, which include the molars. You will see six incisors on the top and bottom (these are the smaller front teeth located between the large fang-like canines). On the other side of the canines (fangs) along each side of the dog's mouth you have smaller pre-molars for ripping and tearing, and rounding out the line-up are the larger molars in the back for grinding.


Double Teeth
One thing you may not have noticed about your puppy is that the adult teeth may be coming in behind the puppy teeth and you just don't see them yet. When the adult teeth come in they will push out the little puppy teeth. Sometimes, a puppy tooth will stubbornly stay in place even when the adult tooth is fully emerged behind it. To remedy the situation, you might have to go to the vet and have the baby tooth extracted.

I've had puppies who took as long as eight months to lose all their baby teeth. So don't despair, Mother Nature will soon work her magic and push those razor sharp teeth out. And don't be surprised if you don't find them when they fall out. Puppies have a tendency to chew and swallow them without much fanfare.


Dear Lisa: My son has a beautiful German Shorthaired Pointer who is a companion plus hunting dog. The dog eats rocks. My son has tried everything to keep him from doing this. The dog gets plenty of exercise everyday, has his own toy box full of chew toys, balls to retrieve, etc., gets regular veterinary care and has a good diet. My son has a shock collar (uses the warning ring most of the time) to prevent this behavior and has also taken all of the rocks out of his pen. What else can he do?Between a Rock and a Hard Place in Beaumont

Dear Rock: The behavior you are describing is called "Pica" which means ingesting non-food items. The cause is unknown. There could be a variety of reasons why your son's dog does this. It might be behavioral, anxiety or a medical reason.

I would start with his vet and rule out any medical reason, such as a disease, illness, or digestive or deficiency problem. Once any health issue is ruled out, you can move on to a behavioral cause.

It sounds like your son does a fair amount of exercise and training with the dog. However, using the shock collar probably isn't the best approach for dealing with this issue. It was a good move to remove the rocks from the kennel but maybe your dog learned this behavior as a puppy and it's just habitual.

If this is the case, then you really have to get firm about teaching the dog a new behavior when it comes to grabbing and gulping rocks just for kicks. Eating rocks can cause serious damage from an intestinal blockage to perforated stomachs and colons. If any of these happens, it could mean an expensive surgery bill or worse


Different Day, Same Routine
Besides scanning the internet for "Pica Kit" products to address vitamin deficiencies, you might also want to look at changing his dog food. It has been reported that sometimes this behavior is linked to dogs tied out on runs. It could be that your dog is just bored with the same old routine, toys and activities even if you think they are adequate for him.

With a highly intelligent, active hunting dog, like the German Shorthaired Pointer, you will need to constantly provide him with a challenging job. Making strides to incorporate highly stimulating activities for your dog and taking his mind off eating rocks may just save his life.




Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at lxp@akc.org and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.

© 2006 The American Kennel Club, Inc.