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Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth: How to Turn a Hater Into a Lover in 4 Steps

February 20, 2018 at 9:00 AM by Nikki Wardle

Brushing dogs teeth

Are you brushing your dog’s teeth daily? Weekly? Even occasionally? If you’re not committing to this vital part of your pet owner responsibilities, it’s nearly a guarantee that you and your dog will pay for it. Your dog could already be living with daily pain as a result of dental disease, and the longer you wait to schedule your dog’s dental exam and start taking care of their teeth, the more likely you are to end up with issues.

Maybe you’ve tried to brush your dog’s teeth before and realized quickly it was a no-go. Perhaps your dog nips at you in fear whenever you bring out the toothbrush, or runs away and hides. The fact is, despite how hard it can be to accomplish, brushing your dog’s teeth is essential. The good news is that with some practice and a few tricks up your sleeve, you can get your dog into the routine of daily brushing in no time.

How to Help Your Dog Enjoy Brushing

More often than not, pet owners believe they’re doing just fine by their dog’s teeth by providing dental treats and food. This is ultimitley inadequate as brushing is by far the best. It may seem you don’t have the time to brush your dog’s teeth every day, but in reality, your pet’s life could be at stake. That’s how devastating unchecked dental disease can be.

The key to helping your dog take to daily brushing is the same as with any other behavioral training: consistency, consistency, consistency. The more often you brush your dog’s teeth, the more they learn to tolerate it—and, in turn, the more you’ll make it into a daily part of your routine. Here’s how.

1. Start Without the Toothbrush

Maybe last time you ventured into daily brushing, you started with this odd thing your dog had never seen before: a toothbrush. It seems strange to start elsewhere, but in reality, beginning your dental hygiene journey with just your finger could start everything off on the right paw. Start by familiarizing your dog with you touching his or her mouth—lift up your dog’s lip, run your fingers along his gums, and praise him for allowing you to do so. Give treats as positive reinforcement, and touch more of your dog’s mouth every time, even opening up her mouth to get on the inside of the teeth.

2. Use Gauze

Instead of jumping to a bristly toothbrush next, invest in some inexpensive gauze and begin “brushing” your dog’s teeth with this. Again, the key here is to ease your dog into the idea. Gauze is softer than a toothbrush and a great place to start.

3. Add the Toothpaste

Once your dog is tolerating the gauze, it’s time to add dog toothpaste. This could be one day three of your brushing training if your dog is taking it well—or it could be in week three. It all depends on how consistent you are and how well your dog reacts.

4. Add the Toothbrush

Finally, when your dog has fully accepted daily cleaning with toothpaste and gauze, add in the toothbrush. Now you’re ready to rock and keep your pet’s teeth clean every single day.

For the truly cantankerous pet—maybe an older dog who isn’t open to learning new tricks—you can invest in some dental wipes to use instead of a toothbrush. However, it’s important to realize that, no matter what the packaging says, these simply won’t work as well as a toothbrush. Dental wipes should be a last resort and make sure the wipes have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval.

Schedule an appointment today for your pet's next dental check-up and cleaning.

Topics: Pet Dental Health, Dog Dental Health

Nikki Wardle

Written by Nikki Wardle

Nikki has been writing for Intermountain Pet Hospital since 2014.