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How To Brush Dog Teeth At Home – Teeth Cleaning Guide
Dental Cleanings

How To Brush Dog Teeth At Home – Teeth Cleaning Guide

Seven steps to brushing your dog’s teeth – keep it positive! There are a handful of tools you’ll want to have ready before diving into brushing.

It’s best to start working with a younger dog or puppy right away on brushing, but we know this isn’t always possible. If you have an older dog, the process may take longer to train, but it’s worth it! Old dogs can learn new tricks. Regardless of their age, we have seven straightforward steps to help you brush your dog’s teeth.

VCA Hospitals tells us that it’s ideal to brush your dog’s teeth twice daily (just like us) but once is a good goal.

For many dogs, once brushing becomes a part of their daily routine, they will begin to expect and enjoy it. Brushing three times a week is the minimum recommendation to help remove plaque and prevent tartar accumulation.

Our best advice is to make this a positive experience for your dog. If you prefer to watch our dental technician, Kayla, brush her dog’s teeth versus reading through the below guide, check out our video ‘7 Easy Steps on How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth at Home’. Her dog Luna is adorable.

If not, we also prepared a fun GIF guide that walks through each step with detailed instructions on how to brush your dog’s teeth at home:

Preparation steps

1. Make sure your dog is calm and relaxed

Relaxed dog

The area you choose to do the cleaning should be quiet, and you should eliminate any distractions. You should also take your dog for a walk before you start cleaning.

We find it’s easiest to have your dog in a sitting position, but lying down is fine.

PetMD tells us that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ positions.

Don’t stand above your dog, hold her down, or take a threatening stance. Instead, try kneeling or sitting in front of or to the side of her.

Make sure your dog isn’t anxious, and if you find you cannot find a comfortable position, try another day!

2. Have your tools ready and set up


Always have a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, and treats set up in a quiet area before you begin.

  • Towel: t is wise to have a towel on hand for your dog to sit on so they’re stable. Also, having your tools set out on a towel is a great way to organize everything. You can set your water bowl on the towel, too, as you’ll likely drip a little when you dip the toothbrush.
  • Toothbrush or gauze: You can use a human toothbrush, gauze, or even a damp cloth.
  • Toothpaste: We recommend Virbac CET Enzymatic Toothpaste, but we include other options below. The flavor options are mainly chicken.
  • A bowl of warm water: Start slowly with a damp cloth or gauze, wiping the teeth and progressing to a toothbrush soaked in warm water. Having a bowl of warm water when you begin will save you time!
  • Treats: You may be thinking, why treats? Every session should be positive, and you’ll be giving treats at the end as a reward for a calm at-home session.

Tip icon

A toothbrush should be sized based on your pet’s mouth, and it should fit comfortably in your hand.

3. Good lighting is essential


Lighting is SO important. We typically clean our dog’s teeth outdoors when it’s a dry, sunny day. You can also wear a headlamp. You’ll want to see where tartar is starting to build up, and it’s much easier to see that in daylight or at worse with a reliable light source!

Steps for brushing your dog’s teeth

4. Rub your fingers along your dog’s gums and teeth


This is the exercise you’ll want to practice with your pets, so they become comfortable with having a toothbrush or gauze in their mouth. Practice makes perfect.

  • Start by rubbing with your finger or a soft cloth over the outer surfaces of your dog’s teeth to soften very thin layers of tartar.
  • Use a gentle back-and-forth motion.
  • Focus on the area where the gum touches the tooth surface.

You don’t want to get bit, so keep your finger on the gum area.

5. Make sure your dog loves the toothpaste

Dog loves the toothpaste

This shouldn’t be the first time you’re trying the toothpaste with your dog. Before you start the teeth cleaning process, you should try a few toothpaste flavors with your dog. Many have a chicken flavor that most dogs enjoy. This pet -friendly toothpaste is like a treat! You should let them lick the flavors off your fingers before the first time brushing session.

Tip icon

Human toothpaste is not ok to use with dogs. Baking soda is also not an excellent alternative to canine toothpaste.

Many human kinds of toothpaste contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Xylitol can cause blood sugar drops in dogs, as well as potential liver damage.

6. Try the finger brush or toothbrush before beginning

The type of brush you use should match the size of your dog. Also, you can use a toothbrush or gauze. Try a soft toothbrush designed for use in human babies. Gauze is a good alternative for anxious pets or pets with tiny mouths like a Yorkie.

TIP: Some pet owners may prefer to use gloves when they clean their dog’s teeth.

There are two essential techniques. Go Slow!

Technique 1: use small circles

Small circles

You should work up to 30-seconds on each side. This may take a few sessions, so be patient with your dog and yourself.

Technique 2: brush a few teeth at a time


Eventually, you want to work your way up to the entire side of the mouth. Start with only a few teeth at a time and don’t rush through these steps. This will take time when you introduce brushing to a puppy.

7. Keep it light and don’t forget treats


Always use small, highly palatable treats with your dogs. This should be a positive experience for your dog. You’ll want to reward your dog when you’re done!

If you’re looking for the best dental chews and treats to give as a reward, we recommend these six different brands for pet parents to choose from. We use these with our dogs!

If you feel yourself getting frustrated, then just call it and start over again another day. These steps will take time, and you don’t want this to be an exercise your dog runs away from when you take out the toothbrush and toothpaste.

Products we recommend for pet parents

Please ask your vet or vet technician about what toothpaste is best for your dog. Our staff recommends the following brands for home care.

Gel vs. toothpaste

We recommend both toothpaste and gel treatments for pet parents. For routine brushing, you’ll want to use the toothpaste option from the below list. Regular home brushing is what will help remove tartar and keep teeth clean.

However, gel works best after the pet (cat or dog) has had their professional dental cleaning, and the pet parents aren’t planning regular dental cleanings. The gel is applied on top of plaque and calculus. This product is great for dogs and cats that struggle with home brushing. If you follow all of the above steps and brushing is stressing you out, then this is a more comfortable product to use.

Both products are great options to fight bacteria and prevent plaque from forming. The most important tip? Pet parents must be consistent! There is no cheating when it comes to home dental care. Your pets will thank you!

Recommended toothpaste & gels for pets

Virbac CET Enzymatic Toothpaste

Enzymatic Toothpaste

Oratene Brushless Enzymatic Oral Care Therapy Dental Gel

Therapy Dental Gel

Dentalaire Fluoride Preventive Treatment Gel

Preventive Treatment Gel

Petzlife Peppermint Oral Care Gel

Oral Care Gel

OraVet Prevention Gel for Pets

Prevention Gel for Pets

HealthySmiles Non-Anesthetic Pet Dental Spas

We’re reimagining the pet industry with our zen inspired approach to teeth cleaning for dogs & cats. Schedule a deep dental cleaning every 6 months to keep your pet’s smile healthy!

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Christy Caplan

Christy Caplan has over 10 years of experience covering the pet industry. As a certified veterinary technician, she uses her knowledge to inform stories on health and wellness topics.

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