Does your dog hate getting his teeth brushed? You're not alone. Your dog's dental care is important, but it can be such a hassle to brush their teeth. As dog owners, it is important that we learn how to brush a dog's teeth and rid your dog of his nasty breath in 10 simple steps.
Brushing your dog’s teeth is about more than just your dog's bad breath. Your dog’s mouth collects bacteria that can lead to periodontal disease and decay, especially in older dogs whose teeth have seen more wear and tear.
You’re probably thinking, “I’ve never brushed my dog’s teeth!” Or maybe you’ve tried but gave up. Brushing your dog’s teeth can be a hassle, and I can assure you that they don’t enjoy the process either, but the pros outweigh the cons in this matter.
Do I really Need to Brush My Dog’s Teeth?
Yes. Oui. Si. Ja. Shì. Hlja. Ok, that last one was Klingon, but you get the point. You need to brush your dog's teeth.
Brushing your dog’s teeth is the most effective dental routine. There are tons of alternative products to help improve their dental health, but none of them compare to good old fashioned tooth brushing. Since professional dental cleanings aren't an option, you must care for your dog from the time they have baby teeth or deciduous teeth, until you have an adult dog with adult teeth or permanent teeth.
For more information, check out our Caring for Your dog's Teeth: A Complete Pet Dental Care Guide.
Brushing removes more bacteria than any other home dental procedure, so it’s an unavoidable necessity if you want a healthy dog. Oral bacteria hides well. It tucks itself under your dog's gum line, rests in-between teeth, and even coats their tongue.
The scariest part is what bacteria can do below the surface. Periodontal disease is the decay and deterioration of the bone that holds the tooth. This can lead to teeth dying, breaking, chipping, and even falling out.
Unless you want a toothless dog, you’re going to need to commit to a regular dental routine for your dog.
Even worse, bacteria can sneak into the bloodstream from their gums. The blood can carry that bacteria to other areas of their body, which can lead to damage and infection in vital organs like their heart, liver and kidneys.
10 Steps to Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Now that you know how important brushing your dog’s teeth is let’s go over how to get started. Tooth brushing is an entirely foreign practice to pets, so don’t be surprised if they are resistant to it. Just take it one step at a time to help your dog get accustomed to his dental cleanings.
Let's take a look at how to brush your dog's teeth in 10 simple steps:
1. Pick the Right Time and Place
To reduce the fear and stress of brushing your dog’s teeth, make sure you choose a time and place where your dog can be as calm and relaxed as possible. Ideally, you would start brushing your dog's teeth at two months of age.
If your dog tends to be a bit groggy in the morning, or if he’s wiped out after a long day of playing, choose the time that he may be more agreeable.
Also, choose a place that is quiet and free of distractions. This will help to keep him calm, and he’ll be more likely to respond to vocal commands like stay and sit. This will help you reach more places in his mouth.
2. Find the Right Tools for Your Dog
Every dog is different, and a standard toothbrush may not be right for your dog. Look for dental care tools that work best for you and your pet. Let’s look at a few options:
ToothbrushDog toothbrushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so find one that is right for your dog’s mouth shape and size. When you are starting out, try to stick to smaller, softer toothbrushes that will be less intimidating to your pet.
Finger BrushA finger brush is excellent for beginners and for smaller dogs who just don’t have big enough mouths for a full-sized toothbrush. It will be less intimidating, so your dog may be more open to letting you brush his teeth.
Dental WipesYou are just starting out, dental wipes are a great way to help your dog get accustomed to dental care before you move up to a larger brush. They are small and soft, so they will feel like a gentle massage for their teeth and gums.
Next, you need to choose a toothpaste that is both safe and that your dog will like. Never use toothpaste made for humans on your dog. In addition to the foam being a choking hazard, human toothpaste may contain ingredients, like artificial sweeteners, that are toxic to dogs.
Dog-safe toothpaste, like Petrodex, is flavoured with meat or peanut butter to appeal to dogs. If your dog has allergies or if you are looking for something more natural, you can make your own dog toothpaste at home.
You only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to do the job, even less if you are dealing with a smaller pet.
Check out all of our dental products to find the right ones for your pet. Some chew toys are designed to help with teeth cleanings.
3. Let Your Dog Taste Test
To help your dog get used to the tools you chose, it’s a good idea to let him taste the toothpaste. Once he realizes it’s tasty, he’ll be much more likely to let you brush his teeth.
Put a tiny dab on your finger and let him sniff it. Make sure you give him lots of praise so that he knows he’s doing a good job. If he’s brave enough to taste it, then reward him with a treat. You can repeat this step several times if you need to.
4. Get Your Hands in There
This may not be the most fun part of the process, but a great way to help your dog get comfortable with this process is to practice touching his teeth and gums with your fingers. Start by gently lifting his lips, holding his jaw in place, and massaging his gums with your finger.
He may not understand why you are doing it, but it will help him to see that it’s not painful or scary. Try it with a little bit of your dog toothpaste too.
5. Introduce the Brush
Now that he’s ok with you fussing with his mouth, you can help to get him used to the toothbrush. Show him the dental tool, let him sniff it. He needs to see that the brush isn’t going to hurt him.
Have some treats handy for when he sniffs, touches, or even lick the brush. As he lets you get closer with the brush, you can put a small dab of the tasty toothpaste on the brush and let him lick it off. This will help him get used to the sensation of the brush.
When you are ready, start using both the toothbrush to gently massage his gum and front teeth in small circular motions. His front teeth will be the easiest to reach, so start there.
6. Work Your Way Back
Once you’ve practiced brushing the front teeth, begin to work your way further back. Focus on the outer side of the teeth, facing his cheeks. When you pull the lip up, some of his premolars will be exposed, so you can start to work in small circles further and further back.
When you get resistance from your dog, slow down and calmly tell him that he’s a good boy. You can give him a pat on the head or a quick belly rub to reassure him. You may not reach molars for a few sessions, so don’t try to rush the process.
7. Try Out New Positions
While sitting or standing are the most common positions to have your dog in, some teeth may not be accessible or easy to see from that angle. Try out some new positions to help you get a good view of what you’re doing.
Having him lay on his side, for example, may help you see his back teeth better, allowing you to get the brush to new areas of his mouth.
8. Take a Break
This one is important for both of you. If you find yourself getting stress or frustrated, or if your dog is losing patience with you, then it’s a good idea to take a break. This will give you both a chance to relax and try again later.
Trying to force your way through this process will only make it more frustrating, and you could risk your dog becoming fearful of you and the brush. This also increases the risk of him biting if he’s feeling overwhelmed.
9. Practice, Practice, Practice
No one said it would be easy or fun, but with practice, you will both get better at this. Building the routine of brushing your dog’s teeth is important, so try not to give up. It will eventually get easier.
10. Finish with a Reward
At the end of each toothbrushing session, no matter how successful, give your dog a reward for a job well done. Give him a toy, a belly rub, or take him for a walk to end the session on a good note.
If your dog gets something he loves after each brushing, then he will be less nervous about the next time.
This 10-step process should put you on the right track towards a better dental routine for your pet. Getting started is hard, but you will be glad you did. Your reward is a healthier dog with better breath and fewer vet bills.
Do you brush your dog’s teeth? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments below.