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The Real Person’s Guide to Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

Johnna Devereaux C.P.N.

We all know how beneficial brushing our dog’s teeth can be to their health; but getting your dog to allow you to brush their teeth—well, that’s another story. We’ve got a great step-by-step teeth brushing process that’ll have you brushing your pup’s teeth in no time!

Important tips before you begin:

  • Be sure to perform each step for 30 seconds to 1 minute several times throughout the day for 2-3 days before progressing to the next step.
  • Work with your dog. Never force anything by holding them down or forcing the action.
  • If your dog shows hesitation or resistance, go back to the previous step for a few days and then progress to the next.
  • Be patient and know that, in time, they’ll get used to it.

Cute dog carrying a toothbrush

Step 1: Play with their lips

Also known as "flews," the upper lip of your dog is where we start this process. Take your pup’s upper lip between your thumb and forefinger and gently massage. Do this in several different places--we are looking to get your dog accustomed to you touching their mouth anywhere and everywhere.

Step 2: Feel their gums

Building on the prior step, gently touch their upper and lower gums with your forefinger with the same intent as touching the lips—getting them used to the sensation. Do this for a short period of time, as well.

Step 3: Massage their gums

Now we’re going to desensitize them to movement. Gently place your finger inside their mouth and “massage” the upper gum area for approximately 3-5 seconds. If your dog will allow it, repeat on the bottom and opposite side of their mouth. It might work better for you to alternate to the bottom/right/left throughout the day.

Step 4: Get out the brush

It’s best to select a toothbrush that is both soft and sized appropriately for your dog’s mouth. Allow your dog to smell the toothbrush before you gently lift your dog’s lip. Like you did in previous steps (but using the brush rather than your finger), gently massage the gums. This time, also begin to brush their teeth. Same idea on timing too: keep it short and sweet, around 30 seconds to one minute.

Make sure not to force your dog to open their jaw to clean the inside of their teeth. The Bow Wow Labs 4in1™ toothbrush makes keeping your dog's mouth open a breeze and allows for quick and efficient cleaning as it cleans the entirety of the tooth in one pass. 

Work with your dog as they naturally try to bite on the toothbrush. 

Woman holding dog's gum and brushing dog's teeth with toothbrush

**If your dog will not accept a brush in their mouth--use a gauze or cotton square along with your finger to mimic a brush.

Step 5: Make it tasty!

There are some great enzymatic dog toothpastes on the market that not only taste great to our dogs but also are also free of chemicals and artificial ingredients. Opt for those that include aloe vera, enzymes and other soothing ingredients. Add a small amount to your dog’s toothbrush before brushing.

Step 6: Set a routine for teeth time

Girl brushing her teeth with her Shiba Inu dog

Ideally it’s best to brush your dog’s teeth daily—and to make that happen, make it a part of your routine (and with the right tools) it shouldn't take more than 20 seconds to complete. Brushing your dog’s teeth immediately after brushing your own is a good way to remember that it’s teeth cleaning time for everyone!

Finally, remember that the real point of brushing is to prevent bacteria from building up by removing the soft bacterial biofilm that develops in the mouth (which can turn to plaque within 48 hours--thus the reason to brush daily.) This bacteria also leads to odor, plaque, tartar accumulation, has the potential for heart disease and can have many adverse effects on your dog’s health.

Start today and your dog’s body will thank you!

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