How Often to Brush a Dog’s Teeth And Other Tips on Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

Can you imagine how your mouth would feel if you didn’t brush your teeth for a week? How about a month? A year? That’s how many dogs feel. So, if you’re wondering how often to brush a dog’s teeth, how to brush your dog’s teeth and why you should do it, let’s take a look at some answers in honor of National Pet Dental Health Month.

First, how often to brush a dog’s teeth

Dog brushing teeth.

Wondering how often to brush a dog’s teeth? You’re not alone. Photography by Seregraff / Shutterstock.

“Daily brushing is the gold standard of preventing periodontal disease,” explains John Huff, DVM, FAVD, Dipl. AVDC, a board-certified veterinary dentist at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colorado.

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth that forms plaque on the teeth. Plaque hardens into calculus. Plaque and calculus under the gum line wreaks havoc on your dog’s mouth, leading to gum inflammation, bleeding and tooth loss.

Periodontal disease affects your dog’s entire body — not just the mouth

Studies have shown that dental disease in dogs can lead to heart disease, liver disease and kidney disease. Your dog’s overall health is directly related to the health of his mouth.

Why you should brush your dog’s teeth often

Each time you brush, the clock is ticking.

“Plaque reforms in 24 hours and tartar forms in three to five days,” Dr. Huff said. “Once there’s tartar on the teeth, the brush can’t remove that because it’s calcified. So the recommendation is daily brushing, but the minimum is every other day.”

Can’t remember how often to brush your dog’s teeth? Here’s a great tip

“My clients who are successful at home care brush their pets’ teeth when they brush their own teeth,” Huff said. “Just make sure you don’t switch toothbrushes!”

The right toothpaste can make a difference as to how your brush your dog’s teeth

A great way to get your dog on board with daily brushing is to find a toothpaste flavor he really likes. Pet toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors designed to tantalize your pooch’s taste buds.

“My Italian Greyhound loves vanilla-mint, and my Lab liked poultry,” Huff says. “I’ve tasted them both and vanilla-mint’s way better! I don’t really have any interest in brushing my teeth with duck-flavored tooth paste.” (Neither do we!)

Don’t forget, never use human toothpaste on your dog’s teeth — our paste is designed to be spit out, something you might have a hard time teaching your dog to do!

What if your dog hates having his teeth brush?

If you didn’t introduce your dog to a toothbrush in puppyhood, he might balk at the idea.

“They have to like it because if they don’t like it, it just never works,” Huff explains. “You can’t pin animals down and shove a toothbrush in their mouths because then they’ll just hate you. It’s really training, just like you train to sit or stay or come or any kind of behavior that you’re trying to modify. You have to start slow.”

Still stumped on how to brush your dog’s teeth? Some training tips:

  1. First, use your finger to let your dog lick a little pet toothpaste.
  2. Next, wrap your finger with a piece of gauze, smear it with a little toothpaste, and gently wipe his teeth. Praise him for letting you do it.
  3. Later you can graduate to using a toothbrush with toothpaste. Brush just a few teeth at a time and go slow.
  4. As he starts feeling more comfortable, gradually brush more teeth until his entire mouth is fresh and clean.

Thumbnail: Photography by mykeyruna / Shutterstock.

Read more about dog dental care on Dogster.com:

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The Top 5 Show Dogs of 2017: Who Will Win The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?

The five top show dogs of 2017 ran tight races and clocked thousands upon thousands of miles in the air and on the ground to compete at dog shows across the country. Every week, every step of the way, they were accompanied by their intrepid professional handlers, teams of assistants who kept the dogs fit and happy on the road, and devoted, single-minded owners. For keeping their collective eye on the prize, they triumphed in the toughest of competitions. So, who will win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? Learn a bit about each of the top show dogs of 2017:

‘Ty’ the Giant Schnauzer.

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Grand Champion Ingebar’s Tynan Dances with Wildflowers and his handler, Katie Bernardin, ended 2017 as the No. 1 show dog in the country, with 69 all-breed Best in Show wins to his credit. What an elegant pair these two made, flying around the ring as one; young blonde Katie and athletic Ty, in his crisp, jet-black, wiry coat. The Giant Schnauzer is a powerhouse of a dog, combining strength and style. This is the largest of the three Schnauzer breeds, renowned in his native Germany as an agile police and service dog, as well as a fearless guardian of family and home.

‘Preston’ the Puli.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3jUS1r9LGU] No. 2 was Grand Champion Cordmaker Mister Blue Sky, the latest in a string of top Puli winners bred by Sue Huebner at her world-famous Cordmaker Kennels in Australia. This indomitable Puli was the No. 1 dog in the nation in 2016 and certainly thrilled his fans in a second year of campaigning, handled as always by Linda Pitts. This is the ancient sheepdog of Hungary, believed to have been working livestock as early as 4,500 BC. The amazing rope-like cords (or “dreadlocks”) that cover the dog protect him from the harsh elements, as well as marauding predators.

‘Striker’ the Cocker Spaniel.

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Honors for No. 3 dog went to the chocolate brown ASCOB Cocker Spaniel Grand Champion Silverhall Strike Force. ASCOB is one of three varieties of Cockers, and stands for “any solid color other than black.” The other two varieties are Black and Parti-Color (white with markings of black or red). Striker is professionally handled by Michael Pitts, husband of Linda, who showed Preston. The Pitts and their charges ended up competing in the same Best in Show ring on many occasions. Cocker Spaniels started out as a single breed in the United Kingdom, bred to hunt the Eurasian woodcock. When the breed was brought to the United States, it was bred to a different standard, to produce a slightly smaller dog than the English Cocker. The American Cocker was the most popular breed in America from 1936 through 1952, and regained that top spot from 1983 to 1990.

‘Flynn’ the Bichon Frise.

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Grand Champion Belle Creek’s All I Care About Is Love captured the No. 4 spot last year. A West Coast contender, Flynn the animated powder puff, charmed judges from coast to coast, professionally handled by Bill McFadden. The breed name translates from the French as “curly-haired lap dog,” although the family of diminutive white dogs known as the bichons is originally Spanish. Because of their jolly disposition, the dogs were used as barter by sailors as they traveled from continent to continent. They became popular with the Italian nobility and, in France, found favor doing tricks in circuses.

‘Nik’ the Akita.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x80NwfuXQLw] Grand Champion Mojo’s Continuation of a Myth rounds out the Top 5 show dogs of 2017. This imposing dog made his presence felt in Working Groups around the country in 2016 and 2017. The breed is considered a national treasure in Japan, a protector of the home and a symbol of good health. When a child is born in Japan the family often receives the gift of a small Akita statue, to represent health, happiness and long life. In times of illness an Akita statue is sent to wish the patient quick healing. Helen Keller is credited with bringing the first Akita to America in 1937. American servicemen of the occupational forces admired the breed’s intelligence and brought Akitas home to their families following World War II.

Stay tuned for more Westminster coverage on our site, our Instagram, our Facebook and our Twitter.

Thumbnail: Rumor, the German Shepherd Dog who won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last year. Photography courtesy Westminster Kennel Club.

Tell us: Who do you think will win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? Cast your vote on Dogster’s Facebook page!

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4 Dog Sounds And What They Mean

Living with dogs means constantly living with sound. From the click-click of paws on wooden floors to the dying squeaks of a toy being destroyed to the occasional odd thump. Add that to other common dog sounds — like barking, howling, whining and growling, to name a few — and you’ve got a whole lot of noise.

Have you ever wondered what those different dog sounds mean? Let’s take a look at the most popular sounds dogs make, find out what they mean and why dogs make these sounds.

Dog Barking — Why Do Dogs Bark?

A dog barking and a woman telling him to hush.

Why do dogs bark? Photography by 1905hkn/istock.

Dogs bark. It’s kind of their thing. They do it for a number of reasons though, as Dogster author Sassafras Lowrey writes in her article, Why Do Dogs Bark? Reasons Dogs Bark and How to Stop Excessive Dog Barking.

“Dogs bark if they are anxious, excited, bored and seeking attention, or in response to other dogs,” she writes. “Researchers at Eotvos Lorand University, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, studied the way that people interpret and understand dog vocalizations. They found that low-pitched vocalizations tend to indicate that a dog feels threatened or upset, whereas high-pitched sounds tend to mean a dog wants to engage with someone or something. However, long, high-pitched sounds might mean a dog is anxious or fearful.”

Dog Howling — Who Do Dogs Howl?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdQJVGZmp-E] There’s nothing quite like the sight of a dog throwing back his head and letting out a deep, long howl like he’s reconnecting with the wolf inside him.

So, why do dogs howl? The reason for this dog sound are many, as explained in the Dogster article, Why Do Dogs Howl? 5 Reasons. It could be that your dog is howling for the same reasons his wild cousins do: To announce his location to the pack; to tell others to stay away because this is his territory; to vocalize pain. Some dogs also howl to attract attention to themselves or because they’re lonely. And some dogs hear howling, and like to join in, like in the video above.

And, of course, a lot of dogs howl whenever they hear sirens. It’s hard to say why, but it seems almost universal, like they know something is wrong when the sirens go by.

Dog Whining — Why Do Dogs Whine?

A dog with whale eyes, whining or otherwise upset.

Why do dogs whine? Photography ©damedeeso | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Just like other dog vocalizations, dog whining occurs for a few different reasons. A lot of dogs whine when they’re in pain, according to the Dogster article, Ask a Vet: Why is My Dog Whining All the Time? Usually a dog whining from pain is temporary. However, any long-term whining might happen because your dog is bored or anxious. As veterinarian Dr. Eric Barchas writes, “Other possible causes include fear or anxiety, excitement… certain metabolic or glandular disruptions, exposure to toxic substances, neurological problems and cognitive changes.”

Since the reasons dogs whine are so vast and might be related to pain or neurological problems, it’s important to figure out why your dog is whining. Is it because he’s bored, or is something wrong and he needs a trip to the vet? Look for other signs in your environment to give you clues. For example, if your dog is whining and shoving his chewed-up tennis ball onto your lap, that probably doesn’t warrant a trip to the vet. Redirect a bored dog to more positive behaviors. However, if your dog is whining and also exhibiting other symptoms of injury or illness, get to the vet ASAP.

Dog Growling — Why Do Dogs Growl?

Why do dogs growl? Photography ©Volodymyr_Plysiuk | Thinkstock.

When dogs growl, it can be scary. However, there are times when you should worry about a growling dog, and other times when this behavior is pretty normal. It all depends on the context.

That’s according to the Dogster article, 4 Things You Should Know About Dog Growling. Author Sara Reusche writes, “Dogs growl for a variety of reasons. Fear, insecurity, guarding behavior, offensive aggression and play can all elicit dog growling, although to an expert these growls are each unique in their tone and pitch. Outside of play, growling serves as a warning that all is not well in the dog’s world. Something is off, and our dog is doing us the courtesy of sharing that information.”

Because dogs growl for various reasons, it’s important to quickly figure out why. A dog growling is often the first sign that a dog feels threatened and might bite. If you hear your dog growl, say when there’s a person approaching to try to pet him, look for other signs of a dog ready to bite. Those include:

  • lip licking
  • ears slicking back
  • body going stiff
  • tail tucked between legs
  • hard stares
  • whale eyes

The Bottom Line on Dog Sounds

A dog on a harness and leash barking.

Is your dog quiet or talkative? Photography ©alexei_tm | Thinkstock.

Now that you know the sounds dogs make, did you know some dogs use sounds to communicate more than others? My German Shepherd Dog Forest is constantly making sounds: Yipping when he’s playing, whining when bored or even sounds that seem like he’s “talking” back to me when I’m talking to him. That’s because German Shepherd Dogs were bred to be a little more vocal, since guard dogs like him need to use sound to warn people. He’s not the most talkative dog breed out there though: Check out this list of the top 10 talkative dog breeds.

Not all dogs are as vocal, though. Nadia Caffesse, a photographer for Full Tilt Photography in Austin, Texas, has two Jack Russell/Chihuahua mixes and says, “My dogs rarely bark or whine to communicate with us or each other. They give a burst of short, warning barks when they hear or see someone outside the front of the house. They whine at the door to the garage when they hear us coming in — the whine is an excited, anticipatory sound. It’s usually more insistent when someone they don’t know (but we do) is coming in with us.”

Not that any of her dogs are silent, mind you. “Mostly, my dogs are grumbly,” Caffesse says. “They make grumbling or huffing noises when they change sleeping positions, they make wheezing fake-barks — it’s an anxious sound, but not a whine — when my neighbor is walking along the fence. [My female dog] Lola makes what I call ‘piggy noises’ when she’s excited for a meal or a treat. And she really does sound like a snuffling/rooting pig. It’s weird.”

Even dogs you think might be talkative don’t always talk. For example, Lara Crigger, a staff writer for ETF.com who is based in New Orleans, has a Beagle/Lab mix who doesn’t say much at all. “[My dog] Bootes isn’t really a talkative girl,” she tells us. “She’s more of the ‘give you a passive-aggressive look until you move over and let her on the couch already, you monster’ type,” Crigger says. “She barks, but mostly it’s just a ‘stay-away-intruder’ bark. Occasionally, she’ll bark to be let back inside from the backyard, and that’s a short, sharp, ‘Hey, human!’ bark. If she whines, something is very wrong and she’s in a lot of pain or she’s terrified.”

Thumbnail: Photography ©violet-blue | Thinkstock.

Tell us: Is your dog talkative? What sounds does he make? What do you think are the weirdest dog sounds?

Read more about dog behavior on Dogster.com:

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Your Dog Dislikes Certain People For a Reason.

You might have noticed that your dog tends to avoid certain people in your circle of friends and family for no obvious reasons. On the other hand you might find it to be very friendly with some strangers. This contradictory behavior shown by your pooch can be really confusing for a clueless owner. You definitely want to know your dog better and even help it feel more comfortable around humans.

Why your dog avoids or growls at some people is explainable, so relax and read below:

Why your dog avoids or growls at some people is explainable, so relax and read below:

  1. Body movements & postures: Humans can offend canines with their conscious/unconscious body movements and postures. For instance making direct eye contact with a dog is communicated as being a threat to it. Trying to hug a dog or bending over it are also not perceived positively by a canine. Humans must also avoid inconsistent gestures/movements in front of a canine.

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  1. The way you speak: A pooch tends to react to the sound of words spoken by humans. It assesses the quality, pitch, strength and source of the sounds before giving out a reaction. In 2016 a study by scientists found out that a dog’s brain responds to the tone of a person’s voice talking to it.

     As per this study a canine brain’s reward centers get activated upon listening to happy & high-pitched voices. The reaction is positive to people linked with such sounds. Dogs are welcoming towards such people. Humans who sounded angry or had a deep voice were either ignored by canines or received negative reactions from them in the experiment. Image - people.com

    As per this study a canine brain’s reward centers get activated upon listening to happy & high-pitched voices. The reaction is positive to people linked with such sounds. Dogs are welcoming towards such people. Humans who sounded angry or had a deep voice were either ignored by canines or received negative reactions from them in the experiment. Image – people.com

  1. Smell: Sometimes how a person smells can make a huge difference in being accepted by a dog. When a dog isn’t friendly with other dogs it will naturally dislike a human that smells like a canine. If the four legged chap doesn’t like the way you smell it can draw him/her away from you.

     Smell of Vinegar, mothballs, citrus odors, rubbing alcohol are especially detested by dogs. Image - www.insidedogsworld.com

    Smell of Vinegar, mothballs, citrus odors, rubbing alcohol are especially detested by dogs. Image – www.insidedogsworld.com

  1. Your pet will take cues from the way people deal/interact with you to form an opinion of them: A study was conducted by researchers at Kyoto University, Japan that involved the concept of social eavesdropping in relation to responses given out by dogs.
    Social eavesdropping is observing how humans interact with each other in certain situations. Dogs constantly watch their owners interact with other humans and based on these observations segregate people into being kind or rude. Image - www.cesarsway.com

    Social eavesdropping is observing how humans interact with each other in certain situations. Dogs constantly watch their owners interact with other humans and based on these observations segregate people into being kind or rude. Image – www.cesarsway.com

    The Kyoto Experiment involved more than 50 canines along with their owners. The experiment involved situations that were decided and rehearsed by dog owners and actors before hand. In the final and actual act pet dogs were made to witness their owners’ unsuccessful attempts at opening a clear container with a vinyl tape roll in it. Divided into three groups, the first group had owners that had to ask for help from an actor and the latter helps them in opening the container. In the second set up the indifferent actor refuses to help the dog parent. The third group involved owners that do not ask for help and the actor remains neutral. The reason for using a vinyl tape in this experiment was to use an item that is of no use to dogs. They therefore formed their opinions of the person/actor being helpful or unhelpful without being influenced by any reward.
    Simpson dog gif

Later in the final stage of the experiment the unhelpful actor, the helpful actor and the neutral one were made to offer treats to these canines. The dogs did not want to take treats from the unhelpful person. However happily accepted treats from the cooperative actor and the neutral person. It was seen how dogs changed their behavior/response towards the uncooperative person and formulated a negative opinion for this actor. The conclusion clearly points to the possibility of your pooch disliking someone who is often rude to you.

  1. Something Negative Experienced in the Past by your Pet: If you adopted your dog from a shelter-home chances are he/she had a traumatic past and suffered abandonment. The dog may have suffered abuse and neglect by its previous owner. This can have a lasting impact on the pooch even after being rescued and adopted by a loving family. The dog can display a lack of trust in humans and some situations can create immense fear in it that remind the pooch of some unpleasant past events. It has been observed how some rescue dogs feel uncomfortable and distressed around men but seek comfort in women. The reason for this points to them being abused by a man previously. So the dog will react negatively to any person that reminds it of its torturous past. Gender, physical traits and race of a person can elicit fear/ negative response in a pooch.

So if your pet dog growls at or avoids/dislikes certain people it could be linked to negative interactions you’ve had with these people. Or there could be others factors discussed above responsible for its aversion to certain individuals. Therefore dogs can be pretty much hard to please and even their favorite treats may fail to win them over when offered by some folks.