Skip to Content

How to Brush Your Small Dog’s Teeth

Share this post!


At the bottom of this document, you will find a link to the PDF that you can print out and keep with you for reference and the video that shows you how to brush your dog’s teeth.

NOTE: Any products mentioned or recommended can be found here.

Tools You Need

Tooth brush supplies

  • Toothbrush or finger brush. In a pinch you can use a baby or child’s toothbrush.
  • Toothpaste. I have found the kind that has beef or poultry flavors work best since my dogs actually like it. Never use human toothpaste as it is dangerous for your dog.
  • Dental Treats. This is optional but recommended . 

If Your Dog Is Afraid Of Getting Their Teeth Brushed

Most dogs don’t like having fingers in their mouths. No wonder. We wouldn’t like it either.

So you may need to get your dog used to the idea of getting their teeth brushed before you actually do it. 

You want this to be a positive experience for them and one they actually look forward to. And yes, it is possible to get them to that point.

If your dog is really resistant or afraid of the toothbrush/finger brush:

If you have a dog who runs away or snaps at the sight of the toothbrush, try these steps before going on to the steps below:

  1. Show your dog the toothbrush and then give them a small treat. Do this several times. Let them check out the toothbrush if they want. As you give them the treat, say in a happy voice “Good Boy (or girl)”.
  2. Next with the toothbrush sitting in your lap, gently touch your dog’s body in different places with your fingertips, including their head and around their mouth area. If they allow you to do this, give them a treat and again praise them. 
  3. They need to get comfortable with you having their hands in their mouth, so practice gently opening their mouth  and gently touching the inside of it. Praise and reward afterwards. 
  4. Finally gently touch them in the same areas as in step 2 with the toothbrush (or with the finger brush on your finger if you are going to use that instead) and again reward them with a treat and praise.
  5. You may need to do this several times a day until they are comfortable and then move on to the next steps.

Here are the steps for getting them receptive for getting their teeth brushed:

  1. Keep the toothbrush in your lap so your dog can see it but don’t pick it up until step 8.
  2. Take a tiny drop of peanut butter (make sure it doesn’t have Xylitol), gravy or anything else your dog loves and put it on the tip of your finger. 
  3. Let your dog sniff it and lick it off if he wants.
  4. Put another bit on your fingertip and as your dog begins to lick it, gently rub your finger along the sides of the teeth and gums. 
  5. Do this several times a day for a day or so and then switch to their flavored toothpaste for another day or two.
  6. After each session, give them a small dental treat. This reinforces that this is a good thing.
  7. When your dog is comfortable with this process,  it’s time to switch to a finger brush. 
  8. If you prefer to use a toothbrush instead of a finger brush, add the toothpaste to the toothbrush and let your dog lick it off before trying to insert it into her mouth. You may need to do this for a day or two before trying to actually brush their teeth with the toothbrush.
  9. Some dogs will  start chewing on the toothbrush and that’s okay. They are  actually brushing their own teeth by doing this. Just keep an eye on them and take it away after 10 minutes or so.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Now that your dog is used to the toothbrush, it’s time to start brushing their teeth on a regular basis.

Here’s what to do:

brushing the teeth of chihuahua

  1. Use the toothbrush or your finger brush to gently open your dog’s mouth.
  2. Gently pull back the lips so you can reach the teeth on the sides. Do those first. You don’t have to worry about the inside of the teeth, focus on the outside of the teeth as that is where most of the plaque builds up.
  3. Brush the back teeth.
  4. Then work around to the front teeth. 
  5. You can do this in reverse order, just do it in whatever way it is easiest for your and your dog.
  6. When you are done, praise and give them a treat.

What You Can Do if Your Dog Refuses to Let You Brush Their Teeth

There are some things you can give your dog that will help with their teeth. Although they aren’t as good as actually brushing their teeth, they do help and are better than nothing.

Even if your dog does let you brush their teeth, adding a few of these things will definitely help keep them clean.

  • Plaque Gels and plaque sprays are  an option. You just squirt it in their mouth a few times a week.
  • Fresh veggies like baby carrots and partially frozen green beans not only make a healthy snack, but help remove plaque.
  •  Plaque Off powder works well. Just sprinkle it on your dog’s food once a day.
  • Chew toys are great and some of them are made so you can put your doggy toothpaste inside them. We like the one from ZHEBU.
  • Water additives to add to your dog’s drinking water can help.
  • Dental chews such as bully sticks, Greenies and other chews are not only entertaining for your dog, they help keep their teeth clean.

More Tips and Things You Should Know

  • Try different positions. Some pet parents lay the dog on the dog’s back in their lap. Some lay them on the side. And some have them sit up. Find what’s easiest for you and your dog.
  • Ideally you should brush your dog’s teeth every day. But even a few times a week will make a big difference. Just do what you can.
  • Be sure to adjust your attitude about brushing your dog’s teeth. If it seems like a chore you hate doing, your dog will pick up on this and dread it too. Instead use a happy, excited tone of voice like this is a really fun thing you are going to do together.
  • Practice, practice, practice. It may take weeks or months to get to where you are both comfortable with this. But it’s so worth it in the long run.

Here is the PDF of this post so you can print it off if you’d like: 

How to Brush Your Small Dog’s Teeth

And here’s the video: