Dog Grooming 101

Dog Grooming 101

Dogs get dirty. It’s nearly unavoidable. If you and I interacted with the world in the kind of head-first manner that our dogs do, we’d be pretty filthy, too.

So it’s no wonder a lot of folks defer to the professionals, but if you’re interested in developing a simple at-home dog grooming routine, we’re here to help.

Here’s how to get it done:

The Basics

The time has come. You’re rolling up your sleeves to groom your dog. You’ve got the scissors in one hand, and the nail clippers in the other, and a head full of steam.

But where’s the dog? If she’s cowering behind the toilet, take a hint. You might be excited to get grooming, but your dog doesn’t roll like that. So take a deep breath, and remember to make the experience a positive one, above all else. That means, treats, words of affirmation, and more treats.

Remember to start slowly. And after each task (clipping, trimming, bathing), immediately reward with treats. And save the best treats for after the part your dog particularly hates, whatever that may be.

Oh, and another thing: Have all your tools handy, much like you would for any other job, so that you and the dog flow through the grooming process as easily as possible.

So, what’s the first step?

1. Nails

You know the sound. The clacking of long dog nails on linoleum. If it annoys you, imagine how your dog feels. If you aren’t expeditious, that clacking can be the sound of doggy arthritis setting in. And at worse, untrimmed nails can even curve back into the pad of the dog’s foot.

Now, if you own a large, active dog, your neighborhood sidewalk probably does a good job of keeping nails trimmed. All that’s left for you are the dew claws. These are the false nails a few inches up your dog’s legs. Trim these just like any other nail. Little dogs, on the other hand, may only need their nails trimmed once every couple of weeks.

Trimming dog nails isn’t that difficult in and of itself. But keeping your dog’s limbs steady certainly can be. We recommend approaching the job face-on, and flipping the paw back, with the pads facing up, like you’re putting a shoe on a horse.

Dogs nails have blood flow, which brings us to the main thing to look out for here: The Quick. Trim slowly. With white-nailed dogs, you can see the quick inside of the nail. If you have a black nailed dog, cut extra slowly. See a tiny black dot surrounded by white? It’s time to stop. Regardless of how good you are, it’s worth having some styptic powder handy. This’ll help you clot the bleeding in the event you cut too deep. But flour and cornstarch will do in a pinch.

Need new trimmers? We’ve got ‘em, right here.

2. Brushing

Unlike their feline counterparts, dogs don’t brush themselves. Every dog, short-haired or long, needs brushing. Try and take care of it at least once a week. Here’s a quick cheat sheet for matching your dog’s coat to the right brush:

  1. Very Short Hair (Great Danes) Rubber Curry Brush, Bristle Brush
  2. Short Shedders (Labs) Rubber Curry Brush, Shedding Tool
  3. Medium Hair (Golden Retrievers, Border Collies) Undercoat Rake, Slicker Brush
  4. Short, Thick Hair (Huskies, German Shepherds) Shedding Tool, Undercoat Rake
  5. Straight Hair (Maltese) Pin Brush, Dematting Tool
  6. Curly Hair (Poodle) Metal Comb, Dematting Tool

From the basics to the best around, we’ve got your new favorite dog brush right here.

3. Dental Cleaning

Poll your friends. They aren’t brushing their dog’s teeth as often as they should. Why? Because anything less than daily isn’t enough when it comes to doggy dental care. Gum disease is a dog killer (human killer, too), and invariably leads to heart disease, abscesses, and big vet bills.

Make sure you get dog-specific toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste) and let your dog get a good sniff and lick. Likewise with the toothbrush itself.

If your dog is wary, we recommend using your finger as a brush first before working up to a finger toothbrush, and finally a real-life dog toothbrush.

Don’t forget the power of treats. In fact, there are plenty of doggy dental hygiene chews on the market that cut down on tartar and freshen your dog’s breath without brushing.

Give your dog a cleaner mouth with a little help from these products.

4. Bathing

Bathing is another point of contention among dog owners. Some folks do it often, others, well, never. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, but the ideal cadence is somewhere in the middle. Too much bathing strips natural oils from your dog’s coat and can lead to some skin issues. Not bathing at all can just be plain nasty, especially if you let your dogs indoors. Shoot for no more than one bath a month. And always use gentle, dog-specific, hypo-allergenic shampoos to avoid dry skin.

Remember: Get your tools together before endeavoring to bathe a dog. That means lining your tub with a mat so that your dog doesn’t slip, and thoroughly brushing their coat. Cotton balls in their ears aren’t a bad idea, either. Dogs are pretty prone to ear infections associated with water

As a general rule of thumb, start from the back and work forward. This goes for spraying your dog down, as well as soaping your dog up. Luke warm water works best, and be sure to gently massage the shampoo as you go.

Once you feel like doggo is good as new, rinse, rinse, and keep rinsing. Any leftover shampoo is bound to cause irritation and infection.

Once the deed is done, lightly towel dry (old beach towels work great) your dog. If you absolutely must blow dry their coat, do so on a low setting.

The right products for keeping your pup clean are sold here.

Eyes, Ears, and Paws

These three body parts account for more veterinary trouble than you’d think. Ears (particularly in floppy-eared breeds) can be especially pesky.

If you notice your dog shakin’ their head more than usual, call them over to you. Lift up their ear and take a sniff. If it’s smelly, you might be dealing with an ear infection: Ears should be cleaned once a month. Witch Hazel and a cotton ball should do.

If you have a very active dog, keep an eye on its paws. Periodically trim the hair that grows between their pads to prevent the hair from matting, or from sidewalk gunk and pesticide building up.

Take a look at your dog’s face. If you see grime or gunk buildup around the eyes or nose, wipe ‘em.

Pay special attention to the color of their eyes, too. Dog’s eyes should be clear. Any redness or discharge could be indicative of infection or allergies.

We know it’s a lot. But getting into a dog grooming routine can save you money and bring you closer to your dogs.

Want more tips on how to be a better dog parent? Check back here or reach out to us on Facebook and Instagram.