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How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth At Home
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How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth At Home

The most important step to brushing your pet’s teeth: keep it positive!

We all know our dogs thrive on positive reinforcement & rewards. The more you can make brushing your dog’s teeth fun for them, the better the experience will be for you both.

How soon should you start brushing your dog’s teeth?

As with any new routine, it’s always a little easier if you start working with a younger dog or puppy right away. If you have a new puppy at home, save this guide on puppy dental care for more  tips to check out after you watch the brushing video below. Although starting to brush your dog’s teeth when they’re young is ideal if you can, we understand that this may not be possible because you’ve adopted an older pet, or you might just be finding out how important dental care is for your dog – that’s okay! You’re an amazing pet parent for being here and learning about pet dental care, and this guide is a great place for you to start.

Dog sizes for dental cleaning

Even if you didn’t start brushing your dog’s teeth when they were younger, you can still teach an older dog to enjoy (or at least tolerate) having their teeth brushed. If you have an older dog, the most important thing you can do is go slow and give them time to get used to brushing at incremental steps. This might take a little longer, but it’s worth it! Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Video Guide: How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Regardless of their age, this video will show you 7 easy steps for brushing your dog’s teeth at home and can help you start a dental routine that is positive for you & your pet.


Before you start brushing your dog’s teeth

1. Help your dog feel calm & relaxed

  • Take your dog for a walk or play time to get some energy out.
  • Choose a quiet area your dog is comfortable in.
  • Eliminate distractions if possible.
  • Get down on your dog’s level by kneeling or sitting next to them.
  • Have a bag of small training treats nearby.
  • Go slow, let your dog sniff everything, and stay positive.

Relaxed dog

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: If possible, setup on a padded surface like a rug to make your pet feel more comfortable. Have your pet sit on the towel to avoid getting toothpaste on your rug.  Having your tools set out on a towel is a great way to organize everything as well. You can also set your water bowl on the towel, too, as you’ll likely drip a little when you dip the toothbrush.
  • Toothbrush or gauze: Start with gauze if your pet is anxious and work your way up to using a toothbrush designed for dogs.
  • Toothpaste: Always use a toothpaste that is specifically formulated for pets. 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.
  • 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: Smaller training treats are best for rewarding good behavior during breaks while you’re cleaning your dog’s teeth. Save a favorite treat for the very end, after you’ve finished bruising your dog’s teeth.



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 for brushing your dog’s teeth

Lighting is SO important. You’ll need to see where tartar is starting to build up, and it’s much easier to see that with plenty of bright light. We typically clean our dog’s teeth outdoors when it’s a dry, sunny day. You can also wear a headlamp, but this might make some dogs more nervous.

Steps for brushing your dog’s teeth

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


Try this short exercise with your pets at first so they become comfortable with you focusing on their mouth. You may find it helpful to follow the 3 steps below for the first week and then move to using a finger brush or other type of dog toothbrush the second week after your pet has had time to get used to this new routine.

  1. 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.
  2. Use a gentle back-and-forth motion.
  3. Focus on the area where the gum touches the tooth surface and not the surfaces where the teeth touch.

2. Find a toothpaste your dog loves

Dog loves the toothpaste

Before your first full teeth cleaning session together, you may need to try a few toothpaste flavors with your dog to find one they like. Many have a chicken flavor that most dogs enjoy. This pet friendly toothpaste is like a treat! Let your dog lick the flavors off your fingers a few times before the first time you plan to do a full teeth brushing session. If your dog doesn’t seem to like the toothpaste, you may need to try a different flavor or switch to a natural alternative, like organic coconut oil. 

Tip icon

Human toothpaste is dangerous for dogs. Always use a toothpaste formulated for pets.

3. Try gauze or a finger toothbrush the first time you brush your dog’s teeth.

The type of brush you use should match the size of your dog’s mouth. You may find that it’s a little easier to use a finger toothbrush when brushing your dog’s teeth. You can also use a pet dental wipe or gauze at first to help your dog get used to you touching their mouth.

Remember, go slow and be positive while brushing your dog’s teeth. Try these two techniques below to see what works best for you and your pet.

Technique 1: use small circles

Small circles

Work up to brushing your dog’s teeth for 30-seconds on each side. It may take a few sessions to get to this length of time, so be patient with your dog and yourself.

Technique 2: brush a few teeth at a time


Eventually, you’ll work your way up to the entire side of the mouth, but most dogs will need a few sessions to get there. Start with only a few teeth at a time and don’t rush through these steps. You may only brush for a few seconds on the first day and that’s okay. Brushing your dog’s teeth is a new experience for you both and the best thing you can do is go slow so it’s not too overwhelming for either of you!


4. Make brushing your dog’s teeth a positive & rewarding experience.


Always use small, highly palatable treats with your dogs. Dental care should be a positive experience for your dog and providing little treats along the way during breaks can help make it more fun.

We also recommend planning a fun activity together immediately after brushing your dog’s teeth. If you go on a walk, play fetch, or take a car ride to a favorite destination immediately after brushing your pet’s teeth, they will begin to associate the two activities and be very excited when the toothbrush comes out!


The Best Toothpaste For Dogs

The best toothpaste for your dog is the one they love most! You may need to try a few options before you find the best one for your pet. The same goes for dog toothbrush styles. You may need to try a few before determining the best toothbrush for your dog.  Because of its inherent antibacterial properties, organic coconut oil is a wonderful alternative to dog toothpaste, if you prefer a more natural product for your pet.

organic coconut oil for pets


HealthySmiles Pet Dental Care Store

We clean & polish pet smiles to a sparkle and make cat’s and dog’s mouths healthier every day! Along the way, we’ve had a chance to try a variety of home dental care products for pets, and while some caused a few frowns, others resulted in tons of tail wags and ultimately made their way into our store!

If you’re a pet parent who is looking to bring home the very best pet dental care products, our online pet dental care store was custom built with you and your beloved four legged family members in mind. Each item has been hand selected & tested by our dental care professionals, is also sold in our pet dental spa locations, and will help keep your pet’s mouth healthy at home between their professional dental cleanings every 6 months!

healthysmiles pet dental care store

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!

Book My Pet

Kelli Harvey

Kelli Harvey has produced educational materials for local animal rescues and worked closely with veterinarians across the US to help improve the lives of pets for many years. She’s also an obsessed pet mom to two rambunctious rescue mutts!

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