Brushing a Reactive Dog’s Teeth

As you know, reactive dogs are afraid of many things. Oreo is afraid of ANYTHING new. I reward her when she explores new things without growling, barking, etc. However, if you put anything new near her face, she’s very likely to back away, run away, or if continuing to put it near her face, snap at you. Why worry about brushing your dog’s teeth? Dog’s teeth need to be brushed just like ours do-they get tartar and have problems. If you’ve ever had to get your dog’s teeth cleaned-it’s also very expensive. Recently the vet mentioned Oreo is getting tartar so I need to brush her teeth. Whether your dog is reactive or not, steps should be taken to familiarize your dog with toothpaste and a toothbrush. (*FYI-don’t use regular toothpaste, there are special dog toothpastes. Don’t use adult toothbrushes either, stick to children and soft bristled.)

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Here are some tips that helped Oreo love toothpaste & her toothbrush:

  • Most important FIND A TOOTHPASTE FLAVOR THEY LOVE!!! I can’t stress this enough-I have tried a few brands/flavors with Oreo and she hates certain ones and tolerates others. However, the CET Poultry flavor-she LOVES! I pull that toothbrush out and her tail wags and she runs towards me-sometimes she is licking it so much it’s hard to get to her teeth to brush!
  • Take baby steps-Don’t thrust the toothbrush at your dog’s face right away.
    • First familiarize your dog with the toothpaste. Put some on your finger and see if your dog likes it. If not, try another toothpaste. If your dog won’t take from your finger or let you near them, don’t worry about brushing their teeth right now-work on building a relationship and working with a professional positive trainer. If your dog won’t let you touch and manipulate their muzzle and mouth-work on that (touch their mouth, lift a lip-click treat! Teach them good things happen when you are touching their face/mouth.)
    • At this step you can either skip to the next step, or if your dog really doesn’t like things near/in their mouth, use your finger or a finger brush (you can find them at pet stores near the toothpaste-they fit over your finger). This will familiarize them with brushing their teeth without sticking a toothbrush in their mouth (it could be scary!)
    • Next you can put the yummy toothpaste on the brush and let your dog lick it. Depending on how scared your dog is you may want to do this a few days so your pup knows the toothbrush brings good things. Some dogs may need more time for this step, while others don’t.
    • Use the brush in your dog’s mouth to brush the outer sides of the teeth-don’t brush hard, be gentle. Do this for weeks. You may want to treat your dog in the beginning to reward them. Don’t keep the brush in their too long-start small at first-a few seconds if that is suitable for your dog. If your dog is happy, continue longer but stop in the beginning to reward them.
    • If your dog isn’t comfortable with you opening their mouth wide, and clamps their mouth shut when brushing their teeth, work for weeks (or days) on opening their mouth (NOT FORCIBLY).  Treat your dog when you put your hand on their snout (not over their nose-behind it). Work your way to opening their mouth gently and treat them each time. When your dog is comfortable this is when you can brush the inside of their teeth (I haven’t worked up to this yet with Oreo-but am working on it now).

It’s really up to you-how to pace introducing the toothbrush and toothpaste & how often you can brush their teeth. It is recommended that this is done daily, but if not a few times a week. Just remember-baby steps-for some people their dogs will love it right away-for others you may work on it for weeks or months-or perhaps never perfect it. However, remember your dog needs their teeth brushed so it’s important to work on this with your dog. Do you brush your dog’s teeth? How often?

Planning a Vacation With a Reactive Dog

Planning a vacation with a reactive dog isn’t always easy, but there are some tips I will share that helped us have a wonderful vacation with our reactive pup, Oreo.

  • First, rent a cabin/house instead of a condo or hotel room if possible. This will ensure less noise and intrusions.
  • When renting a place make sure it is reactive dog friendly, by that I mean make sure it meets your dog’s needs. Sometimes rental companies or owners don’t disclose to you right away that your dog has to be in a crate when you leave, or other dog related issues. Oreo is deathly afraid of crates, therefore we did some serious house hunting before we found the right one. Read the contract carefully.  If it’s in the contract you must follow the dog rules.
  • Bring your dog’s favorite things! Anything that can make your pup more comfortable is great. I brought Oreo’s favorite toys, her bed and food bowls.
  • Make sure to bring something to keep your dog busy if you are away. We were away for many hours at a time exploring the Smoky Mountains and Oreo was free walking through the house. I brought her kong and another toy stick I could stuff with treats. I made sure they were extra special treats like pieces of cheese.

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  • Make the trip a vacation for your pup too! Don’t forget to walk/run around with your dog and explore new areas. However, make sure you watch for other dogs/people or whatever your dog is afraid of. We stayed in the yard and walked around the “neighborhood”, which wasn’t crowded. Also-I brought some special new toys for her-ended up she didn’t really need them since she loved the place-but it would’ve been handy in case she was stressed.
  • When renting a house, make sure it is semi-private. You don’t want to be worrying about your dog barking & stressing while you are on vacation. Find a place where you aren’t right up against a neighbor. Maybe they have a fence, maybe a large yard. In our case we had a house at the end of a road. The other houses weren’t so far away-probably only 50-80 feet away. However, our deck we sat on faced the quiet woods. There were bushes and trees between some of the houses. This ensured we could all relax in quiet and she couldn’t look out windows and see other people/dogs.

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  • Bring something to calm your dog down-just in case. I brought Oreo’s ThunderShirt. I used it when we first got there-but she didn’t really need it anymore-she loved the house. In fact-she behaved better there-super quiet with not many people or animals to drive her crazy!
  • This probably goes without saying-but if you are vacationing with other people-make sure your dog is comfortable with them-otherwise leave your pup home.
Oreo loved hanging outside on the deck in the quiet.

Oreo loved hanging outside on the deck in the quiet.

We went to the Smoky Mountains for the week with my parents & Oreo. I was very worried so I over packed dog supplies. I prepackaged all of her food in portions with her medicines to make it easy. We made sure to walk her and spend time outside with her. Every time we left I left the tv on for noise and put some treats in her Kong. She hardly barked the entire time and didn’t seem stressed at all! Don’t forget if you are driving a far way (we drove 10 hours!) make sure to stop at plenty of rest stops to take fido out and give him/her water. If you plan, you can have a fun trip with your pooch!!

Here are some pictures from the vacation.

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