We all know, at least those of us who own dogs, that they just have stinky breath. There are sprays, treats and supplements all claiming to rid our dogs of their offensive smelling mouths. However, how many of those products really work? Many of those "breath busting" treats may contain parsley, or claim to, but how much sugar/salt/hydrogenated oils do they contain as well? While you may think you're busting your dog's breath, you may be giving him/her Diabetes instead.
Okay, enough of my rant against commercialised treats: my point today was to introduce to you our bad breath monster.
Of course all of our dogs have stinky breath, but Roscoe could peel paint. We've experimented with various foods, attempting to combat his bad breath, and have made some head way. It's not nearly as bad as it was, but his mouth still smells. It used to be so bad that if he even just yawned, we'd have to roll the windows down in the car. After a few food switches, his breath has decreased in potency, but it still smells. And, it's not just the smell that worries me. Stinky dog mouth, and I mean overly stinky dog mouth, can be indications for other problems; mainly poor oral health.
I think some of the offensive smells were coming from his stomach and that is why finding a better food fixed some of the problem, but Roscoe chewed on a rock as a puppy and broke a tooth. That tooth was removed and now there is a small gap in there where food and debris gets stuck. He's not really much of a chewer either; probably because he broke a tooth chewing. So, giving him bones to chew on to clean his teeth doesn't really work; unless they are bones with bits of meat still clinging to them. He is not interested in Nylabones at all. With Roscoe starting to age a wee bit-he'll be seven this year-I'm more concerned about his oral health than ever. So, I've instituted a new oral care regiment for Sir Stinky Breath.
I've always tried to be good about brushing my dogs' teeth, but honestly, brushing four dogs' teeth was just...well, gross. So, I'd think about doing it, and I did it some times, but not as often as is necessary. Once a week was about as consistent as I was. Not good enough. Well, probably good enough for the other three who all chew their food and on bones, but not good enough for Mr. Gulps his food down as fast as possible, swallows most treats whole and never chews on bones. So, I decided that in 2014 that I would become a better dog mom and brush his teeth every day. What's a three minute task daily in comparison to having to pay for dental care/surgery?
Everything I've read, including the stuff I took at the University of Edinburgh, says that the key to success is making something routine. I think I've misinterpreted that for a long time now, but something clicked the other day. I always thought that in order to make something routine meant that you needed to create a new routine and that is often where I failed. Forcing new things into a routine never quite worked for me; I don't think it works for most people. Obviously in some situations new routines need to be made, such as if you get a new job, but I think the key to success is integrating a task into an already existing routine.
For example, every morning the dogs get their breakfast between 9 and 10. The timing depends on whether I am skiing in the morning or not. The feeding routine has many steps, such as, collecting four bowls, dumping water out of them that the cat was using, scooping the right amount into each bowl. All of these little steps make up the routine. They have become so routine that you don't realise that that is what it is and isn't that the whole point? If something becomes something that you just do, without thought-it is routine- then you are successful at it: whether it is taking your vitamins every morning or going for an hour run. Part of our feeding routine is waiting for Otis to finish eating. He is much slower than the other dogs because of the shape of his little French Piggie mouth. I sit in the kitchen to make sure no one else bothers him while he's eating because he doesn't defend his food bowl from greedy Labradors/ Labrador/Golden Retriever crosses. That time was always just idle time-me doing nothing productive. I then began to think, "why not integrate grooming practices into that time? The drawer where I keep all of the grooming supplies was just a foot from me." It's time I'm already spending with the dogs anyway, why not use it for something useful?
And so, now, every morning Roscoe has his teeth brushed; both bigger dogs have a comb run over them; and sometimes someone gets their claws trimmed. One morning I managed to do all of that with Nala, Hermione and Roscoe while waiting for Otis to finish his breakfast. It's become so much a part of our routine now that Roscoe waits for his toothpaste and brush and no one runs off when I pull out the nail clippers.
So, what does this all mean?
I've met my goal in 2014 of creating a new routine-or should I say integrating new steps into an already existing routine- and grooming the dogs more frequently, thus being a better dog mom AND, most importantly, we are combatting Roscoe's bad breath one tooth brushing at a time. I've already noticed a difference. Instead of my nose hairs burning off when he breathes in my face, it's more like a light singeing. This strategy of integrating new steps into an already existing routine really works: now I just wonder if it'll help me get more motivated to wash the dishes.