Helpful Tips

My Dog Won’t Let Me Brush His Teeth-What Now?


If you didn’t begin brushing your dog’s teeth when they were a puppy, then you’re probably dealing with “my dog won’t let me brush his teeth” and that’s to be expected. Some pet owners don’t understand the importance of oral hygiene in their pets. Once a pet owner notices severe tartar buildup or their dog begins to experience any type of dental pain, most pet owners will go into action and attempt to brush their teeth. But if your dog is older than one or two years of age, you’ll quickly find out most older dogs will not tolerate this type of cleaning. However, there are some tips and tricks that you can try that will put your dog at ease and let you provide the proper dental care that they so desperately need.

My dog won’t let me brush his teeth: This is a common problem with pet owners who have older dogs. If you didn’t begin brushing your dog’s teeth when they were a puppy, then you may have your hands full once they reach adulthood. If you’re struggling to get your dog to sit still for a cleaning, begin by creating a routine. At the same time, every day, sit with your dog and allow them to chew on their toothbrush after you apply dog toothpaste. In many cases, a dog will also allow you to wipe out their mouth using dog toothpaste and a piece of gauze.

This can be an effective alternative that you can use as your dog adjusts to their new toothbrush. During a cleaning, make sure you have dental treats handy and continue to praise your dog as they allow you to wipe out their mouth or as they try out their new toothbrush. Your dog will slowly begin to adjust to this process in a matter of weeks. If you have an elderly dog, it can take longer, so patience and consistency will be key.

Start a Routine

If you’re having a hard time getting your dog to sit still while you brush his teeth, start a routine. Most dogs thrive in a structured environment. Plan on brushing their teeth at the same time every day and don’t give up quickly if they began to struggle or refuse to open their mouths. If you’re dealing with an older dog, especially one you just adopted, then you will need to go slowly to ensure you don’t upset them or cause them to nip at you, which can occur with new dogs you’re unfamiliar with, or with older dogs that have dental pain.

If you tried brushing your dog’s teeth for a week or two with no progress, there are some other things you can try that will get them to acclimate to this treatment.

When a Toothbrush Fails

There are some dogs that will completely lose it if you try using a toothbrush in their mouth. If you’ve found that your dog is unable to tolerate a toothbrush you can always try using dental wipes or soft pieces of gauze. You can use a dog-formulated toothpaste, or try brushing dog teeth with coconut oil. Apply the toothpaste or oil to the gauze and gently wipe their teeth and gums. Dog toothpaste is specially formulated so it’s perfectly fine for your dog to swallow it. While using gauze is not nearly as effective as brushing their teeth with a toothbrush some type of oral care is better than nothing at all. However, you will need to work up to using a toothbrush since it’s much more effective in removing plaque and tartar from their teeth Built-up tartar and plaque can lead to dental abscesses, cavities, and periodontal disease.

Becoming Familiar with the Toothbrush

Becoming Familiar with the Toothbrush

Aside from creating a routine, allow your dog to chew on their toothbrush the first few times you use it. Don’t worry about actually brushing their teeth, instead, apply the dog toothpaste offer the toothbrush to your dog, and allow them to lick off the toothpaste. The point here is to familiarize your dog with the toothbrush. As your dog learns how to tolerate the toothbrush you can continue using the gauze and toothpaste to wipe out their mouth daily.

Dental Treats

Next, I recommend purchasing dog dental biscuits or treats. This can make tooth brushing time something that they look forward to. Don’t offer treats throughout the day, instead save any dog treats for their oral care time. Purchase only dog treats that are designed to remove plaque and tartar buildup. You can purchase small treats and feed them to your dog as you attempt to brush their teeth, or you can give them a large dental chew once their oral care session is complete. Soon, your dog is going to start looking forward to having their teeth brushed.

Getting Down to Business

If you’ve been wiping your dog’s teeth and gums down with gauze and familiarizing them with the toothbrush, now is the time you want to reintroduce brushing their teeth. If you gently begin to brush their teeth make sure you praise them and don’t apply too much pressure. If their gums start to bleed a little, don’t be surprised, this is to be expected.

However, if the gums are bleeding heavily this can be an indication that you’re dealing with some periodontal disease, in which case, you’ll want to make an appointment with your vet for an assessment. Your dog may only tolerate you brushing their teeth for a few seconds, but you should still praise them and reward them with a treat. You will find over the course of a few days or even weeks that your dog will sit for a longer length of time as they continue to adjust to having their teeth cleaned. Remember to continue to praise them throughout the cleaning, and always offer a treat once the cleaning is complete.

How Often Should I Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

Closeup cleaning

How often you should brush your dog’s teeth can sometimes depend on the dog. Smaller breeds may need to have your teeth brushed as often as every day, while large breed dogs will only need to have their teeth brushed three to four times a week. However, if you have an older pet that is dealing with ongoing dental issues you may want to increase the frequency to daily or even one to two times a day, especially if your dog has periodontal disease. Between cleanings remember to offer dental chew toys, and/or dog biscuits that are designed to reduce or prevent tartar buildup.

Related Questions

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Joint Pain?

Many dogs will benefit from natural joint health supplements and a short walk around the neighborhood, which can help loosen up the joints and reduce stiffness and tension. If your dog is older and doesn’t have much energy, don’t overdo it on their walks. If you love taking your dog with you wherever you go, but walking causes increased pain, I recommend using the best dog jogging stroller.

Models such as the Gen 7 pet stroller will allow you to take your pet with you, wherever you go, without placing undue stress on their joints.

Can a Dog’s Teeth Be Brushed with Human Toothpaste?

Avoid using human toothpaste to brush your dog’s teeth and instead opt for a pet-safe toothpaste that is flavored and meant to be swallowed.

Can I Use a Regular Human Toothbrush on My Dog?

No. You can use a toothbrush designed for babies, or you can purchase a special toothbrush that’s formulated for dogs. Basically, dog toothbrushes are very similar in size and bristle strength as baby toothbrushes, they’re just more expensive. You can also try finger dog toothbrushes, which consist of a type of thick textured rubber that fits over your finger and allows you to gently clean your dog’s teeth and gums. Some dogs are more responsive to finger toothbrushes than the traditional type.

Final Thoughts

If after attempting to brush your dog’s teeth for several weeks with no luck, if you’re still dealing with “my dog won’t let me brush his teeth” then you may need to take your dog in for a professional cleaning. With a professional cleaning, your vet will place your dog under anesthesia so they will be unconscious as your vet removes plaque buildup and takes care of any other dental issues such as decay, abscesses, or provides a deep clean, which will be necessary if your dog has been diagnosed with periodontal disease.

If you’re starting to make progress at home, remember, create a routine, allow your dog to become familiar with their toothbrush. Always praise your dog when they allow you to wipe their mouth out with gauze, or sit still to have their teeth brushed. In most cases, over time, your dog will learn how to tolerate oral care, especially if you go at a slower pace and allow them to ease into the process.