Brushing your dog’s teeth is a vital part of their oral health and preventing expensive dental issues down the line. It’s also something that can give dog owners anxiety since tooth brushing is not natural for dogs and many canines will resist it at first. Here are six tips to help you brush your dog’s teeth with a minimum of stress for both of you:
You want to make teeth brushing a non-stressful experience for your dog, which means that you should do it at a time that is calm and quiet. Pick a time of day when there are no other pets, kids, or other distractions such as dog chews that might get them riled up. Choose a space with plenty of lighting so that you can see what you are doing. If your dog is small enough, you can pick them up and hold them while you brush their teeth. If they are too big for this, have them lie down next to you on the couch or floor. Make sure they are in a position where you can easily reach their face and mouth.
It’s not safe to use human toothbrushes or toothpaste on your dog. Instead, you should buy products specifically made for dogs. The dog toothbrushes have specially angled brushes and soft bristles to make it easier to brush their teeth, and the dog toothpaste is made of ingredients that are not harmful if swallowed. You should not brush your dog’s teeth with baking soda, which is extremely alkaline and will upset your dog’s stomach if swallowed. Baking soda also tastes bad to dogs, which may make them resist the teeth brushing process even more.
Before you go all in on the toothbrushing, you need to get your dog acclimated to having their face held and their teeth and gums touched. Start by lifting their gums up and touching their teeth with your finger. Once your dog cooperates with that, you can put some dog toothpaste on your finger and rub it over their teeth to get them used to the taste. After your dog gets used to the toothpaste, you can apply it to their toothbrush and start actually brushing their teeth. You might only be able to brush a few teeth at a time, so it might take a while to work up to their whole mouth. In fact, this adjustment period may take several days or even weeks if your dog is very skittish about having their mouth touched, so be patient and consistent until they are ready for a full toothbrushing.
When your dog is ready for a full toothbrushing, start with brushing their front bottom teeth and then move onto the sides and back, brushing the teeth in light circles as you go. Repeat the same process on the top teeth when you are done. It’s great if you can get the inside as well as the outside of their teeth, but your dog’s coarse tongue does scour the inside of their mouth. If you can only get the outside of their teeth, that’s okay.
Getting their teeth brushed is unnatural for dogs, so it’s important to lavish them with praise during and after the process. Talking to them while you brush their teeth will also keep them calm during it as well. After the teeth brushing is over, you can give them a healthy treat such as a collagen chew or a bully stick. If they prefer soft treats, you can use those initially during the adjustment period and then slowly phase them out when your dog is acclimated to having their teeth brushed.
Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth once a day if possible. However, some dogs really do not like having their teeth brushed and simply won’t stand for it every day. It can also be difficult to get high energy dogs to cooperate this frequently, especially if they are lacking in exercise one day. If you can’t brush your dog’s teeth every day, then aim for at least three times a week in order to delay plaque buildup and head off dental problems before they start.
Ready to take your dog’s dental health to the next step? In honor of February being National Pet Dental Health Month, we’re running a sale on dental treats such as braided bully sticks. We are also holding a dental contest to promote better dental health in pets. Shop the sale here and enter the contest here.
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