Spring 2013 Magazine

Grooming Tips

Brushing a Dog's Teeth

By Mary Kyle

No doubt your veterinarian has told you the benefits of brushing your dog's teeth. However, it is a task that seems daunting to a lot of pet parents. After all, dogs do not necessarily like having someone messing around inside their mouths.

Here are a few hints on how to make it easier and maybe even something you and your furry family member will look forward to every day.


Pet supply stores carry everything you need to brush your dog's teeth. Toothbrushes come in every size. Before you buy a toothbrush you need to be mindful of the actual size of your dog's mouth. You don't want to get one that is too large for your dog's mouth. A child's toothbrush is a good choice for a small dog. Look at the size of the toothbrush head, but remember to consider the handle width and length as well.

I like the small rubber fingertip brushes. They are easier for me to manipulate in a dogs mouth and don't feel as strange to the dog as a hard toothbrush. The fingertip brushes feel like their person's finger and are less threatening to the dog than a foreign object.


Another consideration is the toothpaste. I find dogs accept a mild flavor, like vanilla pretty well. Do not use human toothpaste in your dog's mouth. The dog will hate you for it because it is too strong. Also, it is made for humans and contains fluoride and other ingredients that are not tolerated well by the canine digestive system. Remember to use only the doggie toothpaste you can buy at a pet supply store.

If your dog lets you put your hand in its mouth and feel around its teeth, then you should have no problem looking at its teeth or inspecting its mouth. This inspection should be done pretty regularly so that you see any changes taking place in the gums. This way you'll be able to take the dog to the veterinarian right away if the need arises.


I approach the dog directly when brushing its teeth. I take the dog's snout (nose) in my left hand and manipulate the lips so that I can see the back teeth first. I do the top row of teeth first and then move to the bottom row. I try to do this in one uninterrupted motion. Using quick, light strokes, brush as much of the surface inside and outside the teeth as possible, repeating on the other side of the mouth. Then finish with the front teeth. If you need to re-apply toothpaste, have the toothpaste ready so you can do it quickly. You do not want to loose your dog's attention.

Luckily you don't have to have the dog rinse its mouth after you brush its teeth. Canine toothpaste is made to help fight tarter and plaque, so the longer it stays on the teeth the better.

When you start brushing your dog's teeth, you can expect some resistance and maybe a bit of pulling away. If the dog's reaction is anxious or angry, you might want to leave the teeth brushing job to a professional. After a dog has its teeth brushed a few times, it will get used to how it feels and learn to cooperate with the process.

Veterinarians and groomers love to hear that a dog parent is brushing their dog's teeth. Brushing a dog's teeth is a united effort among the veterinarian, groomer and dog parent to keep anything from going awry in the dog's mouth. Dental issues can lead to painful mouth problems for your furry friend. They also can lead to costly surgery. Brushing your dog's teeth will help eliminate these issues.

Given the benefits gained from brushing your dog's teeth, it is well worth your time and effort to persevere and master this small grooming chore. Your dog will thank you for it.

Mary Kyle has been working professionally with dogs since childhood. She has been a professional pet groomer for over 32 years. She has seen the grooming industry go through many changes through the years, and considers herself "Old School" because she still takes the time to do "Hand Scissor finishes" that make dogs look so elegant. She is the owner of HAPPY DOG GROOMING at 839 Camino Sierra Vista in Santa Fe.

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