We all know how expensive a vet visit can be! Not to mention the risk of sedation when your furball needs to get that annoying plaque removed around his/her teeth. Luckily during the last couple of years dog owners has become more and more aware of the importance of dental hygiene for their pooch, which not only decrease the vet bill but also help teach your dog that having their mouth checked is not such a bad thing. Today I want to share a “How to brush your dog’s teeth” manual using positive force free training.
First it is important to note that despite brushing your dog’s teeth daily you should not neglect the yearly vet Check-Up as a vet sees things that you might have missed.
Just like humans dogs need to get their teeth brushed daily, preferably twice a day according to the vet, some swear to chew bones but that doesn’t always work for all dogs (not to mention those extra calories;)).
All dogs teeth are different, some create more plaque than others and their teeth are harder to maintain. Teaching your dog to get their teeth cleaned also helps when your dog has to get their yearly check up. As your dog is now used to being touched around the mouth it makes it easier for your vet to examine their teeth. It also helps you keep an eye on those nooks in your dog’s mouth and discover if something is wrong.
Let’s start with what equipment you need to maintain a healthy teeth hygiene for your dog.
Dog Teeth Kit:
- Small/child toothbrush (I use the bamboo ones which has a perfect size for my dogs’ mouths and are environmentally friendly)
- Doggie toothpaste (you can get different ones with different flavours, so pick your dog’s favorite. NB! It is extremely important that you DO NOT use human toothpaste as that contains fluoride which is extremely toxic to dogs.)
- Treats or toys, whatever you use as a reward to tell your furball that they did good.
Now that we got the kit under control we can start the training. We want our dogs to make positive associations with getting their teeth brushed always so here is a step by step guide on just how to do that.
It is very important to always give your dog the choice of walking away when they are done, telling you “ok human, this was fun but now I want to do something else”. Small practice rounds several times gives better results and of course always always doing it positively.
STEP 1: Introduction. Introduce the toothbrush with a little toothpaste on it and let your dog lick it off, this step is repeated many times in order for your dog to associate the toothbrush with something good i.e. the toothbrush is tasting good. If your dog is insecure about new items then combine with treats and reward every time your dog gets closer or just touches the toothbrush.
STEP 2: Position. Teach your dog to be still in the place where you want to brush his/her teeth. I brush them in the kitchen, sitting on a chair with my dogs taking turns sitting in between my legs. Call your dog, ask them to sit in the designated spot, use key praise such as “goood boy/girl” and give them a reward and repeat several times. You don’t have to have a designated spot, I just found it easier to have when teaching my dogs as they then knew that this is the spot for brushing teeth.
STEP 3: Flat hand rest. Once your dog has mastered STEP 2, then it is time to teach him/her to place their head in your palm. Bring them into position, place your hand out flat and make them rest their head on it, when success then key praise and reward. Slowly increase the time along the repetitions.
STEP 4: The closed hand position. Your dog has now mastered to sit still in their position, and place their head in your palm, now it is time to close the hand around their snout, to be able to lift up the lip and brush. Proceed as mentioned in STEP 3, head in flat palm, close palm for 1 second, key praise and reward. Repeat while slowly increasing the time your dog is in the closed hand position.
NB! STEP 3 and 4 can be combined teaching your dog to put their snout directly into your closed hand if that works better for you.
STEP 5: Lip lifting. Once your dog has mastered STEP 3 and 4, then start to lift up his/her upper lip and hold it for a second or two, and then key praise and reward. Repeat shifting between lifting up the right and the left side while also increasing the time you hold the lip.
STEP 6: Reintroducing toothbrush. Your dog should now be ok with you lifting up his lip and now it is time to reintroduce the toothbrush. Dog in position, closed hand and lifting up lip, gently touching the toothbrush to their teeth, key praise and reward. Repeat on either side of mouth and in different spots of the mouth – front and back.
STEP 7: We start brushing – short spurts at first, key praise and reward and then slowly increase the brushing time. Always end with key praise and reward and on a positive note.
You have now mastered the important task of brushing your dog’s teeth – GO YOU 😀
Until next time 🙂