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Tips for Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

As you watch the vet take a look over your pup at their yearly visit, it’s hard to not notice the attention being given to those chompers. He then emerges from the examination to reveal a several hundred dollar cleaning is needed, and that some teeth may need to be extracted. Turns out, dogs are at risk for some of the same tooth ailments as humans, from plaque, gum disease, to decay. Prevention is everything and could prevent painful infections and tooth loss. 

We know what you are thinking. How on earth is it possible to get rowdy pups to sit down for a cleaning session? To be honest, it takes patience (a lot of it), and time. PetMD and other professionals clearly spell out the sequence for cleaning canine teeth, but we’ve sprinkled in a few more tricks and hacks. 

Step 1—Get Pets Used to Having Their Mouth Touched 

Jumping right in and jabbing a toothbrush in is not going to go well. In a calm moment, while watching TV or something, gently touch that furry face. Gradually work your way up to maybe wearing a finger toothbrush and carefully lifting the lips to lightly clean the front teeth. 

Step 2—Find a Toothpaste They Love 

Never use human toothpaste, as those contain ingredients dogs should never ingest, like xylitol. Check out the selections on Chewy.com and decide if Fido would prefer a flavor like peanut butter or chicken—yum! Having something that tastes great is an awesome way into your dog’s mouth. 

Step 3—Upgrade to a Long Handle Brush 

Now if your four-legged baby is under 30 pounds, sticking with a finger brush will likely get the job done. Bigger dogs might need a better reach that only a specifically designed, extended dog toothbrush can take on. 

Step 4—Assess Their Mood 

Is your baby calm? Or are they anxious or in “play mode”?  Taking time to gauge the current demeanor is an important part of making this a good or bad experience. If calm, it is time to proceed. Maybe a quick snuggle “sesh” will get them where they need to be.  

Step 5—Take it Slow 

No need to get crazy—let your pup sniff the brush and get familiar. Then go for easy to reach front teeth, using a circular motion. That may be all that is accomplished for the day, and that is okay! 

Step 6—Treat Treat Treat! 

How did your pup learn other tricks or commands? Knowing that a reward awaits! Give lots of praise and offer a treat, no matter how little or how much was accomplished. 

Step 7—Repeat 

So it is probably going to take some serious repetition of steps one through six to really get into the swing of things. But it is doable, just like potty training.  

Through the process, keep in mind the benefits of clean teeth. Pups will be happier, healthier, and might even live longer. Think of how bad it feels when you have to go even several hours without brushing. Yucky right? In addition to a regular brushing routine for dogs, opt to encourage chewing on natural, safe products approved by your vet. Horns, antlers, and Greenies can be good options.  

All in all, it’s awesome if you can brush your dog’s teeth every day, but experts say three times a week will likely get the job done. WebMD points out that while dogs did go thousands of years without brushing their teeth, humans did at one point too! The results weren’t good. These days, we all live longer, more pain-free lives with great dental care.  


Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.

Protect your pet from the unexpected with Figo Pet Insurance, rated “Best Pet Insurance” by Reviews.com since 2017.

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