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Positive Dog Parenting®

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Destructive Chewing

Pet Professional Tip

Provide kongs. 
Put canned food inside,  then freeze.

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Step 1 – Start With A Relaxed Dog And No Toothbrush

Start by giving your dog a body massage with occasional small food treats.  If the dog is hyper-excited about the treats, either use a less exciting treat or phase treats out by emphasizing petting and praise. Focus your gentle massage on the face and begin to massage the cheeks using the same circular motion you will later use to brush the teeth.

Step 2 – Introduce The Toothpaste On Your Finger

Hold your dog the same as when you are cuddling her. Once the dog is comfortable with your finger massage of her cheeks, place a dab of toothpaste on your finger and let her taste it. If she likes it, give another dab, but try to place it in a different area of the mouth such as between the teeth and cheek.

Step 3 – Introduce the Finger Brush

Before introducing the brush, an intermediate step is to use a finger brush (CET Finger Brush™) that fits over a finger, but has some small bristles. Put a dab of the paste on this tool, and begin to rub the paste on just one or two teeth.  Try to stop the session before the dog starts struggling. If it becomes a wrestling match, brushing will not easy or fun. The goal is to go slowly and keep it enjoyable for the dog. 

Step 4 - Introduce the Toothbrush

Place a small amount of toothpaste on the dog toothbrush.  Let the dog lick the material off the brush. The second or third dab, put the brush against a tooth and smear the paste. In a gentle circular motion, brush only one or two teeth then give it a break. Be gentle, use a happy tone, lots of praise, and intermittent treats. The purpose of this step is to get your dog accustomed to the feel of the brush. If the brush is repeatedly rejected, try beginning with a cotton tipped applicator, then reintroduce the brush later.
The goal is to go slowly and keep it enjoyable for the dog.  Be gentle, use a happy tone, lots of praise, and intermittent treats.

Step 5 - Begin Brushing

It might take several sessions to gradually increase the number of teeth brushed. The goal is to eventually brush the rear teeth where plaque and tartar have a greater tendency to accumulate.  Go slowly and gently.  Stop brushing before your dog begins to fuss, or she might learn fussing works.  Build up to about 30 seconds per side. Dogs build up much tartar on the inside surfaces of their teeth, so focus on the outside surfaces. Once things are going well, focus attention on the big teeth in back. 

Step 6 – Between Brushing

Dental tartar and plaque start building up six to eight hours after the last brushing, so the goal is to brush daily, and have some auxiliary strategies.  Some veterinarians suggest bones, but these are controversial. It is possible to break teeth, or get intestinal obstruction. However, this is the exception, and many dogs chew bones for life without a problem. The key is to introduce chews early with careful supervision and to follow these guidelines.

Feed dry food not canned food or dry food with moisture added.

2.  Give treats that also clean the teeth: e.g. Dentabone™ (Waltham); CET Chews™ (Vibrac)

3.  Play pull games with dental cleaning rope toys but don't allow canine teeth on human skin or clothes

Teach positive chewing

If possible, introduce rawhide chews (and other desirable chew toys) when the dog is still a puppy. Give rawhides for short periods of time (e.g., 10 minutes), then "trade up." This means request a "sit," and offer a tastier treat so that the dog surrenders the chew voluntarily. Don't allow novice dogs to chew rawhides unsupervised as they may in fact swallow too much at once and get sick. Remove and replace the chew when it is small enough to be swallowed.

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