There are many parts of dog ownership that are not all that pleasant. All dog owners understand the frustration of potty training accidents or the annoyance when a pet tears something up. Another common issue is bad doggie breath. One whiff and it could knock you out.

Often the cause of bad breath in a dog is poor oral hygiene. If you brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis, you can keep doggie breath minimized. You also can help keep your pet healthier and avoid painful tooth issues.

However, brushing your dog’s teeth is often easier to think about than actually do. This is especially true if your dog is older. It is best to start teeth brushing at a young age to get your dog used to the process and make it so it does not protest too much.

There are also those dogs who just hate being messed with and will put up a real fight when you try to brush their teeth. Don’t worry if you are in one of these situations.

We provide you with a guide to how to brush a dog’s teeth below. This covers everything from the basics to dealing with a difficult dog that wants to avoid your efforts. We also offer some advice on good oral hygiene.

Preparing Your Dog

Brushing a dog’s teeth can be traumatic. Some dogs will not like the idea at all. Even if your dog seems OK with you touching its mouth, you should still be careful about starting the process. You should always prepare your dog so it knows you are not trying to hurt it and that the process isn’t that bad.

To begin with, understand that depending on your dog, preparing it could take a day or two, or it could take months. You just have to be persistent. As with anything you are trying to teach your dog, repetition is key.

Start by getting your dog used to having you touch its mouth. If your dog doesn’t like that idea, considering putting something tasty on your finger so the dog likes it when you touch its mouth.

Your goal is to be able to move its lips and touch the actual teeth. Once you have accomplished this without any acting out on the dog’s part, you are ready to move on.

Supplies for Brushing

​You need to gather the right supplies before you actually start brushing. This is similar to brushing your own teeth. You need a brush of some type and a cleaning paste.

You should not use human products. There are many options in brushes and pastes for dogs, so make sure you buy supplies made specifically for dogs.

You can find toothbrushes that look similar to the kind you use. There are also finger brushes, which may be the best option if you are worried about your dog not liking the process. You can also just use gauze wrapped around your finger.

As for the paste, dog toothpaste often comes in flavors that dogs like such as beef or peanut butter. You want to always use a toothpaste made for dogs or else your dog could get sick. Since you know what your dog likes, choose the flavor most pleasing to it.

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How To Brush

Now you can begin brushing. You may have to do this in stages if your dog won’t sit still for a full brushing. Again, you may have to go slow and work up to a full brushing. You can do one part of the mouth at a time if needed until your dog will sit for a full brushing.

You start brushing by lifting the lip and rubbing the brush against the teeth. Pay close attention to gum lines and make sure you get all over the tooth surface. You also need to brush the gums.

You probably will not be able to brush the inside surfaces of the teeth, so just focus on the outside. However, if your dog will let you get to the inner surface, then by all means brush everywhere you can. After you have finished, give your pup a treat for being such a good boy or girl.

When To Brush

You should brush your dog’s teeth every day, just as you do your own. However, this often is not possible, especially if your dog isn’t too happy about the process. You can supplement brushing with treats designed to help keep teeth clean. Try to brush at least once a week.

You also need to get professional cleanings at the vet’s office at least one time per year. Your vet will do a deep clean and look for any issues. Often the vet will need to put your dog under anesthesia to clean its teeth, so be aware that this could mean an overnight stay.

Reasons To Brush

Proper dog dental care is essential to your dog’s overall health. Brushing away plaque and tartar and creating clean breath is only a small part of why you need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Tooth decay and other oral issues can lead to serious health problems. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss.

Any infection in the mouth can affect other organs in the body, so it’s best to avoid such issues. Also, bad breath issues stem from poor oral hygiene, so cleaning your dog’s teeth on a regular basis means no more smelly dog breath.

What If Your Dog Won’t Let You Brush Its Teeth?

Of course, it may be easy to tell you to brush your dog’s teeth, but let’s face it: some dogs are not going to let you in their mouth. That is just how it is. A difficult dog may have trust issues, or it could be too fearful. Whatever it is, if your dog freaks out when you try to get near its mouth, it will be way too hard to brush its teeth.

Instead of throwing in the towel and avoiding brushing, there are some things you can do. You never know what will work until you give it a try. Here are some tips:

  • If your dog is usually not as disagreeable, then perhaps it has a dental issue. Take the dog to the vet for a dental checkup. The dog may be in pain, so touching its mouth causes it to react.
  • Use your finger to clean the teeth. Some dogs simply do not like the feel of a toothbrush. Using your finger in a brush or with gauze could be more acceptable.
  • Try different kinds of toothpaste. Find the flavor that your dog likes best.
  • Never scold your pet when brushing. Keep the mood positive. Reward good behavior.

Keep in mind that any dental care is better than none. If your dog only lets you do its front teeth, then go with that. Eventually, you may be able to build to moving further around the mouth.

Also, you know your dog the best. You know what it likes and doesn’t like. Use what you know to help you find the approach that works the best. You want to find the right way for your dog, which may not be the way it works for other dogs. That is fine. Just be persistent and keep going.


When it comes to brushing your dog’s teeth, the whole idea is very similar to brushing your own teeth. You want to clean off the tartar, plaque, and food debris to prevent cavities and infections.

You also will protect your dog against further health issues that can stem from poor dental hygiene, such as gum disease or infections traveling to other organs.

Brushing your dog’s teeth requires tools made for a dog. Special brushes and toothpastes can easily be found at any place that sells pet supplies. Avoid the urge to use human products as they may be too harsh for your dog or make it sick. The actual process is just like brushing your own teeth, although you will usually only brush the outer surfaces.

While you should do it every day, you can do it less often and use dental treats to help during the time in between. You should also get professional cleanings to ensure your dog’s teeth and gums stay healthy.

Do understand that a professional cleaning should not be avoided simply because it often requires anesthesia. The risks of leaving teeth uncleaned are often worse than the risks of anesthesia. Plus, your vet is accustomed to doing such cleanings, so he or she will be sure to make the process as stress-free as possible.

Finally, if you struggle with a dog that does not like teeth brushing, you may have to work with it to get it used to the process. It can take time to make a dog feel comfortable, but it really is worth it in the long run.

You will help your dog to be healthier, get rid of doggie breath, and maybe even build a better relationship with your dog since it requires plenty of trust for your dog to let you get that close and personal.