How To Check Your Dog's Teeth
The best way to get your dog comfortable with having their teeth checked is through reward-based training – which simply means making it a positive experience that they associate with rewards.
You’ll need to train them over a few short sessions, at their own pace, using high-value (yummy) treats. Start as young as possible, but don’t worry, it’s never too old to teach an old dog a new trick!
- Begin by touching your dog’s lips (on the outside) and rewarding them with a treat.
- Once they are totally comfortable with this step, start lifting their lips, and rewarding them afterwards.
- Once they are happy with their lips being lifted, start gently touching their teeth and gums, not forgetting to reward them afterwards.
- If they appear worried at any point, stop, give them a break, and at the next session, take it a bit slower. Only ever progress to the next step once they are completely comfortable.
- Once your dog is happy with these steps, you can fully examine their mouth – but don’t forget to keep rewarding them throughout.
Step 1 – Check their gums
- Gums should be salmon pink in colour
- There shouldn’t be any:
- Visible tooth roots
- Check all the way to the back, and don’t worry if you come across any healthy-looking black or grey patches – this will be their natural pigment (gum colour).
Step 2 – Check their teeth
- Gently touch each tooth to make sure it’s not wobbly, cracked, or painful.
- Make sure none are missing, and if they’re an adult, make sure they don’t have any baby teeth left.
- Keep an eye out for tartar, which is a hard brown substance that can build up and cause problems.
Step 3 – Check their breath
- Finally, give your dog’s breath a sniff. It obviously won’t be minty fresh, but it shouldn’t be too stinky!
If you notice any signs of a problem with their teeth, gums or breath, book an appointment with your vet.
Published: August 2022
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.