How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth At Home: 14 Tricks
Monday, March 03, 2014 by Amy
Brushing your dog’s teeth is not easy. Many pet lovers avoid the whole process. However, not brushing your dog’s teeth can lead to dental disease, extracted teeth, heart disease, a shorter lifespan, and let’s not forget, hundreds and even thousands of dollars in vet bills.
Reduce vet visits and bills, and reap the benefits of healthy teeth in your pet (goodbye dog breath) by following these 14 Tricks on How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth At Home. Oh, and did we mention this works for cats, too?
Start at a Young Age
Not everyone has the option of starting their pet young with dental care, but it’s the easiest way to brush your dog’s teeth at home without complications. As soon as your puppy starts eating solid foods, you can start brushing your dog’s teeth. Have an adult or senior dog? It is never too late to start brushing your dog’s teeth for your dog’s health. And even an old dog can learn new tricks.
Especially if your dog is an adult and has never had his teeth brushed, expect a slow start. Brushing your dog’s teeth at home is a skill that both you and your pet need to master. Your dog will need time to establish trust and get used to the routine, and you will need time to learn technique. While we’re talking technique, gentle circular motions on the teeth and gums work best.
Use Pet-Friendly Products
While you might be tempted to brush your dog’s teeth with homemade products or human toothpaste - please don’t! Human toothpaste is not safe for pets to swallow. Additionally, pet toothpaste comes in pet-friendly flavours that will make the tooth brushing process easier for you and your pet.
Choose the Right Time
Don’t try to brush your dog’s teeth when he is hungry, excited, overly tired, or otherwise stressed. Pick a time, perhaps after a walk, when your pet is not overly energetic. Avoid brushing your pet’s teeth right after your pet has eaten. If your dog is in a calm, contented state, you will have a much easier time brushing his teeth.
Familiarize Your Pet with Muzzle Touch
Don’t expect that your dog will just open up their mouth easily for you the first time you try to brush your dog’s teeth at home. It may take several tries before your pet will even let you touch their mouth without resistance. Remember to take things slow and start with gentle, soothing muzzle touch. Your dog’s muzzle is a private area and requires a lot of trust on their part to surrender. Remember: baby (puppy?) steps are still improvements.
Reward, Reward, Reward
Want to know the one thing that can make your dog do just about anything? Reward. Rewarding your dog while brushing her teeth gives her positive reinforcement for her cooperation. Your dog will come to associate tooth brushing with the positive feeling she gets from the reward. The result? A dog who sits patiently while you brush her teeth.
Try to avoid giving your dog a treat while brushing their teeth. Instead, give your dog praise, encouragement, and a loving pet or scratch.
Give Your Pet a Taste
Before you try to brush your dog’s teeth at home, give him an incentive. Find a pet toothpaste in a flavour your dog loves and give him a taste beforehand. Food is a wonderful incentive for almost all pets. The promise of a yummy taste may just be what your dog needs to open up wide.
Get Your Dog Used to the Tools
Your dog may resist the toothbrush from the start. It may be wiser to start with something a little less threatening. Use your finger when you are just getting your dog used to the idea of tooth brushing.
You should brush your dog’s teeth at home daily if possible or at least several times a week. If your dog’s dental routine is lacking a consistent effort on your part, don’t be surprised if your dog takes longer to adjust and if visible benefits are minimal. The rule with any training task with your pet is consistency.
Schedule a time just to brush your dog’s teeth. Before you know it, brushing your pet’s teeth won’t be a struggle, but a habit.
Never Punish or Force Your Dog
Learning how to brush your dog’s teeth at home is frustrating. There may be times when you feel the need to punish your dog for not cooperating. However, scolding, isolating, hitting, or otherwise punishing your dog for acting up during tooth brushing will only exacerbate behaviour problems.
Always be calm when brushing your pet’s teeth. If you feel stressed, your pet will pick up on it. Take a break if you need one. Starting afresh the next day is always better than regretting a rash action.
Don’t Ignore Professional Help
Brushing your pet’s teeth and other oral care methods prevent dental problems from occurring, but even your best efforts cannot reverse dental damage. Take your pet for a yearly vet checkup, which includes an oral exam. If your dog has calculus or tartar, requires tooth extraction, has periodontal disease, or another condition, deal with that first.
Just like your dentist, vets have special tools for scraping tartar and cleaning teeth that you simply do not have access to. If your pet has serious dental issues, get your pet’s mouth in a healthy state before you brush its teeth at home.
Give a Dog a Bone
Brushing your dog’s teeth is only part of your pet’s oral hygiene. To keep your dog’s teeth in their best condition, supplement with hard bones, chews, and dental toys. These dog products help to clean the surface of your dog’s teeth using abrasion while your dog chews. Elk antlers, bully sticks, dental chews such as Greenies, rope bones, and ridged dental toys are all good examples.
While smoked and raw bones can be a very healthy and effective addition to your dog’s dental routine, never give your dog cooked bones. Because they are brittle and can splinter, cooked bones risk perforation or choking in your pet.
Bolster Your Efforts with Supplemental Products
While tooth brushing is the best thing you can do for your pet’s dental health, it’s not foolproof. You may not be able to brush your dog’s teeth daily, as recommended. Or, you may not be able to cover all of your dog’s teeth with every brush. Your pet’s best dental routine should include a variety of oral care options, just like yours does.
Tooth gels, foams, and sprays for dogs work like mouthwash to remove plaque and reduce bacteria in your pet’s mouth. They can help freshen breath and work best when combined with brushing your dog’s teeth.
Pet dental water additives freshen breath and clean pet teeth while your pet hydrates herself. Oral probiotics target the bad bacteria that causes periodontal disease by introducing good bacteria that compete for the same resources. Placed directly in your pet’s food, oral probiotics are one of the easiest and most effective dental care supplements.
Don’t Give Up
Like I’ve said before, learning how to brush your dog’s teeth at home takes time for you and your dog. Expect resistance from your dog. Expect to take small steps. Expect a few steps backwards. Particularly at the beginning, expect to walk away having only touched your pet’s teeth. But never give up. No one wins when your pet’s oral care is neglected.
If your dog is particularly resistant to brushing or she shows signs of aggression or fear that do not improve, you may need help from a professional behaviourist. The time and financial investment will be worth your pet’s health benefits.
Like any pet training, brushing your dog’s teeth at home takes time, effort, and a lot of cuddles and praises. But when you pay attention to your pet’s oral hygiene, you will see results and avoid the complications that arise from neglect. Do a good thing for your pet’s health – get brushing those teeth!