How to Brush a Stubborn Dog's Teeth

Hard
5 - 10 Minutes
1 Week

Introduction

You may have heard your veterinarian advise you to brush your dog's teeth, but only a small percentage of dog owners actually follow through and do it! Dental care is one of the most commonly required veterinary services and can be very expensive. You would think we would clue in that brushing our dog's teeth is important for their health and our pocketbooks!  However, many dog owners claim that their dog is uncooperative when they try to brush his or her teeth, and this discourages pet owners from continuing on with the practice. There are several methods to get a stubborn or uncooperative dog to tolerate having his teeth brushed, and since oral health problems are so common and can lead to life-threatening infections and conditions, it is well worth working with your stubborn dog to get his teeth all cleaned up!

Dog's Perspective

Your dog may not like having his mouth poked and prodded, especially if he has sore teeth or gums. Your dog may also not like the taste of doggy toothpaste that you or someone else has used in the past. You can work with your dog to acclimatize him to the process of having his mouth handled, and eventually his teeth brushed, so that even a stubborn dog will tolerate the process. Try different products such as dog toothbrushes, gauze wrapped around your finger, and different toothpastes, some of which are unflavored and others that have dog-friendly flavors like chicken or beef. If your dog is very resistant you may want to consider checking with a veterinarian to ensure that your dog is not experiencing oral pain from an oral medical condition.

The Slow and Steady Method

Effective
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Toothbrush
Step
1
Massage lips
While you are petting your dog, slowly move your hand around his mouth, massage lips, and then slip a finger in his mouth to rub his gums.
Step
2
Insert a finger in mouth
Wrap a piece of gauze around your finger and dampen it with water. While petting your dog, gently pull his lip out to the side and slip the gauze wrapped finger in the corner of your dog's mouth. You can also use commercially available dental wipes wrapped around your finger.
Step
3
Massage with gauze wrapped finger
Massage your dog's gums and teeth, keep session short, give a treat afterwards.
Step
4
Introduce flavored toothpaste
Start introducing dog-safe toothpaste on the gauze-wrapped finger, again keep sessions short at first. Gradually lengthen the time spent massaging gums and teeth. Rinse by rubbing with water on gauze if recommended by the toothpaste product.
Step
5
Introduce toothbrush
Gradually introduce a soft bristled doggy-friendly toothbrush. Use the toothbrush for only a few moments then give a treat, and intersperse with using finger and gauze. As your dog begins to accept the toothbrush, switch to using the brush more and more and add doggy toothpaste.
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The Focus on Taste Method

Effective
0 Votes
Toothbrush
Step
1
Use alternative interim methods
Use oral rinses and additives in your dog's water to address oral hygiene while you are working on getting your stubborn dog to accept tooth brushing.
Step
2
Use flavor
Introduce a flavor your dog likes such as peanut butter or chicken broth on a gauze covered finger, dab on your dog's lips and gums.
Step
3
Introduce flavored toothpaste
Introduce doggy toothpaste by touching a dab of it to your stubborn dog's lips for him to lick off. Figure out which flavor he likes best. Dog toothpaste comes in beef or chicken flavor, or even vanilla. Wrap a finger in gauze and dab the chosen toothpaste on your dog's gums.
Step
4
Massage gums with flavored toothpaste
Gradually increase interaction with your dogs gums, rubbing the gauze covered finger in a circular motion on gums and around teeth.
Step
5
Switch to toothbrush
Start introducing a child or dog-specific toothbrush with the favorite flavored toothpaste into your dog's mouth for a few moments at a time. Be gentle, go slow, work up to brushing your dog's teeth. Intersperse with use of a finger covered in gauze at first, until the dog becomes cooperative with the toothbrush.
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Caution & Considerations

  • Never use human toothpaste or mouthwashes that may contain ingredients that are harmful to your dog.
  • Avoid standing over your dog while brushing teeth,; this can be perceived as threatening or pushing. Instead, get on the same level as your stubborn dog and make teeth brushing part of grooming¬†or petting that your dog enjoys.
  • Be careful not to poke your dog's sensitive mouth with a toothbrush, be gentle.
  • Ensure you get veterinary advice if your dog has a tender mouth, as he may be experiencing oral health conditions that are contributing to his stubbornness and need to be addressed.

Conclusion

Brushing a stubborn dog's mouth can be a real chore. An uncooperative dog can make tooth brushing unpleasant for everyone concerned  Working to get your dog used to having his mouth handled, using a finger with a cloth or gauze to start, and using good tasting doggy toothpaste is usually successful in eventually getting cooperation from your stubborn dog.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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