How To Brush Dog Teeth When They Refuse


adorable dog biting toothbrush

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Hey there fellow dog lovers! We all want the best for our furry friends, and good dental health is a huge part of keeping our pups happy and healthy. But what do you do when your pooch refuses to let you brush their teeth? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Many dogs dislike having their teeth brushed.The truth is, brushing plays a critical role in preventing plaque buildup, gum disease, and tooth decay.

So while your dog may not love it, regular brushing can help avoid costly dental procedures down the road. The good news is there are many tips and techniques to make tooth brushing more comfortable and effective for even the most reluctant pups.

This article will share insider tricks to help you brush your dog’s teeth when they refuse. We’ll go over why brushing is so important, reasons dogs dislike it, and a step-by-step plan to get your pooch smiling with fresh breath.

Let’s dig in!

Why Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth is Important

Brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis is really important for their health and comfort. Here’s a quick look at some of the top reasons vets recommend regular tooth brushing:

Prevents Plaque and Tartar Buildup

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that adheres to the teeth. If not removed through brushing, it hardens into tartar which can only be removed at the vet. Tartar buildup leads to gum infection and tooth decay.

Reduces Bad Breath

That stinky doggie breath isn’t just a nuisance. It’s often a sign of dental disease. Brushing sweeps away bacteria responsible for bad odors.

Avoids Gum Disease

Plaque and tartar accumulation causes inflamed and infected gums known as gingivitis. This is extremely painful and can lead to loose teeth.

Helps Prevent Tooth Decay and Loss

Bacteria in plaque produces acids that erode tooth enamel. Brushing removes these acids and protects against decay and tooth loss.

Contributes to Overall Health

Dental disease doesn’t just affect the mouth. Bacteria can spread through the bloodstream and potentially damage organs like the heart, kidneys and liver.

As you can see, those few minutes each day really pay off in terms of your dog’s comfort, health and longevity. Now let’s look at why some pups are so resistant to this important routine.

Common Reasons Dogs Dislike Having Their Teeth Brushed

Even though brushing is beneficial, many dogs simply don’t enjoy the process. Some common reasons for their dislike include:

  • Unfamiliarity with the Toothbrush: If your dog is not introduced to the toothbrush gradually, they may see it as a foreign object being pushed into their mouth. This triggers discomfort and resistance.
  • Toothpaste Taste: While minty toothpaste tastes great to us, many dogs dislike the strong flavor. Some react to ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Bristle Discomfort: The bristles may feel unpleasant on their teeth and gums, especially if brushing too vigorously. This causes them to avoid brushing.
  • Perception as a Chore: Dogs love play and snuggles. In their mind, brushing is a boring chore that takes away from fun time with you.
  • Discomfort with Handling of Mouth: Dogs naturally dislike having their mouths handled extensively. Brushing requires this increased handling.
  • Lack of Trust: Dogs who lack trust with their owner may see tooth brushing as an unpleasant threat or invasion of their space.

The key is introducing brushing slowly and making it a calm, rewarding experience. Next we’ll go over some tips to make it more comfortable for reluctant pups!

Tips for Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth When They Refuse

If your dog refuses to let you brush their teeth, try these proven tips to help introduce toothbrushing in a positive way:

Acclimate Slowly to Toothbrush

Let them lick toothpaste off the brush at first so they associate it with a treat before putting it in their mouth.

Find Toothpastes They Enjoy

Try different flavors and brands to find one they love. Consider peanut butter, poultry, or beef flavors.

Use a Finger Brush or Gauze

Gently rub their teeth and gums with your finger, a finger toothbrush, or wrapped gauze to get them used to the sensation.

Give Praise and Treats

Shower with praise and give treats during and after brushing so they associate it with rewards.

Make It Routine

Set a consistent schedule so brushing becomes an expected part of their daily routine.

Start Brief

At first, just brush for 30 seconds or less to get them comfortable before working up to 2 minutes.

Be Patient

Some dogs take weeks or months to adjust to regular brushing. Stick with it and stay calm.

Try Hand Targeting

Teach them to touch their nose to your hand. Use this to gently guide their head as you brush.

With time, positive reinforcement and patience, you can get even the most stubborn dog to accept daily tooth brushing.

Up next, we’ll go through a step-by-step process for introducing brushing to your reluctant pup.

Step-By-Step Guide for Brushing Reluctant Dog’s Teeth

Follow these steps to gradually get your dog comfortable with having their teeth brushed:

Step 1: Introduce the Toothbrush

Let your dog lick toothpaste off the brush so they start associating it with the taste of the paste rather than the feel of the bristles.

Step 2: Rub Finger Over Teeth and Gums

Get them used to the sensation of having their teeth and gums rubbed by using your finger or a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger.

Step 3: Briefly Lift Lips and Brush Front Teeth

Once they seem comfortable with you rubbing their gums, briefly lift their lips and use a finger brush or soft-bristled brush to gently brush their front teeth. Keep sessions under 30 seconds.

Step 4: Gradually Brush More Teeth

Over multiple sessions, work your way up to brushing more and more teeth until you can brush all sides of the teeth in a sitting.

Step 5: Reward and Praise Throughout

Throughout the process, give lots of praise, petting, and high-value treats like small pieces of chicken or cheese after each brushing session.

Step 6: Increase Brushing Duration

Once your dog seems comfortable with you fully brushing their teeth, slowly increase the brushing time up to 2 minutes.The key is to go slowly, keep sessions positive, and don’t progress to the next step until they are fully comfortable with the current one. With time and consistency, your dog will get used to brushing as part of their routine!

When to Seek Veterinary Help

While the techniques above should work for most dogs, there are some situations where you may need to seek veterinary assistance:

  • Gum Infection Signs – If you notice red, swollen, or bleeding gums, foul breath, or excessive drooling, this could indicate an advanced gum infection that requires medical treatment.
  • Damaged or Loose Teeth – If your dog has chipped teeth, teeth that are loose or moving, or excessive tartar buildup, they may need a full veterinary dental cleaning and assessment.
  • Excessively Dirty Teeth – If you are unable to remove thick tartar even after weeks of brushing, a deep dental cleaning by your vet may be required.
  • No Improvement in Several Weeks – If your dog shows no signs of accepting brushing after 4-6 weeks of consistent positive training, speak to your vet for advice.
  • Suspected Dental Disease – If your dog shows signs like reduced chewing, mouth pain, or loose teeth, promptly schedule a veterinary dental exam.

Don’t hesitate to involve your vet if your dog has signs of advanced dental disease or does not respond to home brushing methods.

They can provide prescription dental products or professional cleanings to get your pup’s teeth sparkling clean.

Make Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth a Positive Experience

While some dogs are naturally resistant to toothbrushing, you can succeed with the right techniques. By introducing it slowly, making it rewarding, and being patient, you can get even the most stubborn pooch to accept brushing as part of their routine.

Remember, regular brushing provides huge benefits for your dog’s dental health and overall wellbeing. So don’t give up if your pup doesn’t take to it right away. With time, you’ll be able to keep their teeth clean and breath fresh for years to come.

The most important tip is to always keep brushing sessions relaxed and positive. Never scold or force the process. Instead, use praise, play, and treats to reinforce their cooperation.

Before you know it, you’ll have a dog who happily presents their pearly whites at brushing time!

Their beautiful smile and good health are worth the effort. Both you and your dog will be glad you took the time to turn brushing into a bonding experience.


How can I make toothpaste more appealing to my dog?

  • Try different flavors like chicken, beef, or peanut butter designed for dogs.
  • Warm up the toothpaste slightly to bring out the aroma.
  • Start with just a dot of paste so the flavor isn’t overwhelming.

What kind of toothbrush is best for a reluctant dog?

  • Use a soft-bristled brush made for dogs. The bristles should be very gentle on their gums.
  • Try a finger brush that slips over your finger with ultra-soft bristles.
  • You can also wrap gauze around your finger for the first few sessions.

How long should I brush my dog’s teeth for?

  • Start with just 30 seconds or less and work up to 2 minutes once they are comfortable.
  • Break the brushing up into smaller sessions throughout the day if needed.

How can I make tooth brushing easier on myself?

  • Consider getting knee-high nylon support stockings to cover your arm when brushing. This prevents scratching.
  • Use a hand target technique where your dog touches their nose to your hand to control their head.
  • Sit in an enclosed area like a bathroom to prevent escape.

When should I seek veterinary dental care for my dog?

  • If they have inflamed, infected gums, mouth pain, or loose teeth.
  • If they have heavy tartar that won’t brush off or advanced periodontal disease.
  • If positive reinforcement fails after several weeks of trying to brush at home.