Your dog is your best friend, and you do all that you can to keep him healthy and happy. Between visits to the dog park, the pet store, and the occasional trip to the vet, you spend lots of your time ensuring that he is cared for and has all that he could ever need or want. However, no matter how well you are providing for him, you may be inadvertently neglecting one very important aspect of his health—his hygiene. If you feel like your pal's hygiene could use a little boost, here are 4 essential tips to get him back in tip-top shape.

Clean His Teeth Regularly

This may be much easier said than done depending on your dog's demeanor and ability to tolerate teeth cleaning, but cleaning your pet's teeth is important to his overall health (and not just his breath). Interestingly enough, dogs that don't have their teeth cleaned regularly are at serious risk for gum disease, which can also lead to issues such as heart, liver, and kidney disease. Dogs typically do not show any obvious signs of pain when they have issues with their mouth, so unless you have a professional who knows what to look for, you could be missing some signs of real dental problems. If you simply cannot brush your pet's teeth at home, ensure that you are seeing a dog dentist at least once a year to do a checkup and look for things that are hard to spot, such as cracked teeth, plaque and tartar, and gum disease. Taking care of your dog's pearly whites is a great way to keep him healthy and keep his hygiene up to par.

Clean His Toys and Bedding

Your dog's toys go directly into his mouth, so it is important to keep them sanitary for his health and for the cleanliness of your home. Rubber, silicone, and other toys that are not soft and stuffed can be easily cleaned with vinegar. Simply soak them for about 15 minutes and you are good to go. Soft, stuffed toys can be run through the washing machine with about a 1/4 cup of vinegar. Just be careful not to use anything that could be toxic to dogs like bleach or any type of detergent. If your pal has a favorite soft toy that is damaged and may not make it through a rough washing machine cycle, you can soak it in a sink and gently hand wash it. The same goes for your dog's bedding—it should be cleaned regularly and in a similar manner to the toys. It may be tempting to use a product that smells good and gives the bedding a fresh, just-washed scent, but be careful not to use anything that could harm your pet. Since your dog likely spends lots of time on his bedding, also ensure that whatever you clean it with is gentle and doesn't cause any skin reactions or allergies.

Bathe and Brush Your Dog—but Don't Overdo It

It may be tempting to want to give your pet a bath every time he smells less than perfect, but over-bathing can be detrimental. The ASPCA recommends bathing at least every 3 months, but you can bathe more frequently if your dog spends lots of time outside or has skin issues that require bathing with medicated shampoo. When you bathe, don't forget to wash oft-forgotten areas like the inside of the ears and his paw pads. If you wash his ears, be sure to flush them out with a drying solution when you have finished so that water does not get trapped and lead to a painful ear infection. When washing his paws, wash between his toes and also use that time to make sure that there is nothing stuck between his pads and there are no skin irritations. If you have a dog with longer hair, brush him before his bath to remove loose hairs and mats, and also brush him while drying to keep him from getting tangled. If he has problems with matting, purchase a dematting brush and be sure to use it on him at least once a week. It may not be the most pleasant experience for either of you, but it will make bath time (and also his trips to the groomer if needed) much less painful.

Wash His Collar and Leash

Your dog's collar or harness is really put through the ringer. Some dogs wear their collars all the time, which makes it especially important that they get washed frequently. A dirty collar can harbor bacteria that creates skin sores and can cause infection, and a poorly fitting, dirty collar can rub and create painful, nasty hot spots. If the collar begins to smell or look dingy or dirty, you know it is time to give it a revitalizing rinse. Use pet-safe detergent or even dog shampoo to get it looking fresh and new again. No matter how often you wash and how well you take care of it, collars aren't made to last forever, even if the material is durable. You may have to replace it every so often if it stops coming completely clean or the smell just won't go away regardless of how hard you scrub. If you have a dog that tends to pull while being walked, it is also important that his collar or harness is in great shape since it may be the only line of defense between him and a terrible accident if the restraint were to fail and he were to break loose. Keeping his items in good shape isn't just good hygiene—it is also an important safety measure.

You may be the best pet parent in the world, but if you aren't taking care of your dog's hygiene, you are unintentionally letting him down. Use these 4 simple tips to keep your dog clean and healthy, and he'll thank you with an extra long life full of lots of unconditional love.