#1 Find the time
Try to pick a time when your dog is calm and relaxed and make it part of your daily routine with them, then gradually build up frequency. It is a good idea to start this practice at a young age (even with clean teeth) to condition your dog being touched around their muzzle and familiar with a finger brush or toothbrush in their mouth.
#2 Get a brush
A child’s toothbrush is the recommended size for dogs over 10kg, and a finger brush for smaller breeds unless you purchase a specific dog toothbrush. Flavoured dog friendly toothpastes are available. You should not use your own toothpaste in your dog’s mouth as it is not suitable for them.
#3 Get comfortable
Make sure your dog is comfortable and try kneeling or sitting in front or to the side of them. Try to avoid standing above your dog, holding them down, or taking a threatening stance as this can be intimidating and make your dog anxious. This may take multiple attempts until your dog is comfortable with this step. You may need to work on mastering each of the following steps over time. If your dog is showing signs of stress or discomfort then you should not continue and we recommend speaking with your vet about how to go about it.
#4 Practice make perfect
Before starting with a brush, get your dog used to lifting up the top lip. Do this often with no brush, then apply mild pressure with your finger on your dog’s gums to get them used to the pressure. Start rubbing your finger along the gum line on both sides and both upper and lower jaw. Practice this a few times before introducing a toothbrush.
#5 Taste Test
If you decide to use a pet friendly toothpaste, give your dog a sample of the paste to get them use to the taste and texture. Give this as a reward to encourage positive reinforcement and the desired behaviour. It also allows you to identify if you need to find a toothpaste they like.
Once your dog is comfortable with the above steps you can use a toothbrush. As you approach the teeth with the brush, angle the bristles so they reach the gum line. Placing them at a 45-degree angle against the teeth will help the bristles massage the gum line and help to clear away plaque.
#7 Round and round
Brush in a circular motion on the gum line, focusing on cleaning the outer surfaces of the teeth and gums. Brush each tooth for two or three seconds of brushing, remembering to give your dog a break regularly as you do all their teeth.
#8 Inside and out
Once your pet is comfortable you can increase the duration (max 5 mins/day), the frequency of brushing (daily if possible) and begin to brush the inside of the teeth. If you can’t get to the inside, do not stress as their coarse tongue helps keep that area cleaner.
#9 “Good Dog”
To ensure this is a positive experience, keep the mood light while you're brushing your dog's teeth. Talk to them throughout your daily brushing. Use encouraging words like ‘good dog’ and give lots of pats. Finish brushing by giving your dog their favourite treats.
#10 After care
Dental care doesn’t need to finish here, arrange annual check-ups with your vet for an oral exam and dental cleaning. We also recommend using specially-designed dog food that helps cleans your dog’s teeth like Supercoat Dental Chews.
About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre
The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.