When it comes to eyedrops, popping a pill, having a bath or cleaning teeth, our dogs tend to prefer avoidance tactics. But however unpleasant, these small tasks are vital for keeping your canine friend in tip-top condition.
On the bright side, getting these things done needn’t be torture for either of you, if you know how to approach them correctly. So how exactly do you clean a dog's teeth?
First: Choose your weapon
There are a number of different brushes available to keep your pooch’s teeth clean – but it is important not to use a human brush, as a dog’s toothbrush is purposely made with softer bristles to prevent damage.
And the size of the brush is also important. After all, a toothbrush for a small dog such as a Shih Tzu is unlikely to be suitable for a Great Dane.
Other options include pads, sponges and finger brushes, the latter of which are especially suitable for precision cleaning of those hard to reach areas.
Second: Choose your ammo
Pet shops and vets will always be able to recommend a decent brand of toothpaste for your dog, but the important thing to remember is: never use human toothpaste. Fluoride, which is found in all human toothpastes, can be deadly to a dog in sufficient quantities.
From chicken and beef, to vanilla and mint, there is a huge range of flavours available for you to choose from. Similar to ourselves, dogs have preferred flavours so it may be a case of trial and error to find the right one for your pooch.
Start early, as dogs learn faster when young
As with all domestic training, learning to accept certain practices is easier for dogs when they are infants. While it may seem a little pointless from a dental care perspective, as dogs do not gain their permanent teeth until they are over six months old, your fluffy buddy will be less fearful and more cooperative the earlier in life they experience having their teeth cleaned.
Get comfortable with how to clean a dog's teeth
1. Ensure that in the weeks before you first start to brush their teeth, allow them to get used to the sensation of having your hand and fingers in their mouth. If they response positively, reward them with both snacks and attention.
2. It’s also important to get them used to the toothpaste before you start brushing. Spend a few days beforehand feeding your dog a little of their favourite flavoured paste, and again, reward them with attention. It can also be helpful to mimic the movement of a toothbrush by rubbing the paste along their gums and teeth with your finger.
3. Whenever introducing your dog to a new experience, you’ll always get the best results when your dog is in the right frame of mind – calm and comfortable, so ensure that your best friend has been on a walk, or enjoyed a bit of playtime beforehand.
4. Before commencing the clean, allow your dog to familiarise him/herself with the toothbrush – dogs are always a lot more comfortable with new items once they’ve had the chance to inspect them first.
On with the cleaning…
Nobody knows your dog’s personality better than you, so use that knowledge to your advantage. If your dog has a tendency to get nervous when greeted with a new experience, use your expertise to keep them calm. This can be achieved by petting and stroking, or talking to them in a calm manner - it’s also important to make sure that your dog is comfortable with any people who are present. So how do you actually clean dog's teeth?
- Gently lift your dog’s lip and begin to softly brush the most easily accessible teeth, such as the incisors or canines.
- Ensure that the brush is held at a 45-degree angle from the length of the teeth, and that the ends of the bristles are able to reach the gum line.
- Once you are happy with the results – it’s treat time again.
- Return to the teeth you previously cleaned, and slowly start to move the brush towards the rest of the teeth.
- The more teeth you comfortably have access to, the easier it will be to clean the gum line at the base of the teeth – the area where plaque and tartar can most easily build up.
- It may take a little bit of trust-building, but after a while you should be able to focus on the inside of the teeth.
- As mentioned previously, start in smaller, easy to reach areas and gradually increase the brushing radius to cover a greater surface area as your pooch becomes more comfortable.
- By following the same path each time, your dog knows what to expect when the toothbrush comes out.
- Remember, it may take several sessions before your dog is comfortable with having all of his/her teeth cleaned in one sitting.
- Always end with a positive experience including treats and a lot of attention and reassurance, a bit of positive reinforcement goes a long way to ensure the next brushing session goes a little easier.
Luckily, not only are dogs less prone to cavities, but the bacteria in their mouths and their rough tongues help to prevent tartar a lot more effectively than in humans – so don’t worry if each session isn’t a total success.
Also, it’s important not to worry if there’s a little blood after each session – this is completely normal and is a sign of healthy gums. If you feel the amount of blood is a bit excessive, try brushing a little softer, switching to pads, or consult your vet to check how to clean a dog's teeth correctly.
It may also be worth consulting with a vet or a behavioural expert if your dog fails to warm-up to the idea of having their teeth brushed - you can guarantee you are not the first dog owner who has had to deal with this, and you won’t be the last.
We've got just the tools for the job!
Looking for a simple way to keep your dog’s teeth healthy and strong? Why not have a look at our easy-to-use canine toothbrush and help prevent the build-up of tartar while keeping your furry friend’s breath smelling fresh.