Tooth brushing is the single best way to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy. If started from a young age, dogs will learn to accept this normal part of their daily routine. You want to aim for brushing your dog’s teeth for 30 seconds each side once daily.
To get started, you will need a training toothbrush which usually fits over your finger. These are not as effective as a proper toothbrush but will help your dog to get used to the sensation of the bristles.
You will also need some pet-specific toothpaste. NEVER use human toothpaste containing fluoride as this is toxic to dogs when swallowed (dogs do not spit after brushing their teeth!).
Finally, you will need a proper toothbrush. One designed for dogs is ideal as the bristles will be angled to be easier to use. Take into account the size of your dog’s mouth. A dog with a small mouth such as a pug will need a different style of brush to a large Labrador.
Virbac sell a great starter pack with everything you need – a finger brush, dual-ended toothbrush, toothpaste and instructions.
1. Start off by getting your dog or puppy used to being touched around their mouth. Stroke them gently from the nose, along the outside of the lips. Speak to them gently while you do this and reward them with a treat. Keep doing this until your dog is completely comfortable with being touched on their face.
2. Once your dog is happy with this, you can move to the next stage. When running your hands down their face, gently lift the upper lip so that you are touching the teeth and gum slightly. Continue rewarding your dog for accepting this.
3. When your dog is completely happy with being touched around their face and lips, lift the upper lip and rub your finger on the outer surface of the large canine tooth. When your dog is happy with this, place the training toothbrush on your index finger and rub in a circular motion. Praise, praise and more praise is the key. As your dog becomes comfortable with this on the canine tooth, you can start to move onto other teeth.
4. Add in the toothpaste as early as possible. As most toothpastes designed for dogs are meaty-flavoured, they should quite like the taste.
5. Once your dog is happy with the training toothbrush and toothpaste, you can move on to the regular toothbrush. Use a circular motion and ensure that you brush right up to the gum-line. As your technique and your dog’s tolerance increases, try to brush the teeth right at the back of the mouth as well.