Brushing Your Dog's Teeth
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Brushing your dog’s teeth is just as important as brushing your own. Plaque can build up and cause cavities and gum disease. Poor dental hygiene can lead to bad breath, loss of teeth, weight loss, pain, and digestive problems. It can also negatively affect all the body’s organs, and has been shown to contribute to heart disease.
Brushing your dog’s teeth doesn’t have to be a huge, stressful, messy production, but it will be if you just grab a hold of your dog and start brushing. You must first condition your dog to all aspects of the experience so it has familiar and positive associations for him.
Be sure to use a toothbrush and toothpaste made for dogs. Dog toothpaste is made to taste good to dogs, is ok to swallow, and has many different ingredients from people toothpaste, which is not meant to be swallowed and can make your dog sick. Dog toothbrushes are softer and a different shape than people toothbrushes. There are also dental sponges, swabs, and finger brushes you can try which perform the same task as toothbrushes, but some dog owners find them easier to use.
Start by putting a dab of dog toothpaste on your finger and letting your dog lick it off. If he licks it off, give him a treat and lots of praise. If he doesn’t, let him sniff at it for a moment and see what he does. If he still doesn’t go for it, place a tiny dab on a dog treat and let your dog eat the treat, then offer him your finger with paste on it again. If your dog still doesn’t lick the paste, you might have to try another flavor. Once you’ve found a flavor your dog likes, offer him a little on your finger every day for a week, and always give him a treat and plenty of praise after he licks it off.
The following week, put a little paste on your finger and rub it on just one of your dog’s canine teeth. This will get him used to having his mouth messed with, but it will go more smoothly because he already has a week’s worth of positive associations with the flavor of the toothpaste, and receiving treats afterwards. Every day for a week, rub a little toothpaste on one of your dog’s teeth, and then give him a treat and praise.
The next week, put a little toothpaste on the toothbrush you will be using to brush your dog’s teeth, and offer it to him to lick off. This will help him acclimate to the texture of the toothbrush in his mouth. Do not let your dog chew the toothbrush, or he might think it’s a toy. After he licks the paste off the brush, give him a treat and praise. Do this for another week.
Once that week is up, when you and your dog are both in relaxed, agreeable moods, put some toothpaste on the toothbrush, lift your dog’s upper lip, place the brush at a forty five degree angle to his gum line, and brush two or three teeth. Then stop, give your dog a couple of treats and a huge amount of praise. The next day brush two or three different teeth and then give him a treat and tons of praise. Brush a different couple of teeth every day for a week.
The following week, brush five or six teeth every day, followed by treats and praise. Always stop brushing before your dog gets antsy. Stopping after he acts fussy will make him think he can always get you to stop by acting out. Try to always end a brushing session on a good note and with lots of treats and praise. Eventually, you will be able to brush your dog’s whole mouth with no problem at all. He might even look forward to it!
You can also help keep your dog’s teeth clean with dental treats like Greenies, and dental chews, rawhides, and rope toys, all of which are proven to remove plaque from dog’s teeth. Any crunchy dog biscuits will also help to scrape off plaque and encourage better dental health.