Keeping your dog’s teeth clean is an important part of his hygiene regimen. Brushing your dog’s teeth will prevent plaque build up that could eventually lead to gum disease, bad breath, and painful tooth root infections.
The goal in brushing your dog’s teeth is to build up to a set routine. Choose a time when your dog is relaxed and happy, then build your routine from there. You don’t want brushing your dog’s teeth to have stressful associations for your dog, because it will only get harder from there. Your dog is more likely to sit still after a good amount of exercise, so try and get a long walk in beforehand. Start small, and if your dog gets agitated, stop. It’s ok if you don’t get the whole mouth brushed the first few times as you get your dog used to the sensation. Aim to brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week to keep them in good, healthy condition.
When brushing your dog’s teeth, always use a toothbrush made especially for dogs. These brushes are angled specially for your dog’s mouth, and will be able to get below the gum line to keep them healthy. For smaller dogs, a toothbrush that fits over your finger will work well, but you will probably want a brush with a handle for larger dogs, so you can reach to the back of their mouth.
Always use toothpaste made especially for dogs when brushing your canine’s teeth. Ask your veterinarian which brand they recommend, but dog-specific toothpaste often comes in flavors like poultry or lamb, which your dog will find very appetizing. NEVER use human toothpaste with your dog. These toothpastes typically contain harmful substances that your dog won’t be able to digest properly and can cause serious stomach issues. And since dogs can’t be taught to spit during tooth brushing, they will always ingest some toothpaste.
When getting ready to brush your dog’s teeth, make sure both you and your dog are comfortable. Try getting your dog to sit, and kneel in front of him or off to the side. Trying to be above your dog or holding him down will only cause more anxiety for him, as these positions are often seen as threatening. If your dog is visibly upset or anxious at any point, stop, and come back again later when he is calmer. The goal is to make this an enjoyable process for both you and your dog so that it can happen on a consistent basis with ease.
Before starting to brush, take your fingers and press on your dog’s gums and teeth. This will get them used to having pressure on their mouth, and will allow you to see how comfortable he is. If he becomes anxious, stop and just repeat this process over several days until he feels comfortable. Remember to give treats to reward for good behavior! You can also test the toothpaste with your dog by letting him lick a bit off your finger. If after a few days your dog won’t lick the toothpaste off your finger, try a different flavor until you find one your dog will be excited about having.
Once you have gotten your dog used to the toothpaste and having pressure on his teeth, you are ready to start brushing. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a few tries to get your dog used to brushing. Keep being patient and giving treats when your dog does well, it often takes a few days to get him comfortable with the process.
When brushing, lift your dog’s lips to expose the teeth and gums, then place the brush at a 45 degree angle to the teeth with the bristles pointing at the gums. Just like your own teeth, brush in small circles to clear away the plaque. As you brush the gums, you may seem some slight bleeding. This is totally normal as you start to brush your dog’s teeth. However, if you see heavy bleeding, it either means you are brushing too vigorously, or it could be a sign of gum disease. Consult your veterinarian if this occurs.
Brush a few teeth at a time, working up to as many as you can. Plaque consistently builds up on the outside of the canines and back teeth, so focus on these areas first. The inside of the teeth are kept much cleaner by your dog’s tongue, but you can brush these if your dog will allow. Be sure to give your dog plenty of praise and encouragement during this process to reassure them. Once you’re done, give your dog lots of praise and a treat to remind him this is a fun process you both can enjoy.