Your dog is another member of your family. You wouldn’t let your children go around unkempt and unhealthy — the same should go for your four-legged friend. Making sure he is clean, well-groomed and in fine fettle is better for him and everyone that lives with him. Learn how to properly groom your dog by following the tips below.
Step 1: Comb/Brush Your Dog
A dog’s fur needs regular combing and brushing to keep him healthy and clean. Hair picks up dirt, debris and sometimes pests, such as fleas. Over time, dirty fur can become matted which can irritate a dog’s sensitive skin. Routine maintenance to his coat makes him look and feel better and helps prevent hygiene issues. You should purchase a general grooming comb and, depending on the type of dog you own, a couple different types of brushes. Pin brushes are great for long-haired dogs, while bristle brushes are good all-around tools for most types of coats, including those with shorter hair. Rake brushes are designed to groom a dog’s thick undercoat if your pet has one (collies and shepherds, for example), and mat combs are good for brushing out dogs with frequently matted fur. Slicker brushes are good for removing dead fur and when used regularly, cut down on the amount of shed hair that often gets everywhere. These are often designed like a glove for easy, hands-on fur removal. Also, use a flea comb to check your pet for the little pests.
Short-haired breeds should be brushed weekly while longer-haired pups, like sheepdogs, may require daily brushings.
If you’re unsure what your pet’s breed requires for grooming, consult a breeder or veterinarian for advice.
Use a spray-on coat conditioner to mist your dog’s coat before brushing to prevent discomfort from tiny snags and static electricity.
Don’t use a comb if your dog has a lot of tangles or mats. Use one of the above brushes and the conditioner instead.
If your dog bites when scared and grooming makes him nervous, muzzle him before you start any grooming.
Stubborn mats can be removed by working some liquid tangle remover into the fur. Let it sit and then try to work the mats out with your fingers or gently with a mat comb. Then, brush through it. If that’s ineffective, see Step 2.
Step 2: Give Your Dog a Trim
Many dog breeds require periodic fur trimming. If you want to save money by avoiding trips to the groomer, purchase a dog clipper and replacement blades. Keep in mind, though, that breeds with thick or curly coats can be difficult to cut correctly by a non-professional. Many dog owners choose to make touch-up cuts to their pet’s fur between visits to the groomer if their dog has a trickier coat to cut. Depending on your approach, you may require specific clippers for the job. Some clipper models have more than one speed, while basic, one-speed models are ideal for the occasional trim or for dogs with shorter hair.
Choose a model with quieter operation so that it doesn’t scare your pet.
Make an informed decision when purchasing clippers. Some models can overheat, which would require you to use a coolant on blades to prevent accidental burns. Also, many require periodic oiling of the parts to keep the clipper operating at peak efficiency. Consider getting a cordless model for convenience.
Be sure you’ve done Step 1 to loosen and remove as much dead hair, dirt and debris as possible. Begin on the back at the neck and gently push the clippers through the fur along the back until you reach the tail. Repeat until you’ve finished the back and move on to each side. When clipping the sides of him, hold the skin as taut as you can with one hand while guiding the clipper from the shoulder to the back leg. Next, trim the legs, gently clipping in a downward motion. Cup the dog’s chin in your hand and trim underneath the face (if your dog has a “beard”) and the upper part of the chest. Lastly, lift the dog up on its hind legs by hooking its front paws over your arm and then trim the fur on the stomach.
If your dog’s fur has severe matting, or is very thick or otherwise difficult to trim yourself, consider taking him to a professional groomer for a haircut. The results may be better and it will most likely be easier and safer for your dog.
Step 3: Give a Doggy Pedicure
You also need a set of nail clippers to keep your dog’s nails in check. Don’t forget to buy a styptic pencil in case you clip too close to the quick. Keeping nails neatly trimmed is good for you, your floors and for the dog. When nails are too long, it becomes easier for dogs to snag them on objects and break, which can be painful and lead to infection. You know it’s time to give them a cut when the nails click against the floor when the dog walks.
Cut the nail right where it curves with dog nail clippers. If you cut any closer you risk cutting into the quick which is painful and can cause bleeding, leaving a mess if a howling dog runs away from you through the house. But if you do accidentally cut into this part, use the styptic pencil to stop the bleeding. Only use clippers designed for use on dogs.
While you’re doing her nails, also check out her paws as well. Spread each of the toes and inspect for dirt and debris that may be clinging in-between. Keep an eye out for any cuts or abrasions. If you find any wounds, clean them with antibacterial soap and warm water and monitor the foot. If your dog has a serious or deep wound, or appears to have an infected cut on a foot pad, take her to the veterinarian.
Periodically trim the fur between the toes with trimming scissors to help keep dirt and other particles from collecting and staying there. In areas with cold, snowy winters, pay special attention to your dog’s feet as salt and other de-icers can dry out and irritate their foot pads. After your dog comes in from the snow outside, it’s best to dry her feet off with a towel. Or, if there is salt residue, you can wash them with a little soap and a hand towel before drying them off.
Step 4: Brush Those Canines
Brushing your dog’s teeth is arguably the hardest part of a grooming regimen because most dogs don’t want it to be done. The biggest issue that arises with dogs’ teeth is tartar buildup. When plaque on the teeth hardens over time, gums can become inflamed and infections can occur. Canine toothbrushes and toothpaste are available. Never use toothpaste for humans on dogs. A fingertip brush can be very helpful in getting in to effectively clean gums and teeth. Gently open your dog’s mouth by pressing your thumb and fingers into the corners of his mouth. Use the dog toothpaste and the fingertip brush to clean plaque from the gums and teeth.
Try to brush your dog’s teeth weekly if possible. Keep in mind that the more you do it (and the earlier you start a puppy on this regimen) the more they will become accustomed to it.
Step 5: Clean the Ears
It’s easy to overlook hygiene when it comes to dogs’ ears. We usually don’t see inside them but they can become quite dirty over time. Their ears are exposed to dirt, debris, insects such as ticks, and other foreign objects that can build up and potentially cause infections and other problems. Clean them regularly — monthly is best. Buy some liquid dog ear cleaner and cotton balls or swabs. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Clean out the ridges inside the ear with the cleaner and the cotton balls or swabs. Most dogs don’t particularly like this process, just praise him and encourage him to sit still while you get the work done.
Watch your dog for signs of dirty ears. If you see him pawing or scratching at his ears repeatedly, give them a once-over. It could be time for a cleaning.
If you see any signs of infection in the ears, such as redness, draining or odor, take him to the veterinarian for a checkup.
Step 6: Bath Time
You don’t need to bathe your dog a lot, but when they’re visibly dirty or begin to smell, it’s time. The ideal place to give your dog a bath is the tub. While bathing can be accomplished outdoors with a garden hose, it’s best to do this in very warm weather to make it comfortable for your dog. Bathing her in your tub helps keep the dog in one place (hopefully) and you are able to control water temperature for comfort.
Before you begin, get everything ready in advance, organized and within easy reach from the tub. You’ll need dog shampoo, towels and a brush. If you don’t already have one, place a rubber mat on the floor of the tub to protect it from scratches and to help keep your dog from slipping. Also, wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet.
Install a showerhead with a handheld nozzle for convenient, easy washing of your pet.
If you haven’t already, brush your dog before you put her in the tub to remove as much hair and dirt as possible. Fill the bottom of the tub with a couple inches of warm water and then gently lift the dog and place her in the tub. Many dogs will try to jump out. Hold her gently but firmly in the tub, praising and assuring her. Wet her down, using the shower nozzle or poured water from a cup, starting at the head and moving towards the tail. When wetting down her head, hold underneath her chin and carefully wet her head, taking care not to get water in her eyes or ears. Apply the dog shampoo, working it into the fur down to the skin, until her entire coat is lathered. Rinse out the shampoo the same way you wetted her down, taking care not to get water and shampoo in her eyes or ears.
If it’s warm and sunny outside or you washed her outside, give her a once over with a dry towel and let her air dry completely. Remember, though, to watch and make sure she doesn’t roll around in the dirt. If inside the house, dry her off with a couple of dry towels by rubbing her entire coat with them.
Use a hair dryer to blow dry your dog if it doesn’t scare her. Remember to keep the temperature warm but not hot.
After the bath, brush her again to keep fur from becoming matted and to keep her coat shiny.
That’s it! Now you know how to keep your dog groomed and healthy.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.
- Grooming comb
- Grooming brush
- Mat comb
- Spray-on coat conditioner
- Muzzle (optional)
- Liquid tangle remover
- Dog fur clippers
- Dog nail clippers
- Styptic pencil
- Anti-bacterial soap
- Trimming scissors
- Towels (optional)
- Dog toothbrush
- Dog toothpaste
- Liquid dog ear cleaner
- Cotton swabs
- Dog shampoo
- Rubber bathtub mat
- Showerhead handheld nozzle
- Hair dryer
- Slicker Brush