We should brush our dog's teeth regularly and it can be a bit frustrating for both us and our dogs to start. You will want to ensure that you take the time to positively introduce this so that it can be stress free for both of you. I recommend that you first start by having your dog comfortable while you handle their mouth (you should do this for overall handling, not just their mouths). To do this, follow the below steps:
- Stroke the dog and give them a treat for being calm.
- If they become excited and start mouthing, use a treat as a distraction to start.
- Start on their back, move down their tail and under the belly. Touch their legs and move down to their paws.
- Touch the top of their head and their ears, moving to touch around their mouths.
- Do each body part multiple times ensuring your dog is calm and accepting the touch.
- Then start picking up paws, looking in ears and opening their mouth while rewarding.
- Add more pressure and prolong each touch while rewarding.
- If at any time your dog becomes fussy, go back to where you last as success and slowly build up.
- Keep the sessions short and positive. Quit when your dog has complied, for even just a few moments, and slowly increase the length of your sessions. Reward the dog immensely for all cooperation.
Once your dog is comfortable with having their mouths handled, you can begin to introduce brushing their teeth. Use a toothpaste that is specific for dogs – you should never use a human product. The toothpaste is flavoured, so that dogs actually enjoy it. Before putting the toothbrush to your dog’s mouth, let them investigate the brush for a minute, allowing them to lick the toothpaste. At this point all you are trying to do is introduce the toothbrush, the toothpaste and the experience itself to your dog.
At first, start to lightly brush a few front teeth and even a couple back teeth. Do this in short sessions, every day to get the dog comfortable with having the toothbrush in their mouth. Stay calm and praise your dog throughout each session. Ensure you do not push the dog to get fussy or irritated – keep each session as short as your dog needs. It is also beneficial for the dog to understand a sit or down to help keep them settled during the session. Once your dog is comfortable with the toothbrush, follow the below steps to brush their teeth:
- Have your dog in a sit or a down at your side, ensuring they are comfortable and settled.
- To ensure you can see clearly, lift the dog’s lip up. Start at the back of the mouth at the top back teeth, and brush your dog’s teeth just as you would your own. Ensure you are gentle and calm, and make sure to go right from the gum line down to the bottom of the tooth, in a circular motion.
- Continuing with the top teeth, move along by brushing the rest of the back side teeth, then the front teeth, and then the other side. You do not need to worry about the inside of the dog’s teeth.
- Once the top teeth are done, repeat the process on the dog’s bottom teeth. Don’t brush too hard because you can damage the dog’s gums and cause bleeding if you do.
- While you are brushing your dog’s teeth, look at them to check for any visible tartar buildup, damaged or chipped teeth, inflamed gums, dark spots or other issues you may have to bring to your vet’s attention.
Good dental care and healthy teeth go a long way in keeping your dog happy and healthy!