Dear Lisa: I have two 6-month old miniature Dachshund puppies, and when I brush their teeth, they squirm and try to lick the brush. I give them a taste of the toothpaste before and after, but they still just want to lick the toothbrush. What should I do? --Molar Melee
Before we delve into dental dos and don'ts, I just want to double check that you are using canine toothpaste and not human toothpaste since that can make dogs sick.
To stop the squirming, it might help to put the dog on a table, on a rubber mat (or a grooming table) and have someone else hold the dog's collar or harness while you work around the mouth. Perhaps, have your helper lift a rear leg, so the dog will be less like to move because he is trying to balance himself.
As for the brushing, why don't you back up a few steps and use your finger without any toothpaste and get your dog used to the idea of someone lifting their lips, rubbing their teeth and general mouth handling. Pretend your finger is the toothbrush and go through the motions of brushing the teeth, paying particular attention to the gum line, where tartar builds up. Start slowly with maybe just a few seconds, gradually increasing the time you spend in the dog's mouth. Make sure you stop this exercise while the dog is still behaving and reward with a happy word and a very small treat.
If this training goes well, you may want to invest in a finger toothbrush. It slides over the index finger and has a little brush on the end. This may work best for your small puppies rather than trying to insert a big toothbrush into their delicate mouths. Once you have the pup standing still, accepting the brush, then add the toothpaste.
If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.