Have you ever wondered why despite all the dental care you receive throughout life, it’s still possible for you to end up with cavities, while your pet (who has never been to a dentist), doesn’t seem to have a single tooth concern whatsoever? Well, the truth is, your pets can and do get cavities, but in far lesser a number than humans. Despite this great fortune, your pet can still benefit from a gentle brushing of their teeth and gums from time to time ... here’s how to do it, and why it can help instill good habits and a caring attitude in your children at the same time.
First, only use a toothpaste recommended by your veterinarian that is formulated for your dog. Some toothpastes made for humans are more toxic than chocolate to dogs, and use of them can be fatal to your dog. Speak with your vet FIRST.
Start off slow: Just like humans, your dog is going to want to start this wonderful new idea you have slowly – start with just your finger, offer rewards, and consider doing it in conjunction with a certain time of day, so it becomes part of a routine they’re already accustomed to. The ASPCA has a wonderful selection of tips that can help you get started with a new doggie-brushing habit, so as not to traumatize you, the dog, or your little ones.
The benefit to your littles: Children have an innate desire to copy what others do, so having them watch you brush the dog’s teeth can work wonders at introducing, or re-enforcing, the task at hand. Also, suggesting to your child that they take their toothbrush and actually brush while you’re helping fido can yield good results.
Brush in the bathtub: We all enjoy a familiar pattern – dogs are no different. As you’re starting slow, you may only be brushing your pet’s teeth once a week to start. So, if you’re also providing bath services at that time, it may be helpful to start a brushing habit also during this time. Clean-up will be initially simpler, and since some dogs enjoy a bath, brushing may soon be associated with that reward. Once you’re to the stage of brushing once or more a day, you’ll obviously be doing so outside the bathtub, but it can be a great place to start.
The benefit to your littles: Parents have long noticed that for some reason children tend to protest the brushing of their teeth less while in the bathtub getting bathed. Perhaps it is the regimen of bathing that helps, or the idea of getting cleaned that assists the child in getting over the obstacle. Either way, this tip works for many parents stuck with a fitful child refusing to brush. Also, having the child in the tub serves as a sort of container for them, so they can't just wiggle away from you at will. In the tub, they're somewhat on your stage. Win.
Make it a game: Treats, toys and games work for doggies reluctant to bathe or brush. Try incorporating play into the regimen as long as you view it to be safe behavior depending on the temperament of your dog. Obviously wrestling with a chew toy to the point your dog is growling like a mad beast is not a good time to go sticking your fingers in their mouth. Use your smarts here, and know your own dog.
The benefit to your littles: Kids in the bath are often accompanied by their ducky and fishy tub-mates, so don't be afraid to brush the fake animals' teeth as well. You can do this on your own, in between brushing your child's teeth, or have your child do the animals teeth. A combination of the two seems to work well for many parents. Some have broken the task even further by brushing for a few seconds in the child's mouth, then a few seconds on the "mouth" of the animal. This seems to cut back on the stress of brushing for a few minutes all at once. Counting, by the way helps in and of itself, because children and adults are very aware of the time it takes to brush. By using this form of "countdown" both parent and child understand that when the "time" is up, the brushing is complete.