Brushing Teeth

Posted by jane53
Apr 9, 2010
I have a 14 month old male Pomeranian named Sammie. Sammie was recently neutered,and while at the Vet's office, I was told that his teeth are not the best. Because of his age, the Vet firmly believes this is a genetic problem. She wants me to start brushing Sammie's teeth at home to try and keep Sammie's teeth in good shape.

My problem is that Sammie is an aggressive Pomeranian, and is not at all happy with the idea of getting his teeth brushed. I have tried the dog tooth brush and the finger brush, and have let him taste the toothpaste by itself. It takes me and my husband to hold him while we are attempting to brush his teeth, and due to his aggressive nature, I am really afraid that I am going to create a monster if I can't find a solution to this problem.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to handle this situation?
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Apr 10, 2010
Hi Jane,

With regards to the dental care of Sammie, there are a few things that you can do to control the plaque build-up on his teeth. These include the toothbrushing that you are already doing, feeding him raw meaty bones and letting him chew on artificial bones and thick ropes. When feeding bones, you must be careful about the size of them and make sure they are raw to reduce the risk of choking or other problems. There are also commercially available diets that are abrasive and target tartar control in dogs. A range of these should be available from your vet and she will be able to advise on which will be the most suitable for Sammie. Some dogs are more predisposed to developing dental problems and periodontal disease and so you may just have to pay regular visits to your vet to have Sammie's teeth cleaned.

Many dogs don't like having their teeth brushed, especially if it was not begun when they were a puppy. Your vet may be able to advise on the method of cleaning that Sammie is most likely to be comfortable with.

When dealing with his aggression, you should look to retrain him using alpha dog principles. Although it may only seem like a small thing that he is being aggressive when you are brushing his teeth, this is in fact an indication that he sees himself as dominant over you and so he feels the right to 'discipline' you when he doesn't like what you are doing. You need to sort this out as soon as possible before it turns into something more serious. There are a few things that you can incorporate into your daily routine to re-establish yourself as the alpha dog. These include insisting that you walk ahead of him through doorways and when walking on the leash, and feeding him after you have finished your own meal. You must ignore him if he comes up to you for attention, as he has to learn that attention from you is earned and not just given out whenever he wants it. Before you pat him or play with him, give him a command, such as 'sit-stay' so that he will see that your attention is a reward for good behavior. This will act as an incentive for the future. If you are playing a game with him, make sure it is you that chooses the toy and when you decide that you have had enough, take the toy away with you so that he realizes that it is you that controls playtime. When you first come home, you should greet the rest of the household first before saying hello to him, which will help him realize his place in the hierarchy. All these things can be incorporated relatively easily into your normal daily routine, although it will require some patience and perseverance from you. He may struggle initially as he sees himself as the alpha dog and therefore being in the submissive position to you, who he sees as a subordinate, is distressing. Soon, though, he will settle into his new place in the hierarchy and should become a more relaxed dog, as he has been relieved of the stressful role of protector.

If he is acting aggressively, you should include a 'time out zone' into your training. Take him by the collar and lead him away to this areas, which should be quiet and free of distractions, away from other people and dogs so that he can be left completely alone. Don't speak to him or make eye contact when taking him away, so that he is getting absolutely no attention from anyone at all. Leave him there until he calms down and then make him obey a command, such as 'sit-stay', before releasing him from the 'time-out zone'. If he misbehaves again, do exactly the same. He will soon learn that that is not the way to get your attention, in fact it will lead to complete isolation instead, which is not what he wants.

Unfortunately this will not work if he becomes aggressive when you are brushing his teeth, because he will get his wish in that the brushing will stop. Instead you should try make it a positive experience for him by giving him lots of reward and praise when he behaves well. Start off by giving him a command, such as 'sit' and then popping the toothbrush into his mouth. If he doesn't growl or act aggressively, immediately give him a treat. Keep repeating this until he is completely comfortable with having the brush in his mouth, and then move onto the next step. You should be able to gradually increase the time the brush is in his mouth and the amount of brushing you do, but make sure he is calm and happy at each step before moving on. He is more likely to endure it if you spend less time brushing his teeth each time and doing so more frequently than doing his whole mouth all in one go.

It is also a good idea to set aside some time each day for a bit of obedience training, which will not only improve his obedience levels but also the relationship between you.

I hope this helps!