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If there is one area of canine grooming that is often overlooked, it is the dog’s teeth. Most dog owners remember to brush the coat until it shines and to clip the nails so they don’t click on the floor, but not everyone cares for canine tooth brushing. Brushing is important because it cleans away the plaque that leads to bad breath or more serious problems such as decayed teeth or gum disease. Get ready for your dog’s teeth to dazzle by brushing them every day, and following these 12 simple steps:
- Choose a calm time for teeth brushing. It should be you and the dog without a living room full of active children or other pets.
- Buy a dog toothbrush. Dog toothbrushes are available at pet stores or online pet supply outlets. They have a longer, curved handle that makes it easy to reach the back teeth. Only use toothpaste that is specifically for dogs. While it works well for us, human toothpaste can have ingredients that are toxic to dogs.
- Select a good spot for teeth brushing. Make sure you have good lighting so you can see what you’re doing, and make sure your dog is comfortable.
- Touch the teeth and gums without the brush. Can you do this initial step? Ideally, your pup has been in AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy and Canine Good Citizen classes and is used to have his mouth handled. Lift the top lip up and hold it while you touch the teeth; then pull the bottom lip down and touch the bottom teeth.
- Touch the toothbrush to the teeth. Touch the front, side, and back teeth on the top and bottom. Praise and reward your dog for tolerating this step.
- Introduce the toothpaste to the dog. Start by showing your dog the toothpaste and letting them lick it from your finger.
- Add the toothpaste to the toothbrush.
- Start brushing the top teeth. Hold the upper lip up. Brush the front teeth. Praise your dog.
- Move from the front teeth further back to the side and back teeth on the top.
- Start brushing the bottom teeth. Hold down the bottom lip and brush the bottom teeth. Start with the front teeth, then move to the side and back.
- On the bottom teeth, now brush the sides and back. If your dog is tolerating toothbrushing, you can brush both the outside and inside of the teeth when you are brushing. The inside of the teeth will be a little harder to brush, so if necessary, work on adding this step after your dog is calm with the outsides of the upper and lower teeth being brushed.
- Praise and reward. Getting their teeth brushed is unnatural for dogs. To make this a positive experience, frequently praise your dog. You can also give the dog a treat at each step. This seems counterintuitive because you are cleaning the teeth and then giving some food. However, the initial goal is teaching the skill and later you can work on removing food from the equation.