Q: How can I teach my dog to tolerate having his teeth brushed?
A: The best way to get your dog used to letting you brush his teeth is to start off by putting your hand under his jaw so that he rests his head in your hand. At the same time you gently stroke the top of his head so he gets used to it and wants to place his head there. If he tries to move away don’t hold him, but let your hand move with him. Once he is comfortable with this, while his head is resting in one hand start to gently stroke from his nose, along his muzzle to below his eyes – start off using the back of your other hand as this is non-threatening for him. When he is comfortable with you doing this, move your finger in under his lips onto his gums and gently rub them. You need to be able to touch the inside of both sides of his mouth. When dogs get used to having their gums rubbed, they usually really enjoy it! So once he is quite comfortable with you rubbing his gums with your finger, put a small amount of dog toothpaste (never use human toothpaste) on your finger and repeat the gentle rubbing. So now your dog is used to putting his head in your hand, having your fingers in his mouth and the taste of doggy toothpaste. Next, get a finger brush from your vet, which fits on the end of your finger, add a bit of toothpaste and rub with the brush – gentle circular movements are the best to loosen the plaque. Don’t brush so hard that you make his gums bleed! You can also use a child’s toothbrush as they are quite soft and it may be easier to get to the back teeth with that. The important thing is for him to be happy with each step, so don’t rush it.
Wendy Wilson, animal behaviour practitioner