To encourage your dog to enjoy tooth brushing as a positive activity, try following this four step process. It may take a few weeks to complete the process, so be patient. Use a
toothpaste and toothbrush formulated especially for dogs. Human toothpaste can upset your dog’s stomach and is not appropriate. Also, have some small, but special, treats on hand for rewards.
Step 1: Start training by placing a small amount of dog toothpaste on one finger and let the dog lick the paste from your hand (Figure 1). Repeat this step several days in a row, and follow it with a treat reward and lots of praise.
Step 2: Place a little of the paste on the front of your pet’s large canine teeth in (Figure 2). This step helps your pet become familiar with the taste and feel of toothpaste in the mouth. Remember to follow this action with a treat reward and praise.
Step 3: Introduce your dog to the toothbrush you plan to use for regular brushing. Place some dog toothpaste on the brush and allow him/her to lick it off (See Figure 3). The purpose of this
activity is for your dog to become comfortable with the brush against teeth and gums. For this step too, praise and reward your dog with treats, and repeat it for several days.
Step 4: With this final step of learning to brush your dog’s teeth, you begin to brush the teeth. Gently hold back your pet’s lips and hold the brush at a 45° angle to the gum line (Figure 4). Brush the outside of each tooth, moving the brush gently back and forth. Talk to your pet in a soothing voice with praise, and always follow brushing sessions with a treat. Brush just a few teeth the first time, and gradually lengthen the
session each time until you are brushing all the teeth in your dog’s mouth.
The key to a healthy tooth brushing regimen with your pet is rewarding with praise, petting and small special treats. While we advocate the use of small treats for rewards, use them in moderation and always monitor your pet’s weight.
We recommend brushing your dog’s teeth every day, but three or four times a week is acceptable. When you do not have time for brushing, consider using a supplemental dental care product your veterinarian recommends. The younger you begin brushing exercises, the greater the chance of success. However, some dogs never develop a comfort level with touching around the mouth. In these cases, discuss alternative dental care options with your veterinarian.