Regularly brushing your dog's teeth can prevent gum disease, which can lead to bad breath, loose teeth and infections in the liver, brain, heart and kidneys. A gradual approach, a healthy dose of patience and plenty of rewards are required if you want your dog to allow you to brush his teeth. Ideally, start the process when he's a puppy so that he gets used to it and is less likely to give you a hard time as he matures.
Proper tools are necessary to brush your dog's teeth. Using human toothpaste can be harmful to your dog, who is likely to swallow it as you brush his teeth. Your local pet store or a veterinarian can provide dog toothpaste. The pastes come in different flavors, such as chicken and peanut butter, to make them more appealing to your dog. For a toothbrush, wrap a piece of gauze around your index finger, or buy a finger toothbrush or dog toothbrush with a long handle.
Instead of immediately trying to brush your dog's teeth, familiarize him with your touch. Begin by dipping your fingers in chicken broth and let him lick them. Meanwhile, touch his mouth with your fingers, gently raise his upper lip and try placing a few fingers in his mouth. After doing this twice a day for three days, replace the broth with dog toothpaste so he gets used to the taste. Start opening his mouth by placing one hand on his chin and the other on his muzzle. When he lets you hold his mouth open for 10 seconds, you can proceed to the brushing process.
Your first brushing session can be as short as two to three seconds and doesn't require you to open your dog's mouth. After raising his upper lip, simply brush the outside of one or two visible teeth. Over a period of a week, gradually lengthen the duration and aim to brush the outsides of his gums and all his teeth. Practice several times a day. When this goes smoothly, open his mouth and brush the insides of his teeth, again starting with two to three seconds and one or two teeth before progressing over a period of a week.
If your dog protests at any time while you're brushing his teeth, take a step back -- you might be progressing too fast. Let him set the pace. Giving praise and treats after short brushing sessions can help reinforce good behavior. Ideally, brush your pet companion's teeth every day for about five minutes. If you can't, try to at least brush them several times a week. If you have problems brushing your dog's teeth, have a professional do it and consult a veterinarian about plaque preventative products. Feeding him dry, hard kibble can also help prevent plaque.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.