How to brush a dogs teeth that hates being brushed

How To Brush a Dog’s Teeth (That Hates Being Brushed!)

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The oral hygiene of your dog is key to its general well-being. If your dog’s teeth are not kept clean, then your dog is bound to suffer at some point. 

Some dogs dislike teeth brushing sessions, and if you are an owner of such a dog, this article will help you overcome the challenges of brushing your furry friend’s teeth. But with patience and the right tools, your dog can learn to tolerate tooth brushing.

Statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) claim that over 60% of dogs with stage one periodontal disease often go untreated. But the blame is not only on the owners, some dogs are highly averse to tooth brushing.

Small white dog refusing toothbrush

My Dog Won’t Let Me Brush His Teeth!

Here are some of the reasons why:

The dog HATES it 

Does your dog become fussy or puts up a fight every time you try to brush its teeth? Remember, your dog is not used to having something strange shoved in its mouth. It is not like human beings that are used to spoons and forks for eating. And dogs that hate brushing teeth are not misbehaving.

Your dog is not conversant with the concept of a toothbrush. But with time and practice, your furry companion will get used to it and hate it less and less. 

The toothpaste taste 

Dog toothpaste without meaty flavors can tend to taste funny to the animal. That may be the reason why they do not want the toothpaste in their mouth. Dog toothpaste manufacturers have learned to add poultry and beef flavors to the toothpaste for better use.

They DON’T like being restrained

Some people restrain their dogs in order during teeth brushing. The animal may become distressed by the restraints and as a result, they will not be co-operative. Instead of restraining your dog, consider training them using a positive reinforcement method like a treat until they become accustomed to tooth brushing.


Pain in the mouth associated with the teeth can also make your dog hate having their teeth brushed. So, look out for periodontal disease, inflamed and bleeding gums, or broken teeth which may be causing the dog pain and discomfort.

Dog's teeth getting checked by a veterianarian

Always have your dog’s teeth checked by a veterinarian at least once a year and especially prior to any home-based dental regime. If your dog has any of the aforementioned dental problems, it will naturally resist being poked around with a toothbrush or dentifrice. Dogs in pain are grumpy and will snap or bite. 

But you can help your dog get used to tooth brushing.

9 Tips for How to Brush an Uncooperative Dog’s Teeth

1. Lose the Toothbrush

For the first few days to a week, let your dog get accustomed to the idea of your fingers in his or her mouth. Lift the dog’s lip and praise the animal for allowing you to do so. Avoid doing this when the dog is sleeping or just finished feeding. 

Repeat two to three times a day until the dog is comfortable with your finger in its mouth. Never scold a dog for not cooperating because these are sensitive animals. Make the entire experience rewarding so reward the dog with a treat. Wait until the dog is relaxed and you are armed with a few treats to reward the dog.  

2. Get some gauze 

Use some inexpensive gauze, which can be easily purchased from your local drug store and gradually begin to rub your dog’s teeth with a dry gauze pad. Behave in the same manner as you did under tip number one; Reward, praise, and choose a moment when the dog is relaxed. 

Once the dog is receptive to this procedure, dampen the gauze pad with warm water. Avoid cold water by all means as it may irritate the dog’s teeth and gums. 

The goal is to encourage the dog to have dental care performed at home and avoid making the dog nervous in the process. 

3. Gradually graduate

Shift from using a dampened gauze to using one with some dog-friendly toothpaste applied to it. You are slowly conditioning the dog to embrace the teeth brushing process. 

Pre-treated dental wipes, which are soft textured and infused with ingredients like baking soda that help control bacteria and reduce dental plaque, can be used alternately. The same techniques used in the previous tips will apply. Praise, reward, and doing this in a relaxed atmosphere will do the trick. 

4. Try dental treats

This works for not-so-happy dogs. For a dog that is reluctant to take up a toothbrush, keep the dental wipes routine going. Some dogs will not allow anything more than a gauze in their mouths.

A small dog eating dental chews

A little dental care is better than none. So, introduce your dog to dental chews which will help with dental hygiene and compliment the cleaning with gauze. Dentastix is one brand of dental treats with an X-shape. The X-shape helps to get down to a dog’s-gum line while chewing and they are clinically proven to fight tartar and plaque. 

They come in different sizes to suit dogs of different mouth sizes. Dental treats should be administered under supervision to avoid choking. 

5. Introduce the Toothbrush  

Assuming your dog has gradually gotten used to having the above steps performed, it is time to introduce the toothbrush. At this stage, you can opt to brush one side of the mouth in the morning and the other in the evening. Always repeat the routine of praise, reward, and relaxed atmosphere. If the dog is still reluctant to move to the next stage, stick with the gauze until it can graduate. 

It is important to remember this is a process with an intention to reduce plaque and not to induce stress to a dog. 

6. Timing and Technique 

It is ideal to brush the dog’s teeth once a week initially until the dog gets used to it. Once it gets accustomed to the procedure, then twice or three times a day usually at night will suffice. 

Dental wipes can be used intermittently for good oral hygiene. And soon you can make it a daily habit as Fido becomes used to the sensation of the brush.

When brushing your dog’s teeth, you must create a relaxed atmosphere by sitting behind her, next to her, or kneeling down in front of her. Avoid standing above your dog so she or he does not feel threatened or alarmed. 

The right brushing technique is to place the brush at 45 degrees angle against the teeth and slowly brush in small circles. If you are unable to reach behind the teeth where plaque hides, use dental treats. 

7. Length of time

It takes approximately 60 seconds to two minutes to brush the dog’s teeth. Do one side of the mouth and give the dog a treat and then the other side and give a treat as well. Remember positive reinforcement is key and do not prolong the process for the dog.

8. Create the mood

Woman brushing dog's teeth at home

Keep the mood relaxed throughout the process. Praise your dog and maintain positive body language. Some music can be effective in relaxing the dog or you can use sounds of nature like forest sounds or waves crashing.

9. Rinse it right

After brushing use doggie dental rinses. There is a variety available that pet owners add to their dog’s water. Be careful none of them should contain Xylitol as this is a toxic substance to dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I brush the inside of my dog’s teeth?

Yes, that is where plaque hides. A dog toothbrush has a long, curved handle that allows you to reach hard to get to places. Brushing the inside of the dog’s teeth is essential to combating plaque and tartar.

Is it too late to start brushing my (older) dog’s teeth?

No, an older dog can slowly be conditioned to get used to its teeth being brushed and after a while, it will get used and even enjoy it. But it is recommended to start brushing your dog’s teeth when they are puppies with deciduous teeth. 

What percentage of dog owners brush their dog’s teeth?

Although most owners are aware that you are supposed to brush dogs’ teeth, American Veterinary Medical Association’s president, Dr. Ted Corn, says that only 2 percent of dog owners ensure their dog’s teeth are brushed daily. That means that many dogs are at risk of dental disease and accompanying conditions. 

What happens if you neglect your dog’s teeth?

First, there is a biofilm that coats the dog’s teeth. It is the first step to colonizing the canine’s teeth and it causes inflammation of the gingivitis. Soon after, there is buildup of tartar and plaque, which if left unchecked leads to periodontal disease. It’s important to note that dog’s teeth can naturally be discolored, however, there are ways to whiten dogs teeth.

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