How to groom your dog at home

In this blog post we discuss how to groom your dog at home.  There are plenty of tips and tricks, as well as Do’s and Don’ts.  If you are careful grooming at home can be a fun, rewarding and bonding experience with your dog.

Please do be careful and most importantly take your time.  Only go ahead if you feel confident in what you are doing.

PurfectPawtrait accept no responsibility if your dog is injured or hurt in grooming your dog.

Firstly lets take a look at a few common questions when it comes to grooming your dog.

Why is it important to groom my dog?

Grooming is vital to prevent your dog’s coat from getting matted, as well as removing dead hair, dirt, and dandruff. Brushing also stimulates the natural oils in the skin and fur, which helps make for a glossy, healthy coat. But grooming isn’t just about brushing your dog’s fur, it’s also a chance to check for any unusual lumps or bumps, and give them a general health check. You can use it as an opportunity to check for any signs of fleas or ticks, inspect their teeth, eyes, and ears, and make sure their claws aren’t overgrown.

When should I start grooming my dog?

Owners should get their dogs used to regular grooming as early on in their life as possible, ideally as a puppy. It’s important that dogs are happy and comfortable with grooming, whether this is done in the home or by a professional dog groomer. By getting into a regular grooming routine with your dog, it also gets them used to this type of handling and should make visits to the vets much easier.

How often does my dog need grooming?

For a short-haired, smooth-coated dog, grooming should be done at least once a week. A rough or long-coated dog will need much more regular grooming and will often require clipping to keep the fur at a manageable length. Clipping can be required anything from every four to 12 weeks, with regular – usually daily – maintenance brushes and cleaning in between.

Terrier types and some other breeds may need ‘stripping’ rather than normal grooming to remove dead hairs in the coat as these dogs don’t shed hair as well as others.

What should you do when it comes to grooming?

In this section we look at what you should be doing when it comes to grooming.

Groom Regularly

Do you have long hair? Imagine if you put off washing and combing it for weeks or even months—yikes! Some dogs can develop painful mats and skin problems, which you may not notice right away. Certain breeds—including Shih Tzus and Pomeranians—should be brushed often. Dogs’ nails should be trimmed regularly, too. Overgrown nails can pose a risk to dogs’ well-being, and trimming nails that have grown out can be unnecessarily stressful and uncomfortable for your dog. When dogs are uncomfortable, they’re much less likely to cooperate.

Pick a suitable place in the house

Somewhere they can’t slip and that allows them to run away safely if they’ve had enough!

Clean your dog's eyes

Use a small piece of cotton wool with water to get the discharge away from their eyes. Wipe in a downward motion and make sure to do this daily.

Dog eye wipes are another good option to get rid of the discharge to stop it from building up. But in the current crisis, they might be hard to get hold of – so a simple piece of cotton wool with water will also work.

Trim your dog's fur

Start with a dry, clean dog. Only use the tips of shears or scissors to trim your dog’s feet, face and tail, which will prevent you from cutting your dog if they move suddenly. Make sure you don’t trim around their eyes. When trimming ears, always have your other hand on the edges of the ears so you know where you are only cutting the hair. If your dog’s fur is matted, never try to cut it with scissors and use clippers instead.”

Scissors are better for long haired dogs. Clippers are best for dogs with shorter hair. You can also use a combination of the two.

Take care of their teeth and gums

Start teeth cleaning when they’re a puppy and brush their teeth everyday to get them used to it. Be sure to buy a dog toothpaste as human ones aren’t suitable. Dental chews and treats are also a good way of helping to keep your dog’s teeth clean.

Keeping your dog’s teeth clean is important, as ignoring this can lead to plaque build-up and dental disease. If needed, phone your vet to tell you the best way to do this, as different breeds show varying jaw alignments and how the teeth meet.

Clip your dog's nails

Try and check your dog’s claws as regularly as you can. Dogs’ nails ideally should be cut every three to six weeks depending on growth. An easy way to see if your dog’s nails need clipping is to look at them when your dog is standing straight –their nails should not touch the floor. If they are, they may need trimming. This should ideally be left to your groomer or your vet, as doing them if you’re not confident could hurt your dog and cause them to bleed,” Hayley says.

“If their nails are starting to curl and cut into the dog’s paw pad it might be advisable to call your vet, as this could be seen as a welfare issue.”

Quieter is Better

Depending on your dog, you may already be aware, but loud noises can surprise or even distress them. Test different clippers and get the one that makes the least noise; it will make the experience better for both of you. While grooming, it is important to keep all outside distractions to a minimum; such as keeping others away from your pet, whether they be other people or other animals.

Don’t Pull Hair!

How can you keep from doing this? By keeping your clippers sharp. Grooming dog clippers should be kept sharp at all times because, like cutting your own hair, a sharp scissor can easily slice through hair without causing any tugging or discomfort to your skin. They also should be sharp because for some hard to reach places, like around the head and ears, you may only be able to cut with the top of the clippers

Go in the Right Direction

Clip with the growth of the dog’s hair for a smooth, natural looking coat. Dog hair is unique in the way it grows because it can change directions at specific parts of the body. Because of this, cutting in the right direction can take some time. Make sure you pay attention to the direction the hair is growing to ensure that the cut is smooth, even, and fits with the existing coat.​

Work With Your Dog

Hold your dog to avoid sudden movement. Start shaving from the neck to the back leg, and then do the other side. It is recommended by professional groomers to cut in an orderly fashion, as to not miss a part of the dog’s coat.

Be Patient

Dogs can sense your stress, so make sure that you’re calm and relaxed, too, and you’ve set aside plenty of time for the grooming session. Go slowly and pay close attention to what you’re doing and your dog’s reaction. Watch for signs of stress, such as trembling, whining, or panting that’s not heat-related, and take a break if needed. Be extra cautious when using scissors and nail clippers. If your dog tends to panic and won’t stand still, try grooming more often, like once a week, and just do a little bit at a time. When clipping your dog’s nails, just do a few at a time if needed. And be sure to give lots of praise, petting, and treats. Make it a positive experience. With kindness and patience, your dog will eventually get accustomed to the process and feel more comfortable.

Choose a safe well lit place for grooming

You need to be able to see what you’re doing, and you also want a safe, non-slip surface so that Fido and Bella don’t slip and fall. Don’t tether your dogs during grooming—that can lead to terrible accidents. Of course, if they love being brushed, brush them anywhere, and as often as possible—this can be a great bonding experience. You can even use brushing as a reward after a grooming procedure that they’re not so fond of.

Use appropriate dog-grooming equipment

Speaking of brushing, are you using the right brush? Depending on your dog’s fur and skin type, a special brush might be necessary. Research online, or ask your veterinarian what kind of brush is most appropriate for your dog’s coat. Similarly, make sure the nail clippers, scissors, trimmer, etc. are all high-quality and appropriate to your dog. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian for suggestions.

Be mindful that long haired or double coated breeds require extensive grooming

“Long hair don’t care” does not work for dogs. Without regular brushing, these dogs can quickly develop mats on various parts of their bodies, such as behind the ears, behind the front legs, and in front of the hind legs. Routinely check your dog’s coat. Dogs with long fur on their paws could benefit from having that clipped before the nail trimming.
Know your limits

Despite your good intentions and best efforts, your dog might still refuse to remain calm and stand still during grooming. If this happens, consider asking a reliable friend to help you during grooming, or talk to your veterinarian about natural calming supplements. For nail trimming, you can always ask your veterinarian for help if you’re unable to do it safely at home.

Give treats

Grooming can be used as bonding time with your dog, with treats as rewards

What you should try to avoid when home grooming

In this section we look at what you should try to avoid when grooming at home.

Don’t rush

Would you appreciate it if your hair stylist or nail technician were in a rush? No. And Bella wouldn’t, either. Hasty grooming can cause stress and even result in life-threatening mistakes—just ask PetSmart.

Don’t restrain Fido by gripping his fur.

This, like tethering, should never be used during grooming.

Don’t use scented shampoo

Perfumed bath products can irritate dogs’ sensitive skin and noses. Choose an unscented shampoo, like this one from 4-Legger.

Don’t bathe your dog too often

Give Bella a bath only when necessary, such as when she’s gotten dirty or smelly by rolling in something—washing dogs’ coats strips them of their natural oils and can cause skin and temperature-regulating issues. Make sure bath time takes place in a warm setting, as bathing in cold weather can cause a dog’s body temperature to drop. Always towel-dry your dog—a blow dryer can be terrifying to dogs and also cause them to overheat.

Don’t overwhelm your dog by trying to do too much at once

If your dog grooming to-do list includes a bath, fur trimming, nail trimming, tooth brushing, and more, don’t make the mistake of trying to squeeze this all into one session. Instead, divide grooming tasks up into more frequent, shorter sessions. And end each one on a high note—don’t wait until your dog is becoming stressed or restless. You want Fido to walk away thinking, “That was fun!”

Don’t cut nails too short

Trimming nails too short is painful and can agitate even the calmest pup. Dogs’ nails contain a blood vessel called the “quick.” Cutting into the quick can result in a great deal of bleeding and pain. If you’re not sure where the quick is, just cut off the tips of the nails, and do it more frequently. If your dog’s toenails get “hooks” on them, just trim them off. Never try to trim nails while Bella is jumpy—wait until she settles down. If your dog finds nail trimming particularly stressful, try trimming just one nail at a time. If you’re new to trimming your dog’s nails, ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the procedure before you attempt it yourself.

Don’t use nail clippers with a guard

Some canine nail clippers come with a guard designed to prevent over-trimming, but the downside to them is that they will block your view. Use your finger as a guard instead, or clip Fido’s nails with his paws resting on a hard surface, such as the floor or a table. This will act as a guard. Make sure you purchase quality clippers, like these from Millers Forge.

Don’t forget to clean your dog’s ears

Don’t use Q-tips unless your veterinarian recommends it. Instead, use an ear cleaner to clean your dog’s ears periodically if they need it—this will help to prevent painful ear infections. Try this ear cleaner from Halo, or ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Just remember not to let your dog’s ears get wet during bathing. Water and shampoo in the ears can cause painful and dangerous infections.

Don’t neglect your grooming tools

Toenail clipper blades should also be sharpened regularly and replaced at least every few years. Dirty or dull blades won’t cut well and can pull and tug at your dog’s nails.

Don’t give up

It might take a while for you and your dog to get comfortable with home grooming, and that’s OK. But, if you feel a professional groomer is what your furry friend needs, choose a local groomer who comes highly recommended, preferably a mobile grooming service that can groom your dog at home if available. Research your options online—read through ratings and reviews. If you’re unsure, ask your veterinarian for a reference. And make sure the groomer you choose will allow you to stay with your animal companion throughout the grooming process.

Further Reading...

The RSPCA have a fantastic dog grooming guide, it would definitely be worth having a read and perhaps printing a copy, you can get to it by clicking here.