How To: Brush My Dogs Teeth
We all know that dental care is important for our health. And in the last several years we have learned that the same is true for dogs. Now I am not a veterinarian, so make sure that you are speaking to your vet about the best way to care for your dogs teeth and overall health.
What You Need:
Toothbrush: Now I'm not talking about the same kind of toothbrush that you use. You need a toothbrush that is especially designed for dogs. There are three main styles of toothbrush that you can purchase. The first looks very similar to a human toothbrush except the handle is long and thin. This allows you to more easily reach the teeth in the back of your dogs mouth. The second fits over the tip of your finger. This helps you get all the nooks and crannies as many people are not used to brushing teeth other than there own and it can be a little difficult to do it well. The third is a multi-head toothbrush that allows you to get both sides of the tooth at once. This will make brushing quicker. There are other options out there including electric ones and eco-friendly bamboo ones too, so speak with your vet to determine which would be best for you and your dog.
Toothpaste: Once again, this is different that the kind you use. Do Not Use Human Toothpaste! Depending on the ingredients, it can be harmful for your dog. There are plenty of options to choose from so once again, you may want to ask your vet which one they recommend. They come in a variety of flavors so choose one that you think your dog will like. Some of the flavors that people have a lot of success with are beef, chicken and peanut butter. You may have to try a few different flavors to find one that your dog will like.
Treats: Whichever training treat you prefer.
Step 1: Desensitizing
Many dogs aren't used to having people up in their mouths, And since this is a regular task, you don't want your dog to fight you every time you go to brush their teeth. Depending on your dog, this could take anywhere from 1 session to a couple of weeks. Start by touching them around their mouth and giving them a treat. If they have no problem with it, build the time up until you can touch around their mouth for 20-30 seconds between treats and without them fighting it. Also practice holding the jaw as you will likely need to do this when you start brushing. Then start reaching a finger inside their mouth or lifting up a lip. Start with a quick touch than treat and build that up 20-30 seconds. Practice rubbing their teeth and gums with your finger and holding up their lips. Practice these separately and at the same time. During this whole step, it is important that your dog stays relaxed. If they start showing signs of stress, like panting, struggling, or whining, go back a little bit and work more slowly. In addition to giving treats, you can also give verbal and physical praise to reward your dogs good behavior.
Step 2: Introduce the Tools
Start with the toothpaste. Put a small amount on your finger and allow your dog to lick it off. You want your dog to view this as a treat, so if they don't seem interested, try a different flavor. From this point on, the toothpaste will be the reward. While you don't want to give your dog a ton, the toothpaste is made to be swallowed so you don't need to worry about it hurting your dog.
When you first introduce the toothbrush, hold it out for your dog to investigate. Once they have stopped sniffing, put on a little toothpaste, and hold up their lips. Touch the brush to their teeth and gums. Quickly remove it and let their lips fall so they can get to the toothpaste. Repeat this step several times, leaving the toothbrush to their teeth a little longer each time. Once you get up to 10-15 seconds, introduce a brushing motion. Use small circles like you do with your own teeth. Slowly increase the time you are brushing your dogs teeth. Also get them used to being brushed in different areas. Practice brushing all the teeth on upper and lower jaws and all sides of the tooth. You may not get to every tooth in the beginning and that is OK. Your goal is to slowly build up time and how many teeth you are getting to each session. Always try to end the session before your dog starts getting antsy to keep them looking forward to their training session.
Step 3: Start a Brushing Routine.
At this point your dog shouldn't have any trouble with the brushing movements and should be able to hang out for up to 2 minutes. At this point your focus should shift from getting your dog used the sensation to getting their teeth clean. Hold the brush at a 45 degrees and use small circles to clean each tooth, including the gum line. Focus on the back outside teeth and canine's as this is where plaque builds up most. That way, if you are not able to get the whole mouth, you will at least have gotten the most important areas. Once you have finished, make sure to reward your dog and leave them excited for the next time. You can give them a treat, like a dental chew to get the spots you might have missed. Or you can give them some love or play a game of tug. Try to make a routine out of the process, this will not only help you remember, but help your dog relax even more while you are brushing.
Other things that can help with your dogs teeth are to give them dental chews. There are specialized toys and bones that clean plaque while the play and chew. There are special foods that are designed to clean teeth as they eat. And most importantly, have your dog checked regularly by their vet so that they can keep an eye on their teeth and recommend when they need to have their teeth deep cleaned.