Dear Lola,

My dog recently underwent a teeth cleaning procedure with poor results. The veterinarian found several teeth that needed to be pulled and signs of gum disease in the rest of his mouth. Needless to say, the doctor has recommended my dog brush his teeth daily and use a special additive in his water to prevent the issue from getting worse. My dog is fine with the change to his water bowl but he’s quite insistent that I do not brush his teeth. My veterinarian said I need to establish control – though he didn’t give any concrete ways to do this. I could really use some tips on teaching my old dog some new tricks before he loses all his teeth.


Befuddled By Cuspid

Dear Befuddled By Cuspid,

If there is one thing I wish every canine owner knew before they took their first beloved fur friend home, it’s that dental care is one of the most important aspects of health. Starting a daily dental routine as a young canine is much easier than learning it once our hips are a bit sore and we’re seeking a soft place to nap. Once you have started removing teeth we’re definitely less inclined to allow you near our mouths.

It’s not like you invite your colonoscopist over for dinner.

Luckily for you, I happen to be a canine of a certain age and I’ve given this matter a lot of thought. I’ve come up with the five most promising tactics to use on your fur friend. I’ve also taken care to list them in order of ‘most likely to be approved by the veterinarian’ all the way down to ‘completely desperate and without hope.’ If you reach stage five, your canine is winning and it’s time to call in the neighbors. Maybe he’ll listen to them!

Allow your canine to pick out his own toothbrush.

This tactic may sound familiar if the pitter patter of small feet is a constant in your home. Miniature Humans have been known to cause chaos when it comes to brushing teeth and we canines have taken notes. Just like those humans, we want a chance to pick out our favorite Disney character to de-stink our dentin. Unfortunately for you, the pet stores rarely carry any toothbrushes that aren’t standard white. You’ll have to go to the human store, buy one of every toothbrush, then present them to your canine for his choosing. That will leave you with about 25 extra toothbrushes that you can now use to clean every crack and crevice in your house.

Demonstrate proper technique by brushing your teeth in front of your canine.

Again, this is a standard technique that has played out twice a day in millions of homes across the world. Unfortunately for you, canines have about three seconds of interest in this boring display of humanness before we are utterly bored and in search of a ball to chase. To really capture our attention you’re going to have to get messy. Toothpaste should cover you from your hairline to your chin in order to ensure the proper level of attentiveness from your pupil. I must warn you, there will be licks – prepare to dodge a tongue!

Offer a toy reward when your canine cooperates.

I specifically mention a toy because the whole reason your canine is in this mess is because of edible rewards. Pick out a new toy and then offer it to your canine. As he reaches for it, be sure to pull it back quickly and then thrust the toothbrush into his face. He will immediately clamp his mouth shut, so be prepared to repeat the process…at least a thousand times. You’ll be utterly exhausted from the attempt, the toothbrush unused, but your canine will have a new friend for life. Or until he destroys the toy and leaves pieces of it in random corners of the house.

Use peanut butter in lieu of toothpaste.

Remember what I said about edible rewards? Forget all that. You’ve just tried to trick your canine into brushing his teeth a thousand times and you’re all tuckered out. It’s time to get down to business and brush those chompers. Don’t even bother with the peanut butter flavored toothpaste. It’s not peanut butter, the flavor is actually death, and we canines are not going anywhere near that poison. Your veterinarian is not going to be happy, but he hasn’t given you much choice in the matter. Be sure to remind him that he told you to establish control and you chose to do so with peanut butter!

Pin your canine to the floor and brush his teeth.

This is it. You have reached the stage of complete desperation and hope is now just a long lost ideology. You have no choice but to take your canine’s wishes and stuff them behind a sofa cushion, which, coincidentally, you’ll also need in order to keep your canine comfortable while he’s on his back with an unwanted toothbrush heading for his face. It is also where your canine is going to urinate when he is finally released by the human who dared to brush his teeth without his consent. Those who say revenge is a dish best served cold have never seen a human find a puddle of warm pee in their favorite lounging spot.

It’s probably best for you to sleep with one eye open.

Now that I’ve given you my top five tips for brushing your canine’s teeth, I have a few others that may be useful should these fail. Patience. I cannot stress enough how much patience you need to exhibit. Calmly present the toothbrush to your canine and then slowly try to brush the easiest teeth near the front. Never force the issue. Keep trying to brush your canine’s teeth, using moments when he is calm to advance your cause. If all else fails, seek out a groomer in your area who has experience with elderly canines. We’re usually on our best behavior for strangers who have advanced degrees in witchcraft with which to make us beautiful. Once your canine is comfortable with the procedure, he’s more likely to trust your amateur skills.


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