How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth at Home

We brushed Moses and Lewie's teeth at home for the first time - something we’ve never done before in all the years we been dog owners!  We were nervous. Sticking your fingers inside a dog's mouth is hard to do when you need to fish something out. Doing that of your own free will is entirely different.

Our saving grace was peanut butter-flavored pet toothpaste. Moses and Lewie both like peanut butter, so the odds were good that they would at least tolerate the taste of the paste. Heck, we think we would love peanut butter-flavored toothpaste. Colgate - get on that!

The trickiest part of brushing their teeth was figuring out which toothbrush would be best. Our kit came with two options - a finger brush and a handled toothbrush (like toothbrushes we use).

We started with the finger brush - just to get them used to the taste of the toothpaste - added a little toothpaste to the brush, and gently rubbing it on their teeth. It turned gross quickly with the amount of drool generated. At one point, someone gagged - we think it was Moses - but we proceeded...

We quickly switched to the handled brush, which was easier. Mo and Lew are big dogs, with very sharp teeth, and it was nerve wracking to have fingers so close to teeth.  The handled brush gives you a better reach and is more dynamic - without the fear of losing a digit or two.

Our dogs tolerated the brushing well and let us scrub away for about 30 seconds on each side. When finished, we deemed their whites pearly and, although the Dental Association may disagree, we offered them each a cookie for being good boys.

Will we brush their teeth again? We will, but probably not as often as recommended - which is twice a day. We're lucky we brush our own teeth twice a day! That being said, a dog's dental health is important. We'll brush their teeth more often than we did before. Once in a while is better than never!

Note: You may want to label the toothbrush and toothpaste for dogs. Our son came home from college without his toothbrush and we almost gave him the dog's toothbrush!

Want to see how it went?  Roll the tape...

Why is it important to brush a dog’s teeth?

The VCA says that over 2/3 of dogs suffer from periodontal disease – plaque that leads to gingivitis. Over time, this can lead to poor tooth health and tooth loss. Regular tooth brushing can greatly reduce the risk of a dog getting periodontal disease.

How often should you brush a dog’s teeth?

Many Veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth twice a day, with a minimum of brushing your dog’s teeth 3 times a week. Seeing that we’ve had Moses for almost 5 years, and this is the first time we have ever brushed his teeth, we think we’ll be aiming toward the goal of 1 time a week.

How long should you brush a dog's teeth?

Ideally, 30 seconds per side.


The kit we are using is Nylabone’s Advanced Oral Care Dental Kits for Dogs & Cats. It includes: 

- A finger toothbrush

- A handled toothbrush

- Peanut butter flavored dog toothpaste (*Do not use human toothpaste. Please make sure any toothpaste you use is approved for animal use).

Our technique:

  1. Don’t just jump right in and get to scrubbing. Get the dog used to the taste of the toothpaste by placing a small amount of the toothpaste on the finger brush or the handled toothbrush and gently rubbing it on their teeth.
  2. Figure out which kind of toothbrush your dog (and you) are most comfortable with, then add a decent amount of toothpaste to the brush.
  3. GENTLY brush each side of the mouth. The first time, you may only get a little done, but, with practice, you can extend the brushing time. Ideally, you want to brush your dog’s teeth for about 30 seconds on each side.

The results:

Brushing our dog’s teeth wasn’t as hard as we thought.

Lewie, being a Labrador, is pretty ok with anything food-related hitting his mouth. He was intrigued by the taste of the toothpaste – especially when we loaded up the brush with it. He made it look easy.

Mo, on the other hand, was apprehensive, but still patient as he let us brush away. We think he would have done better if there was such a thing as ice cream flavored toothpaste! Hummmm. Now there’s an idea!

For more in-depth instructions on how to brush your dog’s teeth at home from the experts, you can visit the VCA site here:

Happy Brushing!

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