On occasion, you may notice that your dog is chattering his teeth and have no idea why. If it isn’t cold, it seems to be an odd thing. We’ll explore some of the many reasons that dogs can click their teeth in this article, how to tell the differences in reasons and what you may need to do about it – if anything.
Possible Reasons Behind the Clicking Teeth
Sometimes it could mean a dog is feeling very much on edge. Perhaps they are out of their normal element and it is making them over-stimulated? If a lot of other dogs are around and your dog isn’t used to this, it could cause some general anxiety that may result in teeth chattering.
It can be a dog’s way of letting you know that they are assessing the situation and just not feeling overly confident in the moment. On the other hand, teeth clicking can also be pure excitement in canines, without any nervousness.
You have to take into account the other body language that is presented. Is the tail down and tucked? That would be a nervous or unsure dog. Is the tail wagging furiously? That is an excited dog. Is the tail erect and still as a statue?
That may indicate a dog that is feeling defensive in some way, also a form of being unsure of the current situation and letting everyone know that she is capable of defending herself. Truly it is mean to keep another dog from attacking by making them think twice about it.
Happiness and Playtime
Sometimes it is purely an expression of joy. Many dogs chatter their teeth when they’re in the middle of a rousing game of fetch. They return the ball and stand, excited for you to toss it again and their teeth are chattering away like mad.
If your dog chatters her teeth during a particularly lively game of fetch in your backyard, for instance, don’t agonize over it. She simply can’t contain all the fun she’s having.
Sometimes dogs clack their teeth because they are genuinely afraid. You might see this when they encounter a cat because they don’t know how else to respond. Sometimes they click teeth to show the other animal that ‘hey, you are making me nervous and I feel threatened. I will protect myself.’
This is a way to try to get the other animal to leave them alone and avoid confrontation. Dogs will generally do everything that they can think of to avoid confrontations. The truth is that the dog who seeks out a fight is the rare dog. Most will move away from confrontation.
Sadly, when they are leashed and being walked toward each other, they cannot naturally avoid the confrontation. This is when you may see a lot of teeth clattering on a walk.
Possible Dental Problems
While this is usually the last reason for teeth clacking, it is possible that your dog has a tooth that hurts or pain in the mouth somewhere. You should attempt to look in their mouth and see if you can see anything overt. They get splinters and thorns in their mouth sometimes. If you can pull it out, you’ll relieve their pain.
Sometimes they can break teeth off from trying to pry a kennel door open while you are away, or chewing on something very hard. Normally their teeth are incredibly resilient but they absolutely can break them off sometimes, creating very painful situations.
This can abscess and become very bad. If your dog has this type of tooth pain, they need to see the vet and have the tooth removed. Dental services are very common for both dogs and cats.
These are many of the most common reasons but sometimes it is a combination of more than one of these. A dog may be excited but nervous too. Think back to your first day of school and how exciting it was but also how nervous you may have been to make new friends, not knowing what to expect. You can react with fear and excitement at the same time.
If Dental Work is Needed
Veterinarians are usually able to do minor dental work, such as cleanings, X-rays and exams. If there is a tooth that needs to be pulled, many can do this. There are also vet clinics that specialize in dental work for animals. Working on teeth is simply a part of veterinary care in most cases. Horses have to have their teeth floated and dogs sometimes need teeth pulled.
Some breeds are very prone to losing teeth and having dental problems as they grow older. Yorkshire Terries, for example, rarely die with all their teeth. Some of the toy breeds will lose all of their teeth by the time they are 10 years old and be able to only eat a diet of soft food.
When your dog is young, feed a diet of crunchy kibble as much as possible. This will naturally scrape his teeth clean so that tartar doesn’t build-up and become problematic. Smaller dogs have a harder time with kibble and this is likely part of the reason that they lose so many teeth, the soft food that they are required to eat.
You can also brush your dog’s teeth to try to help them stay healthy longer. This is a good practice when you have to feed soft food that sticks to the teeth. Get them used to dental brushings as young as possible. Don’t use human toothpaste! That is toxic to dogs.
Use canine kinds of dog toothpaste from the pet store. You can get liver flavor, bacon flavor and other flavors that they will love you to put in their mouth and lick while you massage their teeth and gums.
If Training is Necessary to Help Anxiety
Sometimes anxiety in social situations is simply because they’ve not had enough proper socialization with other dogs. Taking dogs to group training classes is a great idea. Start as young as possible but never give up on an older dog. They all can learn. Working with a trainer to resolve anxiety issues is a great way to start.
If your dog is far too anxious to attent a group class, start simple and get a private trainer who will come to your home. You’ll find they are not much more than the cost of group classes and they’ll get you well on your way to being able to meet other dog properly.
In time, your dog will get better with practice, just like children who are terrified to go to school or play basketball the first time. Before they realize it, they are having fun and then it isn’t so bad. There are also doggy daycares now that can take your dog for a day and find them some playmates their own size to enjoy the day with.
This is becoming very popular in cities. People who work all day don’t want to leave their dog home for 2 big reasons.
1) If the dog is running and playing all day, it makes it far easier to come home and relax after work as everyone is tired, even the dog.
2) The socialization that your dog gets is very good. It helps them gain confidence and learn how to get along with other dogs in all situations. This will help you deal with anxiety issues at home. They may go away completely when your dog is worn out from playing all day.
Now that you understand there are several reasons their teeth may chatter, you also know that the reasons aren’t life-threatening most of the time. You know what to check and that is the most important part. You also know how to handle the situations, even if they need dental work.
One other bit of advice is that you should spend some time and a small amount of money to get health insurance for your dog. This will help cover emergency medical expenses, which may include dental work to remove a bad tooth – especially if it is abscessed. This work isn’t cheap but having the pet insurance really does make an incredible difference after insurance covers part of the expenses.
If you don’t think that dental issues are the reason for the pain your dog is in — and that is possible — call your veterinarian and get them in as soon as you can. There may be another kind of pain going on that you can’t see. They can have bad joints, sprains, pulled muscles, and arthritis pain. You’ll have to seek professional advice to have your dog fully checked and get answers.
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.