Tips For Grooming Your Dog At Home
Professional dog groomers are great, but often we find there are times when you need to groom your dog yourself.
Whether you’re choosing to get more involved in your dog's hygiene or find yourself in some sort of lockdown and can’t make it to the groomers, learning some basic grooming skills and how to groom your dog at home is a great opportunity to help keep your dog happy and healthy.
Taking care of your dog’s hair, ears, nails, and teeth yourself can, at times, take a bit of practice but keeping up with a basic grooming routine is important. Not only does it keep your dog looking good, but it also helps keep their health in check by maintaining good hygiene. Plus, it will help strengthen the bond you have with your pooch.
Depending on your dog’s breed and coat, your grooming tasks and schedules will look somewhat different but will usually look something like this:
- Brush your dog (every few days)
- Brush your dog’s teeth (2-3 times per week depending on your dog's breed and diet)
- Wash your dog (weekly - bi-monthly depending on your dog’s coat)
- Trim your dog’s nails (fortnightly - monthly)
- Clean your dog’s ears (fortnightly - monthly depending on the type of ears)
- Trim your dog’s hair (6-8 weeks if your dog needs it)
Further below, we talk about each grooming task in more detail to help you navigate your new responsibility.
Tips for grooming your dog at home
No matter what grooming task you are undertaking it's important to remain calm and relaxed. This will help make grooming your dog at home a positive and stress-free experience for your pup.
They can sense when you are stressed or uncomfortable, so it often leads to an unpleasant experience. Keep an eye out for signs of stress or discomfort such as shaking, whining, panting, or barking. Take a break or stop and try again in another session.
Keep the sessions short when you are initially introducing your dog to being groomed at home and reward your dog for staying calm with some of their favourite treats.
You don’t need cutting-edge grooming tools, but it’s important to get yourself some appropriate grooming tools and products that are for dogs and fit for purpose.
If you find anything unusual (rashes, fleas, skin irritations, lumps, split nails), as you put your grooming skills to the test, reach out or go visit your vet to get treatment and professional advice.
Our top tips for grooming your dog at home:
- Be patient, don’t rush.
- Bring on the treats.
- Create an enjoyable (or at least a comfortable) experience.
- Use dog equipment and products (don’t use yours).
- Make it a habit and maintain a regular routine.
- Talk to your vet for specific advice or if you find anything unusual.
Brushing your dog
Brushing and combing your dog’s coat helps to keep it in good condition by removing loose hair and preventing hair mats & knots. Brushing it regularly also helps to distribute healthy natural skin oils over the hair shaft, promoting a shiny coat and helping dirt to slide off the hair. It can help to reduce the need to bathe your pet as frequently too.
Aim to brush your dog every few days using dog brushes that are fit for purpose.
We suggest getting yourself a brush for general use and then, depending on your dog’s coat, a slicker brush or de-matting comb to help remove hair mats, a de-shedding tool such as a shedding black, or rubber brush, and a flea comb to help remove any nasty fleas.
Brushing your dog's teeth
Just like humans, our dog’s teeth get plaque and tartar buildup. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly routine will help your dog with bad breath, gum disease, and infections in the mouth.
Make sure you stay on top of their dental care, especially if your dog is known to have troubling teeth. Brush your dog’s teeth as often as twice a day, but the minimum recommendation for brushing is 2-3 times a week.
Using a special dog toothpaste and toothbrush is necessary because human toothpaste includes xylitol which is poisonous to dogs. You can slowly introduce your pet to the toothpaste by placing some on your finger and letting them lick it, so they can get used to the taste.
Take your time when brushing your dog’s teeth working from front to back, then brushing the inside and back of the teeth. Once you have finished, be sure to reward your pet for their patience.
There are special dental treats, chews, and diets to help with dental care also. Learn more about your dog’s dental care in our full article.
Washing your dog
Giving your dog a bath regularly is an important part of good hygiene as it helps to clean your dogs’ coat and remove loose hair, scale, dirt, or sand, and improve the coat’s shine. Plus, washing your dog removes unpleasant odours and helps your dog stay smelling fresh.
How often you wash your dog depends on the environment and their coat. Washing your dog once or twice a month works for most. However, dogs with oily coats will need a bath more often (once a week or thereabouts). While most short-haired breeds and breeds with water-repellent or double coats should have baths less frequently (one to two months).
Be careful not to wash your dog more than you need to. Bathing them too often will strip their natural oils and can cause dryness and irritation of the skin.
When you give your dog a bath, it's always best to wash them, as it makes it much easier to brush a dog with a clean and dry coat.
Use a dog shampoo
Your dog’s skin is very different from your own so you need to use a shampoo specially formulated for them.
When choosing a dog shampoo consider both the reason for the bath and the condition of your dog's skin and coat. Is your dog smelly? Do they have dry, flaky skin? Are there signs of a flea infestation? This will help you to select a dog shampoo and/or conditioner that not only smells good but helps to improve the health of your pet’s skin.
Generally, it is better to go for a natural shampoo like the Yours Droolly Natural Dog Shampoo that is free from sulfates, parabens, dyes, or synthetic chemicals, so it will not dry out or irritate your pets sensitive skin.
When washing your dog, make sure you massage it in forming a lather, and remember to reach their armpits, bellies, and pads of their feet. Likewise, make sure to thoroughly rinse the shampoo off.
We don’t recommend washing your dog’s face with shampoo as it can be very painful if you get it in their eyes. Instead it is always safer to wash their face with a damp warm face cloth.
Dry your dog after washing them
While dogs will tend to instinctively shake off excess water both during and after you are finished bathing them. You also need to help them properly dry off after a bath.
This can be done quickly with a regular bath towel or a microfiber towel. While some dogs prefer a blow dryer such as long hair, elderly dogs, and small breeds. Just be sure to avoid the head area and ensure the air is always at a comfortable temperature (not too warm or hot).
There are special pet blow dryers on the market like those used by professional dog groomers, but you can use the one you have at home also.
Trimming your dog's nails
Cutting your dog’s nails is fundamental to grooming and good hygiene. When they grow too long, it becomes uncomfortable and painful for them, especially if they chip, split or become infected.
It is much better if you trim your dog’s nails a small amount more often than letting them grow out before you trim them. Dog's nails shouldn’t touch the ground when they are standing, so if your dog’s nails are making a clunking sound when they are walking, chances are they are too long.
Ideally, make a habit to trim a small amount off either weekly or monthly.
Many dogs and owners find clipping nails unnerving, however, if you start regularly trimming their nails and from a young age they will become accustomed. Slowly introduce the clippers and concept over a few days if your dog is struggling.
Get yourself some appropriate dog nail clippers and have your dog’s favourite treats on hand, or some peanut butter to keep them occupied.
Be sure to have a firm hold of your dog's paw, and clip the hook-like part of the nail that is turning down, be sure to only take off a small amount at a time, as if you cut too short you could hit the 'quick' causing your dog to bleed.
To be safe it's always good to have a styptic powder or gel on hand to quickly stop the bleeding that may occur.
Cleaning your dog's ears
Cleaning your dog's ears is another must-do in your at home grooming regime. Keeping your pooch’s ears clean reduces the risk of ear infections or mites.
Cleaning your dog’s ears monthly will be suitable for most dogs. However, dogs with floppy ears and thick hair, dogs who love swimming, or dogs prone to infection usually need their ears cleaned fortnightly weekly.
It's easy to clean your dog's ears at home by gently dribbling an otic ear cleaning solution into the dog’s ears and gently massaging the base of the ear for about 15-20 seconds to remove excess debris and wax in the ear canal. Use a clean cotton ball or pad to wipe out the excess solution and any loosened earwax.
You also need to keep an eye on the condition of the ear flap. If you notice it getting dirty you just need to gently wipe it clean using cotton pads soaked in the otic ear cleaning solution.
Trimming your dog's hair
With groomers currently closed and as we head into the warmer months, your dog's coat may be overdue for a haircut, but the good news is trimming your dog’s hair at home is easier than you think.
How often and short you cut your dog’s coat can vary and often comes down to your preference. Some breeds don’t need haircuts at all and brushing is enough to maintain a healthy coat.
Most dogs with a non-shedding coat need to be trimmed every 6-8 weeks to keep their coat in good condition.
Before you trim your dog’s hair, wash, dry, and brush your dog’s coat removing any tangles and mats. Doing some preparation will set you up for a perfect finish.
Invest in a dog clipper kit with an electric clipper. Having the right tools will make the makeover a much easier task and the clipper guards help you avoid accidents. They are also good for owners new to at-home grooming as they come with snap-on guide combs to ensure an even finish.
Then ensure your pet is comfortable and secured with a leash and work slowly from their neck to their back leg. Use the right guard length and place the clippers flat while shaving to help prevent shaving too deep or cutting your dog’s skin. If you need to trim more sensitive areas such as the face you can do this more safely using round edge scissors.
Learning how to groom your dog at home and investing in some dog grooming equipment and products won’t go amiss. Keeping up with your dog's hygiene will help them stay happy and healthy.
Remember to stay calm, be patient and bring on the treats!