How do I get my dog used to having her teeth brushed?

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Start slow! Just brush a couple of teeth at a time at first—and then gradually work up. If she starts to snarl or snap, stop immediately and resume later. Her snarling might be a warning sign that she’s about to bite.

Before you do anything, though, have a veterinarian check your pet’s teeth before you start a tooth-brushing program. If your pet has gum disease or damaged teeth, the process will be painful and she will associate pain with tooth brushing.

Now, get your dog used to your looking into her mouth. You might consider also getting her used to the taste of the doggie toothpaste (never use human, because it can be toxic) by dabbing some on her lips.

After each time you do so, praise lavishly and reward with a crunchy, tartar-control treat.

You can get her used to getting a gum massage with a wet washcloth. When it’s time to start brushing:

• Be sure you have the proper tools, including dog toothbrush and a specially formulated dog toothpaste (Never use human toothpaste, because it can be toxic.)
• Place your dog (or cat) on a comfortable surface while brushing her teeth.
• In general, try to use minimal restraint on your pet while brushing, especially cats. However, it may be easier to handle an especially reluctant cat by wrapping her in a towel to keep him from scratching or trying to escape.
• Brush your dog’s teeth with a gentle, massaging motion, similar to a technique you’d use with a washcloth.

NOTE: If your dog is very squirmy, try to get her to lie on her side while you brush the teeth. You might need to wear her out a little before you brush, either by going for a walk or conducting some extra play or maybe doing a very brief obedience training session.

If your pet still refuses to let you brush her teeth with a toothbrush, ask your veterinarian for suggestions.

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