6 Tips for Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth is an important part of keeping up with necessary pet maintenance requirements. However, it can also be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never brushed a dog’s teeth before. If you’re a first timer, it’s important to learn everything you can about successfully brushing your dog’s teeth before you give it a try.

In the article below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about preparing to brush your dog’s teeth and then actually completing the task. With the help of this quick guide, you’ll be ready to start cleaning your dog’s teeth in no time!

dog teeth brushing

1. Gather the Right Tools

Before you begin, you’ll want to be sure you have the right tools for the job. You cannot use human toothpaste or a human toothbrush on a dog, so you’ll need to purchase special items for your pet instead. Human toothpaste often contains harmful ingredients that can potentially be deadly to a dog if ingested, while human toothbrushes are not shaped properly to reach a dog’s teeth.

Once you have all the items you need, you’ll be well equipped to start brushing. Let your dog sniff the toothpaste and toothbrush and let them taste the toothpaste if they want to as well.

2. Start with Your Finger

Start by first putting your finger into your dog’s mouth if they will let you. To do so, let your dog feel as though you are playing with them so they are relaxed and open to you handling their mouth. See how well your dog lets you touch their teeth. If you can touch their teeth with no trouble, then your pet will probably respond well to a toothbrush. If not, you’ll need to work slowly and reward often for letting you interact with their mouth and teeth.

Put some toothpaste on your finger and use it to “brush” a few of your dog’s teeth. This method is not going to remove plaque buildup, but it can help your pet get used to the idea of having something odd in their mouth.

3. Consider a Finger Brush

If your dog is taking a while to get used to the idea of having their teeth brushed, consider starting with a finger brush. This type of brush is designed to slip over your finger and make it easier for you to reach your dog’s teeth without bothering them too much.

This kind of brush can be a beneficial step between using your finger alone and using a regular canine toothbrush. You can find dog finger brushes at most pet stores.

4. Begin with the Front Teeth

Once you’re ready to start brushing with a regular toothbrush (or finger brush), begin with your dog’s front teeth. This way, you’ll be able to reach their teeth more easily and can back away if your pet becomes aggressive or afraid during the process.

When you’ve been able to successfully brush your dog’s front teeth, you can move on to the sides and back of the mouth. You may want to take a break in between these sections if your pet is getting agitated, but you don’t have to take a break if they are handling it well.

5. Work Slowly

Work slowly when brushing your dog’s teeth and pay close attention to their body language and facial expressions. You can typically tell if your dog is getting too tense, upset, or bothered by having their teeth brushed, and will likely growl or snarl if they have reached their limit.

If you notice your dog is not tolerating having their teeth brushed for more than a couple of minutes at a time, that’s okay. Simply back away and let them relax, and then come back to finish the task at another time. It is fine to brush your dog’s teeth over the course of several days, if needed.

6. Lots of Treats

Finally, once you’ve completed the task, make sure to reward your dog with lots of treats and praise! The more you praise and reward your dog after having their teeth brushed, the more likely they will be to understand this is not a bad situation in the future.

Even a dog who is not happy about having their teeth brushed will likely let you finish this necessary job if they know they are going to get something good out of it in the end. Keep high value treats on hand for this purpose.

Your Heart + Paw Vet Can Help with Dog Teeth Brushing

Most of the time, dogs respond well to having their teeth brushed, even if it is uncomfortable to them at first. Since you can find dog-safe toothpaste in flavors that are interesting to your pet, you can usually entice them to let you brush their teeth for a few minutes every now and then.

If you’re having any trouble brushing your pet’s teeth, talk to your Heart + Paw veterinarian for more guidance. You can also simply take your dog to the vet to have their teeth cleaned professionally. Book an appointment online at any of our Heart + Paw locations to talk with your vet about dog teeth cleaning!

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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