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Jun 19, 2020

Guide to brushing your dog's teeth

By Bryn Pottie
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It should go without saying that there are a lot of good reasons to brush your teeth. But you may not know that these reasons apply to your dog as well. Everything from gum disease to bad breath can be prevented by giving your canine’s canines a good brush.

Dentastix, and other dog dental products are great, but there’s really no substitute for getting in there and doing the work. Unfortunately, dogs don't always know what's good for them. Some pups downright hate a toothbrushing. With some patience and a few tips, you can confidently polish those pearly whites and save yourself some big vet bills in the future.

Assess the situation

First, get a good look at your dog’s teeth. Remember, brushing is a preventative measure, not a cure. If you’re seeing serious discolouration, plaque build up or bloody saliva, you should reach for the phone instead of the dog toothbrush. It’s time to book a vet appointment. To save on cost and time, consider using telehealth options for vet consultations.

Get the right stuff

Next, make sure you have the right tools. You’re going to want a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste. Human toothpaste is counterproductive for two reasons. One, it contains ingredients that can be very harmful to dogs, and two, they can’t stand the flavour. It’s very important that your dog is comfortable having the brush in their mouth, and flavour is a key part of that. 

Set the scene

Now, find the right setting. Make sure you’re in a well-lit area so you can see what you’re doing. Dogs can find this aspect of grooming very stressful, so find a place that minimizes that. Pick a place free from distractions and stimulation. Just you and your dog in a quiet room is a much better environment than the kitchen with kids running around and food all over the place.

Good vibes only

Okay, take a deep breath and relax. This job is going to take a lot of patience, and if you’re feeling nervous about it, your dog will too. Don’t stand over your dog in an intimidating way, get down to their level. Like all interactions with your dog, brushing their teeth is all about trust. Lots of petting and positive reinforcement will go a long way. If your dog seems too anxious about it, consider trying it another time. If they seem fine, reward them with a treat and move on to the next step.

Take baby steps

Time to test the waters. Using just your finger, gently touch your dog’s gums and teeth. Just get them used to the idea of someone touching the inside of their mouth. If they’re really not comfortable with this, give them a treat try again later. You can build up to a full brush over time.

If they’re okay with you touching their teeth then it’s time to give your dog a taste of the toothpaste. It’s important that they like the flavour, so put a dab on your finger and see what they think. If they don’t like it, even chicken broth is a good enough replacement. The actual act of brushing is more important than what’s on the brush, so make sure they like the taste.

Time to brush!

Let’s do it. Put the toothpaste on the brush, then with one hand lift your dog's upper lip and start brushing the outside of their top teeth. Start in the middle and then work your way to the back on one side, then the other. Brush in a circular motion, and make sure to pet and praise your dog the whole time: They deserve it!

As you're working your way across the top teeth, focus on scrubbing off any plaque or tartar you notice. Repeat the process on the bottom teeth. As you're doing this, be sure to monitor your dog's reaction. If they're running low on patience, you can call it a day and consider this a great session. If they seem content, repeat this whole process but get an angle on the inside of their teeth. Don't be afraid to pause and give a treat or other reward at any time during this step.

Don't forget to reward good behaviour

Finally, it's time for a treat. Your dog needs to associate this process with a reward, or good luck getting them to do it again. Ending things with a treat and some extra affection will make this a fun experience for both of you.

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