Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Most dogs will learn to tolerate and even enjoy having their teeth brushed. The best way to succeed in training is to go slowly, and consistently reward with treats, toys, or praise along the way. Generally, we recommend a 3-week approach to training, but this may take more or less time depending on your dog.
Week 1: Find one spot in your home where you will brush your dog’s teeth every time. If your dog is small, lift him or her up onto a table. If he or she is big, instruct your dog to sit. Spend 30 to 60 seconds touching your dog’s lips and muzzle, and lifting the lips to expose the teeth if he or she tolerates it. Do not spend more than a minute doing this. Immediately afterwards, reward your dog with either a treat (such as a dental chew!), a favorite toy, or praise. Repeat this session daily for the whole week. If your dog is now tolerating having his lips and mouth handled, you can move on to the next step (Week 2). Otherwise, repeat Week 1.
Week 2: Do the same handling of your dog’s lips and muzzle that you did in Week 1, but this time hold the toothbrush in your hand while doing it. Do not try to brush any teeth yet! This is a good time to introduce doggie toothpaste as well. Let your dog lick some off of your fingers, and eventually the toothbrush itself. Do not use human toothpaste! These sessions should again last from 30 to 60 seconds, and your dog should be rewarded immediately afterwards. If your dog is now comfortable with the toothbrush and toothpaste, move on to the next step
(Week 3). Otherwise, repeat Week 2.
Week 3: Now you can actually try brushing your dog’s teeth! Apply some toothpaste to the toothbrush. Start by gently brushing the outer surface of the front teeth using a circular motion. If you are able to brush just one tooth the first time, that’s success! Do not spend more than 60 seconds in each brushing session. Each day try to brush more teeth. Pay extra attention to all four canines in front, and the big upper back teeth. To get the back teeth, you will need to slide the toothbrush along the inside of his or her cheek. This may take time for your dog to get used to. Again, the way to succeed is to go slowly and reward consistently!
In addition to brushing, or when brushing is not possible, other products such as dental chews, water additives, and dental diets can help to maintain your dog’s oral health. Please ask one of our vets about options.