Few other things can make dogs and their owners feel as confident as a perfectly groomed coat. Many turn to professionals for their grooming needs, but for any number of good reasons, you may wish to groom your dog at home. If you wish to go it alone, we applaud you, but there’s a lot to know before getting started. Read on to learn how to how to groom your dog safely and effectively at home.
KNOW YOUR BREED
Dogs breeds differ wildly not only in size and shape, but also in the types and textures of their coats. One breed’s fur may need grooming and care that’s totally different from the needs of another breed. That’s why you should research your breed’s grooming needs thoroughly before you begin any home grooming. To get started, read our expert grooming tips from professional dog groomer Joe Villani, who outlines grooming basics for several popular dog breeds.
Primarily, your dog’s breed should dictate the arsenal of different brushes necessary, like rubber brushes, bristle brushes, slicker brushes, finishing brushes, etc. You’ll also need coat clippers, nail clippers, shampoo and possibly more. Of course, you can spend as much or as little as you want, but it's definitely possible to obtain all the basics without breaking the bank. Read our guide to dog grooming products for more help.
Depending on your dog’s breed (or breed blend), daily brushing may or may not be required. As with humans, brushing distributes oil and promotes circulation of the skin. Brushing also keeps canine coats in well-groomed condition, which prevents matting and the accumulation of debris in fur.
A short coat (like that of a Chihuahua or Basset Hound) requires brushing once a week. Use a rubber brush to loosen dead skin and dirt. Next, use a bristle brush to remove dead hair.
If your dog has short and dense fur that is prone to matting, like that of a Retriever, this is how your weekly routine should go: First, use a slicker brush to remove tangles, and then catch dead hair with a bristle brush.
A long luxurious coat, such as a Yorkshire Terrier’s, will need daily brushing. Remove tangles with a slicker brush, gently teasing out any mats and then brush the coat with a bristle brush.
BATHE YOUR DOG
Bathing frequency depends on your dog’s breed, but no dog should need to be cleaned more than once per month unless it gets especially dirty from playing outside. Brush your dog before the bath to remove any loose hair, mats or tangles. In the tub, begin shampooing at the tail, massaging the suds into your dogs coat in a circular motion. Continue to the legs, back, chest and head. Be careful not to get soap or shampoo in your dog’s eyes when you get to its head. Rinse and dry very thoroughly.
CLEAN WITHOUT THE SUDS
Bathing your dog too often does more harm than good. It can dry out your dog’s skin, creating dander, and leave its coat dull and damaged. But if a touch-up is necessary between baths, you can spot-clean your dog without bringing out the heavy bathing artillery. Simply use commercially available dog-grooming wipes to wipe down your dog’s coat between baths, soothe paw pads after a long walk outside, clean a dirty butt or perform any other grooming maintenance task you can think of. There are also alcohol-free mists and sprays that will help keep your dog’s fur looking and smelling great.
BRUSH YOUR DOG’S TEETH
Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth every day, or at least a couple of times a week. Start by gently massaging its gums with your fingers. Don’t be too aggressive; just get your dog used to this mild invasion of its mouth. After several days of this, add a bit of dog toothpaste to the mix to introduce the taste. Eventually, start using a doggy toothbrush. Some are designed to slip onto your finger and, with these, your routine can stay very similar to when you were merely massaging your dog’s gums. Brush in small, circular motions. Lift your dog’s lip as you go if necessary. For more help, read our guide to canine dental health.
CLIP THE CLAWS
To make things easy on yourself and to get the best results, purchase claw trimmers specifically designed for canine nails. These devices often have a rubber grip to keep the tool from slipping out of your hand, and oftentimes a safety that prevents you from clipping off too much nail at once, which could cause the nail's quick to bleed. Read our guide to clipping your pet's nails for more tips.
PROTECT THE PAWS
Daily walks mean a non-stop environmental assault on your dog’s paw pads, especially in harsh weather condition. Those pads are strong, but there’s only so much they can take before they start to show the wear and tear of exposure to snow and ice, chemicals or hot pavement. Paw pads can suffer dryness, cracking, frostbite or even chemical burns. To guard against this damage, consider applying a protective balm to your dog’s paws both before and after walks. Some dog owners use plain petroleum jelly, while others opt for products specifically made for canine paw pads.
BE FREE FROM FLEAS
Although fleas come from the outdoors, they have the ability to survive indoors. Once they've made it into your home, they can spread all over, particularly to the areas where your pet spends most of its time. This likely includes couches and beds. If you suspect that there are fleas in your house, clean your entire home from top to bottom. Vacuum rugs, throw out old pet bedding and wash sheets or clothing that may have touched your flea-infested pet at one time or another.
Every pet is susceptible to fleas, but preventative care is easy, safe and effective. There are numerous products that can provide complete flea and tick control in your pet, including oral tablets and topical medications. In addition to putting your pet on flea medication, regular spot checks and grooming are crucial to keeping dogs and cats free of fleas and ticks. For more help, read our guide to flea awareness.
PICK THOSE TICKS
When you check your pet for ticks, be thorough. Using your fingers like a comb, inspect every inch of your dog or cat’s body, because ticks can hide anywhere. If you find a tick or ticks on your pet, resist the urge to pluck it off immediately with your bare fingers. Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible, taking care not to pinch your pet. Pull straight outward — don’t twist — to remove the entire tick. Remember that the tick’s head is buried in the skin. Your goal is to remove the parasite without tearing the body away from the head. Don’t try to squish the tick; its hard shell will make that difficult. Drown it in rubbing alcohol to kill it. For more help, read our guide to tick awareness.
Next: What Is "Extreme Dog Grooming"?
CLIP THE COAT
First, make sure you have canine clippers before clipping your dog. Those designed for humans may harm your pet. Leash your dog, securing it to a sturdy table or something else stationary, and have treats at the ready to help the pooch stay compliant. Remove any loose hair, mats or tangles with a thorough brushing. Buzz your dog’s fur from neck to tail, then its belly and legs. Always go with the grain. Go easy, because shaving your dog’s coat too short can be unhealthy and dangerous. Use scissors to clip the fur on your dog’s head and face.