Oral hygiene is just as important for dogs as it is for humans. If left without brushing, your dog's teeth will get a buildup of plaque and bacteria that is likely to lead to gum disease. Start brushing your puppy's teeth early and you can avoid any discomfort for him and inconvenience or expense for you that would be caused by tooth and gum problems later in life.
There's no fixed age your puppy should be when you start brushing his teeth. Although it's not completely necessary to start until he begins losing his puppy teeth and gaining his permanent adult teeth, at between 4 and 6 month of age, the sooner you get started the better. Regularly brushing his teeth as a young puppy will get him used to you doing so and will make it much easier for you when he's fully grown.
Before you get started, your puppy will need a toothbrush and some toothpaste, just like you do. Buy a specialist dog toothpaste, as they come in flavors that are more palatable to your puppy. Always avoid human toothpaste as it often contains xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs, and other ingredients that are designed to be spat out rather than swallowed. You can buy toothbrushes designed for puppies, but a human toothbrush with a small head -- such as one made for children -- will do just the same job.
Start off slowly when first brushing your puppy's teeth. If you frighten him, it could make him wary of having his teeth brushed for a long time to come. Begin by simply putting your fingers in his mouth and rubbing them across his teeth. Then let him sniff and inspect the toothbrush and have a taste of the toothpaste before you try to put it in his mouth. Give him a treat and lots of fuss when you're finished so he associates the experience with something positive.
It's important to get a good routine in place if you want to maintain the health of your puppy's teeth for years to come. Ideally, you should brush your dog's teeth once every day. Pick a time -- maybe just before bed, after you've brushed your own teeth -- and stick to it, that way it's easier to remember. Ensure you always lavishly praise your puppy after you've finished and he'll soon look forward to his daily brushings.
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