How To Brush A Dog’s Teeth Even If They Hate It!

A proper dental routine is an important part of your dog’s overall health. With that said, this isn’t exactly the easiest of dog care habits to establish. So let’s dive into how to brush a dog’s teeth that hates being brushed! 

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Brushing Basics: Necessary or Not?

Is it really necessary to brush your dog’s teeth? The short answer is yes. Regular dental care is crucial for your dog’s overall health. Dogs, like humans, can suffer from a range of dental issues if their teeth are not properly cleaned and maintained.

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title of tips and tricks for brushing your dog's teeth with image of pug mix dog licking dog tooth brush

Neglecting your dog’s oral health can lead to periodontal disease, tooth decay, gum inflammation, and even tooth loss. These issues are not only painful but can also affect your dog’s overall health, leading to more serious conditions like heart disease and kidney problems.

Brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the most effective ways to prevent these issues and ensure they maintain good oral hygiene.

As a pet parent, I’ve faced difficulties getting my dogs used to the process of teeth brushing. Initially, it was hard to establish the habit, which in turn made it even harder to maintain their oral health.

But with patience and persistence, I found ways to make the process easier and more effective.

Dog Oral Health

Understanding common oral health issues in dogs can help you recognize the importance of regular dental care. Here are some common problems:

Getting Started with a Dental Care Routine

Ok, so now let’s get into the details of how to brush your dog’s teeth…even if they hate being brushed.

The reality is starting a dental cleaning habit for your dog can be challenging, especially if your dog does not enjoy the process. However, with patience and the right approach, you can establish a successful dental hygiene routine. 

Expect Some Challenges

When introducing teeth brushing to your dog, expect some resistance, especially if they are not used to it. It’s normal for dogs to be wary of new experiences, so be prepared for a learning curve.

Phoebe, Franklin, and Froda were no exception, and it took time and consistency to get them comfortable with the process. And hopefully someday soon, they’ll even tell you it’s an enjoyable experience (but we’re not quite there yet)!

Gather the Supplies

Before you try to tackle the first brushing session, make sure you have all the necessary supplies.

dog tooth brushes and toothpaste on wooden table
Dog Toothbrush

Choose a toothbrush designed for dogs, which is smaller and softer than human toothbrushes. There are a variety of styles, including toothbrushes that fit over your finger, allowing you more control and potentially making the process a bit easier. 

  • BPA & phthalate-free
  • One size fits all
  • Natural bamboo
  • Certified plastic negative
  • BPA & phthalate-free
  • 2 sizes (small, large)
  • BPA & phthalate-free
  • One size fits all
  • Natural bamboo
  • Certified plastic negative
  • BPA & phthalate-free
  • 2 sizes (small, large)
Dog Toothpaste

Use toothpaste formulated specifically for dogs, as human toothpaste contains ingredients that can be harmful to pets. Avoid toothpaste with artificial sweeteners, particularly xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.

Instead, look for a dog-specific enzymatic toothpaste. The natural enzymes found in this type of formulation have anti-microbial properties and help reduce plaque build-up. 

enzymatic dog toothpaste
Dental Chews and Treats

These can help clean teeth and reduce tartar build-up in between brushing sessions. Make sure to choose chews that are safe and appropriate for your dog’s size and chewing habits.

  • All-natural ingredients
  • 2 flavors
  • B-Corp Certified
  • Availability: Europe
  • 100% natural & cruelty-free
  • 3 sizes
  • Availability: Europe
  • All-natural ingredients
  • 3 sizes
  • B-Corp Certified
  • Availability: Europe
  • All-natural ingredients
  • 2 flavors
  • B-Corp Certified
  • Availability: Europe
  • 100% natural & cruelty-free
  • 3 sizes
  • Availability: Europe
  • All-natural ingredients
  • 3 sizes
  • B-Corp Certified
  • Availability: Europe
Dog Dental Wipes

This product is useful for quick clean-ups if your dog is particularly resistant to brushing. With that said, wipes are not reusable, so I’m still on the hunt for an eco-friendly version.

Xtra Eco Tip: If you don’t already have the necessary dental supplies, now is a great time to buy some eco-friendly versions. Look for labels that carry the B Corp Certification or other sustainable certification.

sustainable company certification labels

Make it Positive

Make teeth brushing a positive experience for your dog. Use positive reinforcement techniques such as treats, praise, and affection.

And don’t rush into the process. Start by letting your dog sniff and lick the toothbrush and toothpaste to get used to the new items. Initially, let them taste the toothpaste on your finger before introducing the brush.

mixed breed dog sniffing dog toothbrush

Create the Habit

Consistency is key when it comes to brushing your dog’s teeth. Aim to brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week, if not daily.

Establish a routine by brushing at the same time each day, making it a regular part of your dog’s daily activities. My experience showed that making it part of the evening routine after dinner worked best.

Adapt to Your Dog

Consider your dog’s specific needs when setting up a dental care routine.

If your dog has a sensitive mouth, choose a softer brush.

Also, experiment with the toothpaste flavor. If your dog doesn’t even want to lick the toothpaste off of your finger, accept that things are not off to a good start and try a different toothpaste.

And for dogs with medical issues, consult your vet for tailored advice. 


Here’s a step-by-step guide to brushing your dog’s teeth successfully, even if they hate it at the start.

  • Acclimate your dog: Start by getting your dog used to the idea of having their mouth touched. Gently lift their lips and rub your finger along their gums and teeth.
  • Introduce the toothbrush: Let your dog sniff and lick the toothbrush to become familiar with it. Initially, use a finger brush if your dog is particularly resistant. You may have to experiment with a few variations until you find the one that is most comfortable for both you and your pup. 
  • Add toothpaste: Put a small amount of dog toothpaste on the brush and let your dog taste it. And remember to test out different toothpaste flavors if the first one isn’t received well.
  • Start slow: Begin by brushing just a few teeth at a time, gradually increasing the number of teeth you brush as your dog becomes more comfortable.
  • Be gentle: Use gentle, circular motions to brush the teeth, focusing on the gum line where plaque tends to build up. Ensure you are not brushing too hard, which can damage their gums. Also, be gentle in your overall approach. Use a calm and reassuring tone to help ease your dog’s anxiety. 
  • Take breaks: If your dog becomes agitated, take a break and try again later. Keep sessions short and positive.
  • Reward your dog: Always reward your dog with treats and praise after each brushing session to reinforce the positive experience.
pug mix dog licking dog toothbrush

Some Additional Tricks

If you have more than one human living in your home, use this to your advantage. A partner can help you prepare the supplies and comfort your pup during the process.

With my dogs, things like brushing teeth and administering medicine always go more smoothly when my husband and I work together.

And if your dog is incredibly stubborn, like my mini-dachshund Froda, try introducing an additional distraction.

While Phoebe and Franklin adjusted quite well to the teeth-brushing process, Froda continued to dodge the process at all costs. So now we wait until she is chewing on one of her favorite rope toys and her teeth are nicely exposed.

This means we have to brush her teeth on her timing rather than one of our choosing. But, the important thing is that she is getting her teeth brushed!

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When brushing your dog’s teeth, avoid these common mistakes:

When to Involve the Vet

Some dental health symptoms should not be overlooked and require veterinary care. So if you notice any of the following, it is best to make an appointment for your pup immediately.

  • Persistent bad breath: This can be a sign of dental disease or other health issues.
  • Bleeding gums: Frequent bleeding can indicate gum disease or injury.
  • Difficulty eating: If your dog struggles to eat, it may be due to dental pain or tooth loss.
  • Swollen gums: Swelling can be a sign of infection or inflammation.
  • Loose or missing teeth: This requires immediate veterinary attention.

And even if everything looks to be going well inside your dog’s mouth, regular veterinary check-ups are crucial for maintaining your dog’s dental health. A vet can perform professional cleanings and check for signs of dental disease that might not be visible at home.

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Beyond the Brush

Brushing isn’t the only way to care for your dog’s dental health.

For example, a dental diet, which incorporates specially formulated and textured foods, can help reduce plaque and tartar build-up.

Tools and toys also can be quite effective in keeping teeth clean…and in clever ways that your dog won’t even notice!

And, of course, your vet also plays an important role in dog dental health care.

Here are some specific ideas to consider working into your pup’s routine:

  • Fresh produce: Foods like raw carrots, apples, and celery can act as natural toothbrushes, helping to scrape away plaque and tartar while your dog chews. Plus, fresh veggies and fruit also offer numerous other health benefits. 
  • Dental chews and treats: These can aid in cleaning your dog’s teeth between brushing sessions. Look for dental treats with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, which indicates they are effective in reducing plaque and tartar.
  • Water additives: Some water additives can help reduce plaque and freshen breath. These are easy to use; simply add the recommended amount to your dog’s water bowl.
  • Chew toys for dental health: Providing your dog with toys designed for dental health can help clean their teeth as they play. Look for toys with textures that help scrub teeth and massage gums.
  • Lick mats: Similar to dental chew toys, lick mats are also often textured and provide teeth-cleaning benefits. 
  • Dental wipes: These can be used for quick clean-ups or for dogs who are particularly resistant to brushing. They are not as effective as brushing but can help maintain oral hygiene.
  • Regular vet check-ups: Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial for maintaining your dog’s dental health. A vet can perform professional cleanings and check for signs of dental disease that might not be visible at home.
  • Professional cleanings: Even with regular brushing, dogs may need professional cleanings to remove tartar build-up and address any dental issues.
three dogs in kitchen jumping for fresh carrots

Incorporating fresh foods and dental products into your dog’s day, alongside regular professional check-ups, can provide a holistic approach to maintaining their dental health, reducing the risk of periodontal disease, and promoting overall well-being.

Best of luck in your doggy tooth-brushing adventure! And if you’ve discovered any tips that work well, please share in the comments!

FAQs: How to Brush a Dog’s Teeth that Hates Being Brushed

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily. However, brushing at least three times a week can help maintain good oral hygiene.

Can I use human toothpaste for my dog?

No, human toothpaste contains ingredients that can be toxic to dogs. Always use toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs. 

Are dental chews effective?

Yes, dental chews can help reduce plaque and tartar build-up, but they should be used in addition to regular brushing, not as a replacement. Be sure to choose safe, VOHC-approved chews.

How do I choose the right toothbrush for my dog?

Choose a toothbrush designed for dogs. They are smaller, softer, and specifically designed to fit a dog’s mouth. Finger brushes are also a good option for more control.

What are signs of dental disease in dogs?

Signs include bad breath, bleeding gums, difficulty eating, swollen gums, and loose or missing teeth. If you notice any of these signs, consult your vet.

Can diet affect my dog’s dental health?

Yes, a diet formulated for dental health can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Consult your vet for dietary recommendations.

How can I make teeth brushing a habit for my dog?

Establish a routine by brushing at the same time each day, use positive reinforcement, and be consistent with your efforts.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Each post reflects both my research and my personal experiences (as well as those of my pups). Always contact your veterinarian before making changes to your dog’s routine, trying out new toys and activities, and introducing new foods. Every dog is different, and what works for my furry family may not work for yours.

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