Original article published in Circa Magazine January – March 2012
Brushing a dog’s teeth is about as much fun as having a root canal – but if you can get Fido to cooperate, it has many benefits. The biggest benefit is just like ours … it keeps plaque from building up. If left unchecked, plaque will eventually mineralize and become tartar. Once tartar starts to build up, it can destroy the gum line, which can cause the teeth to become loose and fall out. In other words, frequent brushing of your dog’s teeth will keep his mouth healthy, prevent tooth loss, and eliminate bad doggie breath.
Second, statistics show that a dog with healthy teeth will live longer, play more, and be happier and health-ier. Doggie dental care isn’t just about cleaning your dog’s teeth – it’s also about having a happy and healthy dog!
Brushing Fido’s teeth should start as soon as possible, so that both you and your dog get accustomed to the practice. Your first task is to show him that he can trust you with putting weird stuff in his mouth. He’s not going to be too sure about what’s going on, so take the time to gain his confidence.
Your first attempt should be by rubbing your fingers along your dog’s mouth and inside it, if he permits it. You can wrap your finger in sterile gauze first and put a dab of “Dog Toothpaste” on it. Please do not use human toothpaste, as it can make Fido sick.
After he’s used to your finger along and inside his mouth, try upgrading to a rubber finger pet brush, and now start gently rubbing his teeth. Do this for no more than a minute at a time, as you don’t want to teach Fido that dental care time is boring and irritating.
After he’s accustomed to the rubber finger brush and accepts it without reservation, move on to the toothbrush introduction. In the beginning, remember no more than a minute at a time – don’t worry about the quality of brushing or the amount of teeth brushed.
Before putting the toothbrush to Fido’s mouth, let him investigate it for a minute, allowing him to lick the toothpaste if he so wishes. At this point, all you’re trying to do is introduce the toothbrush, the toothpaste, and the experience itself to your dog. Again, don’t put big expectations on the quality of cleaning at this point. Let your pup investigate the toothbrush at the start of each cleaning session.
The key thing to remember is that if you make this a big ordeal that has to be perfectly performed each time, Fido will tire of it quickly and he’s going to start resenting – then dreading and fighting – tooth cleaning time right from the start. Once that happens, it will be hard to get him to accept any future dental care procedure.
It may take time for your four-legged-friend to get used to the cleaning procedure, but once he does, the hardest part of brushing will be over. If he isn’t fully trained to sit or lay down, then I don’t recommend using a toothbrush for awhile. Stick to the rubber finger brushes so that you have more control and pose no hazards to him with pointy edges.
Remember, brushing a dog’s teeth is no walk in the park. It takes practice and patience. Making it fun for both you and your dog will ensure this task becomes part of your routine. It is all worthwhile when you consider the money you save on dental care and the benefits your dog derives from having healthy teeth and gums, not to mention the suffering you prevent by avoiding dental diseases in your furry friend. Happy brushing!