How to Groom a Dog

How to Groom a Dog

by ScritchSpot

Practicing good hygiene and grooming your dog regularly is important to help keep her happy and comfortable. Whether you’re the DIY type or prefer to leave it to the pros, grooming is a way to keep your pup healthy, catch any potential health concerns early and, if any issues were found, ensure your pup gets timely veterinary care. 

If your dog has never been groomed before or is fearful of clippers, brushes, or baths, then take it slowly. Give her breaks in between steps and offer treats along the way to remind her that this is a positive experience. Though a doggie spa day sounds nice in theory, completing every step of the grooming process in one day can be overwhelming to your pup, so spread it out over several days. 

Step 1: Brushing

All dogs need occasional brushing (some need it more frequently than others) either to help remove shed fur, detangle long hair, or both. There are a number of different combs, brushes, and grooming gloves on the market; the type you need will depend on your dog’s coat. 

Give your dog a good brushing all over to remove tangles and excess fur, examining her body along the way for anything that might be of concern (like lumps, wounds, fleas, ticks, etc.). Be careful and gentle around sensitive areas. Some brushes with long, sharp bristles can reach the skin beneath the fur and repeated brushing can cause irritation and pain. 

Step 2: Bath time

Supplies:

  • Tub or sink (for small breeds)
  • Pet-friendly shampoo - avoid shampoo made for humans which can be too harsh, dry out the skin, or cause an allergic reaction
  • Towels

Avoiding the eyes and ears, wet your dog’s fur with warm (but not too hot) water. Lather with shampoo, then thoroughly rinse away all shampoo residue. Towel off excess water and give your pet a warm, cozy place to finish air drying. If your dog is not afraid of the noise, you can use a blow dryer on very low or no heat setting. Read more bathing tips and how often you should bathe your dog

Pro tip: Temporarily place a shower cap over your pup’s eyes and ears to protect them when rinsing the back of the neck.

Step 3 (optional): Haircut

Supplies: 

  • Dog grooming clippers
  • Scissors
  • Professional groomer

Certain dog breeds have hair that continues to grow and will require periodic haircuts. If your dog needs a haircut, wait until the coat is completely dry before trimming. Grooming clippers are recommended over scissors because scissors can cause accidental injury if your dog fidgets. Be very gentle when trimming areas with loose skin. A professional dog groomer can give your dog the desired haircut and even provide tips and best practices on how to safely trim your dog’s fur. 

Step 4: Nail trim

Supplies:

  • Dog nail trimmer and/or dremel tool
  • Treats
  • Styptic powder or cornstarch (to stop the bleeding of a nail that was cut too short)

It’s important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed short. When the nails are left to grow long, they will either curl back into the paw pad or grow straight and can cause your pup discomfort and difficulty walking and standing. Long nails also face a greater risk of getting caught and breaking. See the nail trimming process and tips here

Pro tip: Doing this shortly after a bath can make the process easier since the nails have softened and are easier to clip. (The same reason you first soak your nails at the nail salon!)

Step 5: Brush teeth

Supplies:

  • Toothbrush - a traditional toothbrush or a rubber brush that slips over your finger
  • Dog-friendly toothpaste - Dogs cannot spit; for this reason, do not use human toothpaste because it is toxic when swallowed. 

Regular brushing should be part of your routine; it’s ideal to brush your dog’s teeth just about every day, or at minimum, once per week. For first-timers, get your dog acquainted with the toothbrush and toothpaste by allowing her to sniff or lick the toothbrush. Then smear a very small amount of toothpaste (just enough for her to pick up the scent) onto the toothbrush and let her lick it off. 

Place a small glob of toothpaste on the brush and start by brushing the back of your dog’s teeth - up and down, side to side - working your way toward the front. Add another glob and go in on the other side of her mouth. Learn more about how to prevent bad dog breath

Pro tip: Have your dog brush her own teeth by putting a little toothpaste on a Nylabone or another toy that she enjoys chewing. 

Step 6: Clean the ears

Supplies:

  • Dog ear cleaning solution
  • Cotton balls or gauze (note: don’t use cotton swabs which can cause damage to the ear canal)

The frequency with which you clean your dog’s ears will depend on her breed, activity level, and whether or not she swims. However, it’s a good idea to occasionally give the ears a quick check for dirt, bugs, redness, or other signs that the ears may need some attention. Learn more about how to clean a dog’s ears

Step 7: Wipe around the eyes

Dogs with white fur can get tear stains next to their eyes, but regular grooming can help keep this area clean. 

Supplies:

  • Gauze or a small cloth
  • Tear stain remover

Wet your cloth or gauze with water or tear stain remover and gently wipe the fur around the eyes to remove dirt and debris. 

Safe grooming

If you’re new to dog grooming, it’s best to take it slowly and err on the side of caution. When trimming nails, for example, cut just a little off the tips to avoid accidentally cutting too much. To prevent injury, we recommend taking your dog to a professional groomer or asking your veterinarian or vet tech for advice and techniques.

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