I need to come clean about brushing my Goldendoodle’s teeth and my dog’s dental health. I must confess that, while the topic of doggie toothbrushing is near and dear to my heart now, it wasn’t always that way.
Here’s what brought me to my doggie senses about brushing my Goldendoodle’s teeth, and why I’m so passionate about canine dental care.
Why I brush my Goldendoodle dog’s teeth
When Chloe (my comical F1B Goldendoodle) turned two years old, I took her annual veterinary well-check visit.
After examining her teeth and gums, our veterinarian explained to me that she had the teeth of a 7-year-old dog. (That’s not quite senior Goldendoodle dog status.)
The problem with sporadic toothbrushing
Chloe’s arch-nemesis? Plaque and food particles that loved to lurk in the back of her jowls.
My half-hearted attempts at toothbrushing couldn’t win the battle when plaque was forming 24/7 on her teeth, especially the ones in the back of my dog’s mouth.
It was time for me to tackle toothbrushing with more vigor and make it part of our lifestyle, just like our other Goldendoodle grooming routines.
But why did my Goldendoodle have such a time with her teeth at such a young age?
The contributing factors were two-fold: her DNA and my sporadic attempts with at-home dental care and toothbrushing.
Here’s how my vet explained plaque to me
Our veterinarian used an analogy between plaque build-up and drying paint. This analogy “stuck” with me. Maybe it will stick with you too.
Here’s how he painted the picture of what was going on inside my Goldendoodle dog’s mouth:
Imagine plaque as freshly applied paint. At first, it’s easy to wipe fresh paint off a surface, say a wall. After a bit, it starts to dry. You can still wipe it away, but it’s sticking on. Finally, the paint adheres to the surface and you can’t get it off.
Plaque is like drying paint.
The same is true for plaque build-up on a dog’s teeth. Within a few hours after eating, plaque “paints” the surface of the canine teeth. After a while, it turns into tartar and sticks—like dried paint sticks to a wall.
In fact, it takes less than 12 hours for that “paint” (a.k.a. gunky bacteria to adhere to the tooth surface, absorb calcium from saliva and become mineralized to form tartar) to dry.
That’s why daily brushing is critical.
The longer I waited to brush, the more time all that crud had to stick to the surface of my Goldendoodle’s teeth. What does that mean for our dogs?
If plaque had a slogan, it might be this:
“Plaque on the teeth and by the gums? Dental disease here it comes! ”—Happy-Go-Doodle
Like paint on a wall, the more time plaque had to adhere to my Goldendoodle dog’s teeth, the higher Chloe’s chance for future issues.
In fact, dogs can suffer dental issues such as tooth loss, tooth extractions, and periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease causes gums to eventually recede and bacteria can enter the dog’s bloodstream. There is a chance it could spread to other organs, such as the heart.
After a professional cleaning under anesthesia by the vet, I set out to battle plaque build-up with more gusto.
How I learned to consistently brush my Goldendoodle dog’s teeth
Since that vet visit, I’ve become successful at consistently brushing my Goldendoodle’s teeth.
You might think that it was my own determination or maybe a special toothbrush that inspired my change of behavior.
Actually, it was better than that.
What was my secret? The four-legged fluffy Muppet of a dog who sat in front of me with a happy smile…waiting patiently.
Yes, my Goldendoodle was not only my motivator but also my personal alarm clock.
She loves schedules and once one was established for toothbrushing, she was consistent in reminding me of our nightly routine.
My Goldendoodle quickly learned that dental care equaled “tasty treat time” and gave me the classic head tilt, plopped her fluffy butt in front of me at the appropriate time, and waited for her favorite words, “Do you want your teeth brushed?”
Her excitement bubbled over and made the daily ritual fun for both of us.
4Ps for successful Goldendoodle teeth cleaning
Because of my own Goldendoodle’s eagerness and enthusiasm, toothbrushing is now a bonding experience that we both enjoy.
Even though she’s genetically inclined to having teeth issues, we’re beating it with a daily protocol.
Here are my “4Ps” of dog dental care: PUPeration, PAWsitivity, Polish, and Patience.
- PUPeration: Prep your pup for a lifelong journey to happy dental care by starting early. Don’t do as I did and start out haphazardly. Make a commitment when your dog is a puppy by talking with your vet and putting a plan in place.
- PAWsitivity: Make every single step positive and enjoyable. Use heaping amounts of love and praise and make sure your dog is enjoying every step in the process.
- Polish: According to integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby, the toothpaste makes the process more fun and enjoyable for the dog, but it’s the the rubbing that does the job. Polishing or gently rubbing in a circular motion along the teeth and gum line breaks down the crud on the teeth.
- Patience: Toothbrushing is not a natural activity for a Goldendoodle or any dog. Plan to have patience, take your time, and most of all, have fun!
What you’ll need to brush your Goldendoodle’s teeth
Please note the word “dog” in front of “toothpaste.” It’s critical that I share a word of warning with you about human toothpaste. DOGS SHOULD NOT have human toothpaste.
For more information on why NOT to give your dog human toothpaste, please check out this article from integrative veterinarian Dr. Buzby, Why Human Toothpaste is Bad For Your Dog.
Dog toothpaste plays a key role in making the experience fun and tasty for your dog. There are a variety of dog-friendly flavors to choose from.
My Goldendoodle’s favorite flavor is poultry because it tastes like…yes, you got it…chicken.
The only other tool you’ll need is a toothbrush. The size of the toothbrush will depend on the size of your dog.
I have used a SOFT human toothbrush because it gives me more control than the short finger brushes that seemed to always fall off my finger. I’ve also used a dog toothbrush.
In addition to toothbrushes and finger brushes, some people prefer to use tooth wipes—soft, disposable wipes that you can use over your finger to gently rub the teeth.
How I introduced toothbrushing to my Goldendoodle
A little time and preparation can help your dog get comfortable (and even excited) about toothbrushing.
Note: If your dog is at all apprehensive about having the mouth or teeth touched, don’t tackle toothbrushing. Rather, speak with your veterinarian.
Prep: Set yourself and your dog up for success.
Talk with your vet about your dog’s dental health. Ask for a brushing demonstration or request recommendations for toothbrushing supplies.
The routine I established with my Goldendoodle started from the well-check visit and conversation with my vet. Your vet can share instructions that are personalized to your dog.
Step 1: Establish the time and place.
Choose a time and a place that will become “the spot” for your daily toothbrushing ritual.
I decided that I would brush Chloe’s teeth in the evenings while sitting on the couch.
I later transitioned to the bedroom. After I brush my teeth, Chloe hops on the bed and I brush hers.
Step 2: Introduce the dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste over time.
At the time and place you’ve chosen, simply ask your dog to come or sit down with your dog at the spot.
Have the toothpaste and toothbrush beside you. Reward your dog with lots of love and head rubs.
That’s it for day one. The goal is simply to put the routine in place and reward your dog.
Step 3: Allow your Goldendoodle to check out the toothbrush and toothpaste.
The next day, repeat step 2. However, this time hold the dog toothpaste tube in your hand. Reward with lots of love and praise and sweet talk.
I let let my Goldendoodle check out the toothpaste on her own terms. Also, I used a verbal cue. It seemed natural to tell Chloe what we’re doing.
“Time for toothbrushing!” became the phrase.
However, I do wish I’d chosen another word as I also use “brush” as the verbal cue for grooming her.
Step 4: Offer your Goldendoodle a bit of dog toothpaste on your finger.
The next day, repeat the above steps, but this time add a bit of dog toothpaste on your finger and let your dog come to it and lick it. Reward with lots of love and praise.
Step 5: Introduce finger brushing using your finger and dog toothpaste.
Building on the steps above, gradually add in touching the teeth with your finger after your dog has gotten a good lick of the dog toothpaste and loved it.
With my Goldendoodle, I gradually worked my way from touching her teeth to using my finger to rub along the outside of her back teeth by gently lifting her upper lip with one hand and rubbing her teeth with the finger on my other hand.
Step 6: Graduate from using your finger to using a soft bristled toothbrush.
Once your dog’s comfortable with your finger, graduate to using the toothbrush of choice. I graduated from my finger to a finger brush, and now I use a SOFT bristled toothbrush.
Step 7: Add in the circular motion
Add the circular motion. Once my Goldendoodle was comfortable with brushing, I focused on gently rubbing the teeth in a circular motion.
Step 8: Putting it all together
Put it all together. Once my Goldendoodle was comfortable and enjoying the new nightly routine, I focused on what I like to call the “compliment sandwich.”
Here are pictures along with the steps I follow for daily toothbrushing.
I start by letting Chloe lick some chicken-flavored dog toothpaste off the toothbrush.
I polish by moving the soft-bristled brush in a circular motion, especially focusing on Chloe’s problem teeth (top molars).
Note: from my research, unlike our own teeth, it’s less important to focus on getting the insides of the teeth (the side by the dog’s tongue) because the dog’s tongue is a natural “inside” polisher.
It’s the outside surfaces, those by the dog’s sides of her mouth, that are key.
The top back molars are critical for my dog.
In fact, I start with her back teeth first because that’s where a lot of crunching happens and food particles get socked away in the jowls.
I focus on the gum line and gently brush in a circular motion. Then I move to the front teeth.
Finally, I put a little more doggie toothpaste on the brush again so she gets to have one more chicken-flavored tasty treat. And I offer her plenty of verbal praise for a job well done.
The entire process takes about a minute or less.
How often should you brush your dog’s teeth?
If you’re wondering how often you should brush your dog’s teeth, the answer may sound like one you’d hear from your own dentist.
Twice daily tooth brushing is the gold standard and recommended by VCA Animal Hospitals. For many dog parents, once daily is more the norm.
On a related note, 95% of pet owners brush their own teeth, but only 8% brush their dogs’ teeth on a daily basis.
And only 1% brush their dogs’ teeth more than once a day.
For more information, check out this news article about dog toothbrushing research.
Professional dental cleanings and working with your vet
While I can’t change my Goldendoodle’s doggie DNA, I can give her healthy home dental care, take her in for yearly veterinary well-checks, and get her professional dental cleanings under anesthesia when my veterinarian recommends them. And a tooth brushing routine at home has been my weapon against plaque build-up.
If you’re ready to tackle toothbrushing or have questions about your dog’s dental health, I encourage you to speak with your veterinarian. It could change your dog’s life.
Thanks for stopping by our little corner of the world called HappyGoDoodle.com. By sharing our personal experience tackling Goldendoodle toothbrushing, I hope that you’ve found some helpful information. And, if you don’t already brush your dog’s teeth, I hope you feel encouraged to tackle toothbrushing too!
Together, we can help our dogs!
And that means helping our dogs live their very best, healthiest life.
P. S. At my Goldendoodle’s last vet visit she got a two “paws up” report. Chloe and I are all smiles!
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Note: I am not a veterinarian or a dog trainer. I am a Doodle Mom who strives to share helpful tips, what has worked for our dogs, and of course, spread some happiness and dog love along the way. Please speak with your veterinarian for all your dog’s needs.
Editorial Note: This post was originally published August 31, 2019. It has been updated with more information on dog toothbrushing.