Everything You Need To Know To Groom Your Dog At Home Like A Pro
You’ll be starting your own dog spa in no time 🛀
Keeping your dog clean and well-groomed is super important — not only so he’ll smell good but also for his health, since lack of grooming can lead to issues like hot spots and fleas.
And even if you take your pup to the groomer, it’s a good idea to know the basics of how to groom him at home in case you need to do some touch-ups.
To help you out, The Dodo spoke to experts to find out everything you need to know about grooming your dog.
JUMP TO: How often should you groom your dog? | Dog grooming supplies | Tips for brushing your dog | Tips for bathing your dog | Tips for trimming your dog’s nails | Tips for giving your dog a haircut | Tips for cleaning your dog’s ears | Tips for brushing your dog’s teeth
How often should you groom your dog?
Here’s how frequently you should do the most common grooming tasks, including brushing, bathing, cutting his nails and cleaning his teeth and ears.
Brushing your dog
How often you’ll need to brush your dog will depend on his fur type, but most dogs should be brushed at least once per week.
“For instance, a smooth-coated breed (like a Doberman pinscher) can go a long time without brushing, though weekly brushing will help keep shedding under control,” Daryl Conner, a professional groomer and owner of FairWinds Grooming Studio, told The Dodo. “Dogs with longer fur need more regular sessions with a brush and comb, some as often as once a day, to keep mats and tangles at bay.”
Bathing your dog
Most dogs will be fine with having a bath once a month. But there are certain factors that affect how often you should bathe your pup, such as his lifestyle, his fur type and if he has any skin conditions.
Keep in mind that you also shouldn’t bathe your dog too frequently because you can strip the natural oils from his coat, which can make it dull, dry and itchy.
Trimming your dog’s nails
How frequently your dog needs his nails cut depends on his lifestyle.
“Active dogs who run or go for regular walks often don’t need their nails trimmed as often because they will wear them down with regular contact on pavement,” Kirsten Butler, a certified veterinary technician and practice manager at the The Center For Animal Wellness in Denver, Colorado, told The Dodo.
A good rule of thumb is to trim your dog’s nails any time you can hear them clicking on the floor.
Cleaning your dog’s ears
Most dogs need their ears cleaned around once a month, but some dogs who have long ears, such as basset hounds, or dogs who spend a lot of time in the water, may need their ears cleaned more often. This is because dogs with floppy ears and dogs who swim frequently get more moisture trapped in their ears.
Brushing your dog’s teeth
Dogs should have their teeth brushed every day, just like people. But if you’re not able to do it daily, you should aim for at least a few times per week.
“It’s important to brush your pet’s teeth at home every day to minimize plaque and tartar,” Dr. Jamie Richardson, medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, told The Dodo. “Wiping a piece of gauze over these pets’ teeth two to three times a week can still remove some plaque and bacteria and improve oral health.”
Dental treats are helpful for keeping your pup’s teeth healthy, too (but keep in mind they aren’t a substitute for a teeth brushing routine).
Dog grooming supplies
- Dog shampoo
- Grooming wipes
- Dog towel
- Dog bathrobe
- Pet blow dryer
- Dog perfume
- Dog nail clippers
- Dog nail grinder
- Grooming hammock
- Styptic powder
- Dog nail file
- Slicker brush
- Deshedding tool
- Bristle brush
- Grooming glove
- Grooming scissors
- Grooming clippers
- Grooming table
- Dog toothbrush and toothpaste
- Ear cleaning solution
Tips for brushing your dog
The first thing you should do is find the right brush for your dog’s fur. “Acquire the appropriate type of brush and comb for your dog's coat type,” Conner told The Dodo.
For long-haired dogs, you might want to try slicker, pin and deshedding brushes, since they can detangle knots and remove stuff that gets stuck in the fur. Slicker brushes have tightly packed, wire bristles that can penetrate deep into the coat; pin brushes have wire bristles that are spaced farther apart, making them suitable for all coat types; and deshedding tools have a single metal blade attached to a handle.
Deshedding and slicker brushes can also be used on short-haired dogs who have double coats or shed frequently — just be gentle when using them so you don’t scratch your dog’s skin with the bristles.
“If you are unsure what tools are best, ask a professional groomer for guidance,” Conner said. “There are thousands of different combs and brushes, and not all of them will work on every coat type.”
No matter what type of brush you use on your dog, be sure to brush in the direction of his hair, and don’t press down too hard with the brush.
Tips for bathing your dog
Before you even start to bathe your dog, find a good spot to wash him. A dog bathtub is a good option if you don’t have a ton of space in your bathroom, plus it’ll keep your pup stable with a rubber floor and leash attachment.
Brush out any knots and tangles in your dog’s hair before his bath, since tangled hair traps water, which can lead to skin irritation, matting and hot spots.
You should use a dog shampoo when washing your dog. Using human shampoos on dogs can irritate their skin and can even be toxic if they swallow some. There are lots of different types of dog shampoos — natural, dandruff, deshedding and even dry shampoo — so find one that fits your pup’s needs.
Be sure to use lukewarm water and rinse your dog extra well to get out all the shampoo. “Pro tip: Rinse like crazy, then rinse again,” Conner said. “Products left in the coat can cause skin irritation and attract dirt from the environment to cling to the coat.”
And if you want your pup to smell extra good, spritz him with some dog perfume after his bath, too.
Tips for trimming your dog’s nails
When trimming your dog’s nails, make sure he’s in a comfortable position. “[Nail trimming is] most easily performed if the dog is standing, picking up one paw at a time to trim, or lying on their side,” Butler said.
It’s super important to find the nail quick on your dog’s nail when you’re cutting. The quick is the nail’s blood supply, which is basically a small vein that runs vertically through the nail.
On white nails, the quick looks like the pinkish-white part in the middle of the nail. It’s harder to see on dogs with black nails, though. The nail will look darker when you get close to the quick, so when the center of the nail starts to look dark (vs. white), you can stop trimming.
According to Butler, if you do clip the quick, you can use styptic powder to stop the bleeding. If you don’t have any styptic powder, “You can also use flour or [cornstarch] to help clot the blood while applying firm pressure with your fingers,” Butler said.
Tips for giving your dog a haircut
Before you cut your dog’s hair, make sure you ask your vet or groomer to show you the best way to do it so you don’t hurt yourself or your pup.
You should also give your dog a bath and brush his hair before trimming his fur. Clean fur is easier to cut, and bathing and brushing will get rid of any dirt, debris or tangles stuck in your dog’s coat which could get caught in clippers. Also, let your dog fully dry or blow dry his hair before you cut it.
If you do a lot of your own grooming, a grooming table or grooming hammock can be super useful to keep your dog still and safe while trimming his hair.
“If you are worried your dog may move around during the grooming, use distraction techniques such as peanut butter (xylitol-free) on a LickiMat or [something] similar to keep your dog occupied whilst you groom,” Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a veterinarian spokesperson for SpiritDog Training, told The Dodo.
When you’re ready to start trimming, “Use clippers with a guard, and clip in the direction of the coat,” Dr. Wigfall said. Be sure to keep the blade flat against your dog’s body and don’t angle it, or you could hurt him.
You can use grooming scissors to trim any sensitive areas, like your dog’s face, when you’re finished with the clippers.
If your dog has severely matted hair, the mats may need to be cut out. But don’t try to cut them out yourself — save that for your groomer.
Tips for cleaning your dog’s ears
When cleaning your dog’s ears, never use a Q-tip. Instead, use a cotton ball with some cleaning solution that’s made specifically for dogs.
Tips for brushing your dog’s teeth
Brush your dog’s teeth slowly, with gentle strokes.
“Don’t force your pet’s mouth open — this can make them frustrated,” Dr. Richardson said. “Just gently lift their lip to reveal the teeth.”
Try to brush only the outside of your dog’s teeth. “Focus on the outsides of your pet’s teeth, not the inside, as this is where the majority of tartar tends to accumulate,” Dr. Richardson said.
Now you have all the information you need to groom your pup like a professional. Just be sure to keep your dog on a regular grooming schedule to make sure he stays clean and healthy.
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