By Stacy E. Smith
February is Pet Dental Health Month. Some of you may go out to get your dog’s teeth cleaned and/or vow to do regular cleanings at home. You may have even rushed out to get a “dental kit” of pet-appropriate dental supplies so you’d have everything you need (there are lots of them on the market). Fido will just have to get used to you working on his teeth – it’s for his own good after all. But it seems that, as Shakespeare wrote, “he doth protest too much”… AND HOW!!! (And lets, not even talk about trying to brush kitty’s teeth… whoa!)
Now what? Just give up? Not so fast. With a little training and patience on your part, the task of dental care should eventually become no more difficult than any of your other pet grooming tasks.
Dog Dental Care 101:
- Let the dog see and smell the new products.
- Sit with the dog and give him a new command, “Let’s brush your teeth!” then touch the dog’s teeth with the toothbrush.
- Immediately take the brush away and praise the dog, “Brave boy! Yeah!”
- Repeat the command again and touch the dog’s teeth again, praising again. The dog is being shown that this is not dangerous; it is fun and he will be rewarded with lots of praise.
- Repeat the command again and touch, but this time brush one tooth. Take the brush away and give the dog praise.
- Repeat this training step at least five times, in different areas of the dog’s mouth, and then stop for the day. Don’t forget to praise the dog well and offer a treat.
Repeat these training steps at least once a day for several days. At this point, the goal is not to clean teeth, but simply to get the dog used to this new activity.
After several days of practice, begin actually cleaning the teeth but only do one quarter of the mouth. The next day do another quarter, and so on. It may be several weeks before the entire mouth can be done in one cleaning. Just be patient and take your cues from the dog. This is not a contest of wills, but an important means to an end…life long dental health for your dog.
If this doesn’t work for you and your pet (and it may not, especially with cats), get a soft cloth or a piece of gauze and gently wipe off your pet’s teeth with that on a regular basis. That is definitely better than nothing as it will wipe off the stuff that eventually turns into hardened tartar while it is still soft enough to wipe away.
IMPORTANT!!! DO NOT, under any circumstances, use regular, human toothpaste to brush your pet’s teeth. Use only products meant and approved for use with animals in your pet’s mouth.