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For the most part, Bella is full of life. You will find her storming around the house chasing the kids. But 10 minutes later you might her find them snuggled up in a blanket on the sofa, fast asleep as the kids watch a movie. Your puppy has fitted into the family perfectly and you’re really enjoying training Bella. You’ve mastered the essentials, such as ‘sit’ and ‘down’. However, you would also like to train her to do some more entertaining tricks. One trick that you think is likely to draw a giggle is if you can get your puppy to show teeth. I mean who doesn’t love a smiling dog?
The trick comes with more benefits than just entertainment value though. Dogs are at their most receptive when they are puppies. So any training you do now will be easier and it will help speed up the learning process when you teach them other tricks too.
Training your puppy to show teeth isn’t as complex as you might believe. The challenge comes at the beginning when you have to convey what it is you want them to do. That will require some guidance from you. However, once they have picked it up, training will require consistent practice, using an effective motivator.
If Bella is a responsive puppy, who is eager to please, then you may see results in just a few days. However, if your puppy can’t sit still for a minute due to a distinct lack of concentration, then you may need a little extra time. In fact, it could be a couple of weeks before they’re showing teeth whenever instructed. If you stick with training you will be rewarded with a fun trick for friends while also giving you an excuse to shower Bella with praise and treats.
You will need to gather a few bits together before you start training. So make sure you have a generous supply of treats or you can break your pup's favorite food into small chunks. You’ll also need a toy and a clicker for one of the methods below. A toothbrush will also be required.
Set aside just five to ten minutes each day for training. Practice when you both aren’t distracted by a noisy household. You can train inside or out in your yard.
Once you have all that, just bring enthusiasm and a proactive attitude, then work can begin!
The Watch Closely Method
To teach your puppy to show teeth, you’ll need to closely watch them for a situation that causes them to display their nashers and smile. This could be before a bath, before a meal or before a walk.
Once you have found a situation that triggers a teeth show, you need to introduce a verbal cue. This could be ‘teeth’ or ‘smile’. Simply give it in a playful tone just before or as they start to show teeth.
As soon as the pup does then show their teeth, hand over a tasty treat as a reward. You can also give them verbal praise. Do everything you can to make them feel happy, because the better they feel, the more eager they will be to play again.
Now your job is to reinforce training. So spend a few minutes practicing each day. However, start giving the command in a number of different scenarios, to check your puppy will still smile even when there are distractions around.
Lose the treats
Once the pooch has got the hang of it, you can slowly phase out the treats. By now they will recognize the verbal cue and will no longer require a tasty reward to follow their owner’s instruction.
The Toothbrush Method
Finding a situation where your puppy will show their teeth can prove challenging. However, when you take a toothbrush to their nashers, is one occasion they have to display their teeth.
So head over to your pup with a big smile and try to keep things lighthearted and playful. Just as you are about to start brushing their teeth, issue a verbal cue. You can use any word or phrase you like for the instruction. Just make sure you give it only once and that you’re not using it in conjunction with any other tricks.
Your puppy should then naturally show their teeth as you begin to brush. As soon as they do, take away the brush and swiftly hand over a reward. This could be a treat or a toy, just make sure they get it within a few seconds.
Lose the brush
Now you just need to practice. However, slowly transition away from using the toothbrush. For example, just get the brush out but don’t actually touch their teeth. The verbal cue will soon become habit and you’ll just need to issue the command.
Phase out the rewards
Now you don’t want your puppy piling on the pounds. So as they get the hang of it, you can gradually phase out the treats. Instead give them some verbal praise to let them know they have behaved correctly.
The Clicker Method
A clicker can be a brilliant way to speed up the training process. Just give a click and a treat whenever they follow an instruction correctly. This signals to them that they have done something right, so they know what to do next time.
Now watch your puppy closely for a situation that causes them to show their teeth. It could be excitement, apprehension or even tiredness. Once you’ve found it, put them in that situation and give a verbal cue, such as ‘teeth’.
Click & toy
Once they do indeed show their teeth, quickly click to signal to them they did something correctly and follow up with a treat. They may not know what yet, but after several days of practicing, they will soon realize. You can then play around with a toy for a minute or so as a reward.
Now your job is to practice regularly. In fact, the more frequently you practice, the sooner they will get the hang of it. Soon enough you will be able to give the instruction in any number of situations, even if there are distractions around.
Do not use any form of punishment to encourage your puppy to show their teeth. This will only scare the pup and could lead to a range of problems. All of which could be far more challenging to tackle than teaching them to show their teeth.
By James Barra
Published: 04/19/2018, edited: 01/08/2021