How to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth

brushing-dogs-teethIdeally you should be cleaning your dog’s teeth on a daily basis, and at least every other day, in order to remove the plaque and prevent a build up of tartar on his teeth.

You will need to introduce tooth brushing gradually; deciding one day that your dog will have his cleaned and putting a toothbrush smeared with toothpaste into his mouth and start brushing is likely to leave you very frustrated, and you dog will be put him off for life!

I made the mistake of trying to do it too quickly, and had to start over again with the steps I outline below.


Before you start, here are a few basics to bear in mind:

  • Picking a time of day when it will be convenient to clean your dog’s teeth every day. A good time might be before your walk or when you usually play – this way your dog will start to look forward to having his teeth brushed as he knows something good will follow. Establishing a routine like this helps you stick to it too;
  • Start slowly, and only progress to the next step once your dog is comfortable with the previous one;
  • Keep the sessions short, and continually praise him;
  • Try not to restrain your dog too much; dogs get panicky if you firmly hold them around their head or neck, and you could end up getting nipped; and
  • Make sure you are in a comfortable position – I have Zoe and Fritz sit up on the grooming table where I can easily lift their side of their mouths to clean their teeth. I find this a lot easier than squatting down on the floor to clean their teeth.

Step 1 – start by getting your dog used to having something put in his mouth. Sit your dog in the place where you will be cleaning his teeth from now on, and dip your finger in some beef bouillon, or put a bit of peanut butter on the end of your finger. Encourage your dog to lick your finger, and as he does so start to gently rub your finger over his teeth and gums, giving him lots of praise as you do so.
If he starts backing away from your finger as you go to rub his teeth, and looks uncomfortable with you touching his gums, back off and spend the first few sessions just letting him lick your finger, then progress to rubbing his gums.
After a few sessions, you can start associating the process with a phrase like ‘teeth’. I just need to call out ‘teeth’ in a happy voice and I’ve got some willing participants to have their teeth cleaned!

Step 2 – wrap a piece of gauze around your finger and repeat what you did in step 1. The idea here is to get your dog used to having something a bit more abrasive rubbing on his teeth and gums. When you rub his teeth, use a circular motion.

Step 3 – now it’s time to introduce the toothbrush and toothpaste. Start by putting something tasty on the end of the toothbrush, beef bouillon or peanut butter, and have your dog lick this off so he gets used to the texture of the bristles.
Once he’s comfortable with the brush, add some toothpaste – never use human toothpaste as this contains baking soda that can upset your dog’s stomach. There are plenty of toothpastes formulated for dogs, and they usually have an appealing smell and taste.
As before, just get him comfortable licking the toothpaste off the toothbrush to start with.

Step 4 – now it’s time to start brushing! Lift the side of your dog’s mouth to access his teeth and start by just brushing the large upper canines. Don’t forget to brush the gum line; if you angle the toothbrush upwards then you can make sure the bristles clean just under the gum line.
For best results hold the toothbrush at an angle of 45 degrees against the tooth, and use a circular motion. About ten circles is enough, and you should find the brush covers two to three teeth at a time.
Step 5 – periodontal disease affects the upper back teeth first, so focus your efforts here to start with. Don’t try to clean all of your dogs teeth in one go, gradually build up to it. Remember to keep the sessions fun, and the whole process shouldn’t take longer than 45 seconds to a minute.

Step 6 – once you’ve been cleaning the outside of your dog’s teeth for a while, and he’s comfortable with it, you can progress to the insides of his teeth. To do this, you’ll need to hold is mouth open – put your hand over his muzzle, gently squeeze the side of his mouth on one side behind the back teeth, then gently tip is head back so his mouth opens, briefly clean the inside of his teeth on the opposite side. Repeat on the other side.

If your dog is quite confident and used to being handled, then you can start with step 3.

Even if you manage to clean all of your dog’s teeth on a daily basis, he may need a professional cleaning every now and again. However, by [tag-tec]cleaning your dog’s teeth[/tag-tec] you are preventing the onset of dental disease, and keeping your dog healthy and his breath smelling nice!

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