Cleaning Dog’s Teeth: The Secret to Stopping All Day Long Morning Breath

A black and white chihuahua dog with clean teeth.

What’s worse than morning breath? Doggy morning breath.

Keep your pooch’s mouth smelling like spring flowers with regular brushing. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement. Maybe your pup’s breath won’t smell like daisies but at least it won’t make your toes curl.

By brushing you’ll also be preventing tooth decay or possibly even life-threatening infections and issues like heart, liver and kidney disease. That’s right. Not only does brushing your dog’s teeth make them smell better, it also helps prevent a number of serious diseases and infections. Vets estimate that 85 percent of dog’s over the age of 5 suffer from some form of periodontal disease, according to the ASPCA. That’s a very high number. Especially when considering that periodontal disease is irreversible and can develop into bacterial infections, which could spread to the heart, liver or even the brain.

Related: 5 Ways to Tire Out Your Dog Before Leaving the House

So now you know how important it is, the question becomes how do you do it? It’s easy. All you need are a few supplies and a patient pooch and in no time, your pup will have some pretty pearly whites.

Here’s what you’ll need

Just like a human, your dog’s going to need his own brush and toothpaste. Most pet stores sell dog tooth brushes that fit over the tip of your finger or toothbrush-like products that have soft bristles. If you can’t find anything, don’t panic. Just wrap a piece of gauze around your finger, and you’re good to go.

For toothpaste, skip the minty paste you use. Instead, check out your local pet store for flavors you dog will love — liver and peanut butter to name a few. If you happen to be a hermit and don’t live in the vicinity of any pet stores, just use a combination of baking soda and water.

The technique

First we recommend you do it when your dog is tired. Consider brushing their teeth after a long training or play session. They will be much more likely not to put up a fight, especially if you are just starting out, and they aren’t used to it yet.

The lead up

Let you dog sniff the toothbrush before you go jamming it into their mouth. (You wouldn’t want somebody stuffing some strange thing into your mouth without checking it out first would you?) After your pooch has had a chance to check out the brush, start by peeling back his gums and gently brushing his front teeth as they are easiest to reach without causing too much discomfort. Don’t use any paste at first until your dog gets used to the feeling of the brush.

Related: Dealing With the Dreaded Nail Clipping

The main event

Next put some paste on your finger and let them lick it a bit. Once they get a taste for it, it’s time to put it on the brush and get started. You’ll want to start on one side of their mouth and brush at a 45-degree angle in a small circular motion, working your way around the mouth. Remember not to go too hard: You don’t want to hurt their gums. It should be a pleasant experience for you and your dog. Don’t forget to get those difficult-to-reach teeth in the back and don’t worry about brushing the interior; just focus on the exterior. If your dog growls or snaps at you, consult a trainer or your vet before continuing.

Ideally you’ll want to clean your dog’s teeth every day just like yours but most of us won’t wind up doing this. Just make sure to do it at least three of four times a week and your furry buddy should be fine.

Additional helpful tips

  • Start when they are young
  • Give them a treat or some other reward afterwards to associate teeth cleaning with something positive
  • Feed your dog dry kibble and plenty of chew toys. Nylabones and Greenies are great for helping prevent tartar or plaque buildup
  • Carrots are a great cheap and healthy treat that also help to clean your dog’s teeth

Related: 6 Tips on How to Care for Your Senior Dog

Other Ways to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth

(In no way are these tips a substitute for professional advice you’d receive from a trainer or veterinarian. If your dog is having issues, please consult a professional)

Image via Flickr

By Brett Dvoretz

A lifelong dog owner and former professional trainer, Brett has dealt with many dog related situations from training issues to learning to cope with the loss of a beloved pet. Recently he brought along his 130-pound mastiff to live with him in Cambodia and now spends his days freelance writing with his dog Ikelos, proofreading his every word for accuracy. For more, please visit his blog at

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