18 Mar 2019
It’s always a good thing to get a puppy used to having their mouth touched and handled. This can make it much easier to get into a good teeth cleaning routine. However if you have an older dog and it’s something you’d like to get into the habit of, these tips will help you get them used to the teeth brushing process.
Tools – there are several types of toothbrushes available to buy but here are some things to consider when choosing:
- You will need to be able to get to the back teeth so the brush head needs to be small enough to reach comfortably.
- Finger brushes should only be used on a puppy when they have learned not to “puppy” bite. Reinforcing bad habits when your dog bites your finger in a brush, then gets rewarded with tasty toothpaste is not a behaviour you’d want to encourage.
- Electric toothbrushes clean better than manual ones but you would have to get your dog used to the noise and feel of it.
- Toothpaste – buy a few flavours so you can see which one your dog prefers. If they like the taste, it will make the process much easier. DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE AS THIS IS TOXIC TO YOUR DOG.
To start with, get your puppy used to having their face and mouth handled. You can do this by gently touching your puppy and rewarding them for not reacting (biting, pulling away etc). If they do react, don’t force or correct them, just go more slowly.
This means figuring a way to touch your dog that does not provoke a reaction so that you can start to reward them, then slowly building up. For example, try moving your hand towards your dog’s mouth but stopping about 6 inches from their body. If they don’t move away, give a reward. Work towards getting closer by desensitizing your dog to your touch but be patient. With puppies, this can take a while!
Once you have got to a place where you can touch your dog without them reacting, work on:
- tucking them under your arm to hold them lightly in place.
- lifting up their upper lips
- gently opening their mouth
Once you are in a place where your dog is comfortable with this, it’s time to introduce a toothbrush.
Show it to your dog and if necessary, use treats to get them used to it. Look for any signs of nervousness but most dogs are used to having toys in their mouth and don’t mind chewing on a brush.
If you choose to use an electric toothbrush, hold it away from your dog and turn it on. If they don’t react to the noise, give your dog a reward. If you dog does react, you will need to go through a desensitization process as described earlier, until your dog is used to the brush.
Ready to brush? Again, be patient and take it at your dog’s pace.
- put a small amount of toothpaste on the brush head and hold it for your dog to sniff and hopefully lick.
- tuck your dog under your arm and hold them gently.
- gently lift their lips and brush the front teeth very gently for just a few seconds, then praise and release them for a reward (such as playing with a favourite toy).
Build up to working your way to the back teeth, trying in short sessions to begin with. If your dog seems stressed, stop and try again another time. Once you’ve established a full brushing session, try to keep it as part of their daily routine and they will come to expect and enjoy it.
If you’d like some guidance on teeth cleaning or oral hygiene in general, why not take advantage of a complimentary consultation and receive a free dental care pack.
Download our canine dental health information leaflet HERE