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How to Make Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth A Habit

Cleaning our dog’s teeth. We all know it’s important. But for some of us, it’s something that seems hard to do regularly.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to do a better job of taking care of Baxter’s teeth. Now, it’s time for me to report on how I’m doing.

The answer?

Not great.


I have brushes and paste and chews and rinses. I have a relatively cooperative dog. I had a few nights in a row where I brushed his teeth right after dinner. But then I stopped.

I’ve decided that what I need is a habit.

I’ve heard it takes something like three weeks to establish a new habit.

I also know that goal setting isn’t enough on its own. I need a plan. So here is my plan to establish our new dental cleaning habit over the next three weeks.

How to make brushing your dog’s teeth a habit


I liked brushing teeth after dinner. We weren’t pressed for time, Baxter was pretty relaxed, my husband was home so we could tag team if we needed to. But then Baxter started going to bed before we finished eating. He ate his dinner, did a lap around the kitchen to make sure we hadn’t dropped anything and walked down the hall to the bedroom.

Getting him up or getting down on the floor to brush his teeth while he’s laying in bed are not ideal scenarios.

New plan: Brush teeth in the morning.

How to make a habit of brushing your dog's teeth


Mr. B has more brushes, flavours of toothpaste, sprays and rinses than I do. The regular toothbrush is easiest to maneuver around his mouth as opposed to the finger brush, and he seems okay with the taste of the dog toothpaste.

However, he has some tartar buildup on his teeth that’s too hard for the brush.

New plan: Add a tartar-softening rinse to his drinking water and find a scraper to try to remove the tartar.

Brushing your dog's teeth

Extra help

The comments on my last post and my own experience with Baxter confirm the biggest help for clean teeth is raw bones. We don’t feed raw (yet), so once a week we try to give Baxter a soup bone to chomp on.

The issues are we’re not consistent with every week, and I prefer he have the bones outside where he can lie down and chew for an hour or more. When he’s inside—like in the winter—he brings the bones to his bed. Yuck.

Baxter chewing on a raw soup bone

New plan: I’m not sure what I’m going to do here. Honestly, I may wait until the weather warms up to officially add bones to our routine. Spring is less than a month away now.

What else should I consider in my tooth cleaning plan?

How do you take care of your dog’s teeth?

See our article: I can’t afford a dental for my dog

Julia Preston is a regular writer for That Mutt. Visit her blog Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating.

Keith Amdur

Sunday 17th of December 2017

After our Vet told me that Emma Lou would not have much of her teeth left when she get`s older if I do not start brushing her teeth.She was three years old then and now she is four. I have to come clean I have not done a good job. She is still catching the tennis ball( she can catch a ball at 50 yards easy) which is sanding her teeth down and I am not cleaning her teeth often enough. After reading all who have written about this subject. My new year`s resolution is to do my very best to get and keep Emma Lou`s teeth in great condition. I feel really bad.Sorry, Emma Lou. Daddy is going to do a lot better.Thanks for all the great information.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 17th of December 2017

Don't feel bad, I think most of us struggle with this one.


Friday 21st of April 2017

I am lucky. I say...brushy brush and Spirit comes running and sits by the sink. I brush his teeth 3-4 times a week. He loves it.


Thursday 20th of April 2017

The comments are inspiring and I am going to give it another try to establish a teeth brushing routine. A question. Do you brush the under side as well as the front side? Probably a silly question but getting the back side of my dog's teeth when I find it challenging just to get the front side has me wondering how much gets brushed.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 20th of April 2017

I think ideally yes but you do what you can!

Cheri Fellinger

Thursday 20th of April 2017

My older Shibas are total angels about tooth brushing. I even use the electric tooth brush on them. They always look a little indignant afterward but the lick and feel their clean teeth and seem to understand I am cleaning their teeth. I take lots of breaks to praise and treat them when they are young and they all seem to accept it as part of weekly maintenance.

Deanne Rader

Wednesday 15th of March 2017

I've had three standard poodles and they all were and now our new puppy is very good while I brush or scrape their teeth. The doggie scraper can get tarter close to the gum. My two 13 year old poodles had beautiful white teeth and had all their teeth when they died. Poodles are used to getting groomed all the time so it's easier I think with them.