For the last days of February, National Pet Dental Health Month, I wanted to provide some pointers to help make brushing your dog’s teeth a breeze.
For a good at home routine, brushing your dog’s teeth will be vital. Most dogs don’t love having their teeth brushed at first, but you can teach them to tolerate (if not enjoy) the routine with a little practice.
First, get your dog used to you touching their mouth and pulling their lips away from their teeth. Do this with lots of yummy treats. Touch their muzzle, then treat. Lift a lip, treat. Lift a lip, hold for a second, treat. Etc. Continue until your dog does not pull away from you and will allow you to examine their mouth. This can take several days to weeks, depending on how sensitive your dog is. Though this seems like a lot of work, once your dog is used to having their mouth examined, you will not need to continue so slowly (and will be worth the money saved in future vet bills).
Now you can start “brushing” their teeth with your finger. This will get them used to you rubbing their gums without pulling away. Lift their lip, rub their gums for a second, treat. Lift their lip, rub their gums for several seconds, treat. Etc. Move as slowly as they need so they don’t pull away from you. Never scold or punish your dog for struggling or leaving when you brush their teeth- this will just make them more difficult to work with and could lead to a display of aggression if they feel it is necessary. Instead, just move more slowly at a pace they are comfortable with.
Once they take to this you can try with a small soft bristle dog toothbrush or a finger brush. Keep using treats to make this a more pleasant experience for your dog. You can use water or doggie toothpaste (NEVER human toothpaste). The important part of brushing is to stimulate circulation to your dog’s gums, so if they chew a toothbrush that has toothpaste on it, you can try using water instead.
Brush in a gentle, back and forth motion, getting the front teeth, side and back molars. Ideally you would brush each section 10-20 seconds, but do as much as you can with what your dog will tolerate. Don’t be afraid to treat generously- as an end reward for being good, I usually give my dog just a lick of the toothpaste since he likes it so much. Even if you have a young puppy, getting them used to a brushing routine now is important and will save a lot of time in the future; plus it will get you in the habit too.
It is important to brush your dog’s teeth at least every other day to keep plaque and tartar to a minimum. As mentioned in my last blog about dental health, dental issues cause more than bad breath; they can also cause health issues in your dog. This can lead to expensive vet bills, so taking the step to prevent dental disease in your pet really will save you time and money in the future. Not to mention it can really help with that unpleasant “doggy breath”!