How To Groom A Dog In 9 Steps

Yorkshire | well-groomed dogKnowing how to properly groom your dogs at home is part of being a dog owner. If you are worried that you are not up to the task, let me tell you this – learning how to groom a dog is not rocket science, anyone willing to invest a bit of time, patience and go through a proper dog grooming training will be able to do it.

The truth is that if you regularly groom your dog at home, the process will never become out of control, and you will save a great deal of money over time. Below you will find a handy guide that will explain the best way to groom a dog yourself.

Why is Dog Grooming Sooooo Important?

The appearance, hygiene and health of your dog are indicators of the way you take care of your dog. Healthy and clean dogs are better pets and will not transfer infections to you or your children.

importantIf you know how to properly groom dogs, you can protect your dogs and yourself from annoying yeast infections which cause excessive itching and skin irritation.

Like humans, good grooming includes proper brushing of teeth and gums. This prevents tooth decay and gum disease. Proper hair trimming is also part of dog care. Long hair that are not maintained are particularly susceptible to matting.

The proper care and grooming of a dog’s ears is even more important than in humans. Dogs have much more hair on the inside area of their ears. This makes a disease causing build-up of dirt and wax, which can quickly result in serious infections. If you ever detect bad odors coming from a dog’s ears, see a build-up of wax or discharge, it is important for you to take the dog to a veterinarian, without delay. Excessive head shaking is also an indication of a problem.

One anxious moment for dog owners is learning the proper way to maintain nail length. Dogs need their nails kept at a proper length. Cutting too short can result in bleeding and infection. This can cause pain and discomfort for both the dog and their owners. Long nails also make clicking noise than properly trimmed nails when your dog walks about. Short nails cause less damage to wood floors and furniture.

Getting Ready to Groom Your Dog

tools

I’m not suggesting that you use these tools of course! See the list on the left.

Having the proper equipment before you start grooming dogs is important. To do the best job possible when you groom your dog(s) at home, you need

  • a good quality faucet sprayer,
  • a good dog bath tub or wash basin that fits the size of your dog
  • shampoo for dogs
  • some dry towels
  • a variable speed blow dryer
  • dog nail clippers
  • styptic powder
  • medicated ear solution
  • lots of clean cotton wads
  • long nose hair cutters
  • hair clippers made for dogs hair
  • adjustable collars or a strong leash

You can save some money by making your own version of homemade dog cleaning solution. You may just even sell your extras to make a few quick bucks.

You should prepare a clean area to work in when you groom dogs. It should be an area that can be cleaned easily and completely after each dog grooming task. Many dog groomers wear coveralls to protect their clothes from hair and water during the grooming process, so it is a good practice to adopt.

A good first step is to work with the dog in a manner that calms them before you start grooming. This reassures the dog before you start. This is also something that is good to do throughout the grooming process. If you are kind and calm, the dog will enjoy the process much more than if you are get excited.

Step by Step Instruction on How To Groom A Dog

Step 1: Gather all your dog grooming tools

Gather the supplies previously mentioned and prepare the work area before bringing the dog to the grooming area. Make sure you place all the grooming tools you need within reachable distance from where you groom your dog. In this case, you won’t need to be going around and about the house taking your tools in the midst of grooming.

Step 2: Remove any mats or tangles

pet your dog

As you work with the dog to calm and reassure them, look for areas with matted or tangled hair. Before starting any shampoo you might find it helpful to apply a detangle solution to help remove those tangled or matted areas. Mats are even harder to remove when they come in contact with water, so you want to make sure that you remove the mats properly.

For dogs that constantly have a lot of matted hair you may need to obtain a special tool called a matting rake. These tools have sharp points and edges so use them with care.

Step 3: Pre-bath trimming or clipping

Once all the matted and tangled areas are cleared or removed, it is the time to work on any hair clipping or scissor trimming if you have a breed that requires it. Long-haired breeds, for example, require more trimming around the chest, hocks, belly and pads of the feet than other dogs. To complete this step you may choose to use dog-grooming sheers or a regular pair of hair-cutting scissors. Regardless what you use, just make sure you are extra careful with a sharp blade around the dog’s skin.

Step 4: Brushing / Combing

how to groom a dog

Before every dog bath, you should make sure you give your dog a good brush-down. Again, grooming long-haired dogs will take longer, and need to be brushed more often; this is especially true if you want to avoid the hair from collecting around your home.

When it comes to brushes, there are several styles currently on the market. One of the newer types of brushes that are great when you are first learning how to groom a dog is the Furminator. The special tool is made specifically for removing dander and dirt; these brushes come in several colors and sizes.

Other than the brush mentioned above, if you own a short-haired dog you may find that a soft-bristle brush works best. These brushes are easier on the skin and will leave your dog’s coat shiny. You may also find a chamois cloth useful for dogs of all coat types. However, if your dog has sensitive skin a rubber brush is probably best.

Start combing with the head of the dog, work from front to rear and top to bottom. Make sure you comb the entire coat of hair, including the hair on the tail and head. Pay special care when using any tools on near the face, eyes and ears of the dog.

Step 5: Bathing

Dog bathYou never can tell if a dog will like the bath; some dogs leap joyfully in, while other despise the bath. However, if you work to introduce your dog slowly to the water, offering some friendly rubs and verbal encouragement, your dog may learn to enjoy bath time.

When you wash your dog at home, you will need to consider one of several places to do the bath. Some owners will use a standing shower or bathtub, while others use the kitchen sink. In my opinion, the best choice is to wash you dog outside as it is less messy and faster. Regardless where you will bathe the dog, do ensure the water is not too cold or too hot.

If you have a large dog, use a ramp to help you save time and energy to get your dog into the tub. I’ve a friend who sprained her back when she tried to lift her 70 pound adult male Labrador.  Additionally, make sure you will have control over the animal.

Here’s some points to note when bathing your dog:

  • First, place some non-slip mats in the bathtub.
  • Second, don’t use the faucet but rather the shower-head to wash your dog. If you have a hand-held shower head, even better!
  • Third, use cotton balls in their ears to absorb the water.
  • Fourth, talk with a specialist to get the right type of shampoo for your dog. Read labels to ensure it’s for your type of dog and meets the dog’s age.

WARNING: Many first time do it yourself dog grooming folks make the mistake of using human shampoo on their dog. Don’t do this! The shampoos have different pH levels and human shampoo is much harsher for their sensitive skin.

How to Wash Your DogOnce you are ready, shampoo or wash the coat and skin of the dog with the dog shampoo. Avoid eye contact as much as possible.

You should use your hands to turn the shampoo into a good lather, rubbing and massaging the dog’s skin as you work from head to tail and top to bottom of dog’s body. You could use gloves but you have a better feel with your hands, which helps locate problems on the dog’s body. If you properly removed the mats and tangles before you started the shampoo process to groom dogs will proceed much easier.

Rinse thoroughly and make sure that no suds remains.

Step 6: Drying

When the previous steps are completed it is time to dry the dog’s coat, hair and skin completely. Use one or two dry towels at first and follow-up with a blow dryer on very low or no heat setting.

Step 7: Clean the ears

German Shepherd pup

Look at my ear!

Once you are done with drying your dog’s fur, this is a good time to clean the ears to make sure they are dry and free of wax build-up. Keeping the ears dry at all times is very important to prevent bacteria growth, so this extra check can be important.

The ear of a dog has its unique structure and one needs to be careful not to go in too deep as they could damage the ear drum causing the dog imbalance and hearing problems. The external canal just inside the ear is where to clean as this is what gets dirty. The canal has ridges and folds which can gather wax and debris. Build up of dirt and wax may cause irritation from allergies. Poor air flow inside the ears may cause infection.

Dog scratchingThe amount of hair and secretions in the ear will differ according to breed as this is often genetic.The more you groom your dogs the lower the chance for infections. Cockerspaniels and Basset Hounds are a good example together with other floppy eared dogs. The need for regular cleaning is emphasized by the results of infections like scratching, shaking head and rupture of blooded vessels plus a bad odor due to discharge.

To save most time when cleaning the ears, pour the ear solution into the dog’s ears and massage the base of the ear gently to remove excess debris and wax in the ear canal. Watch out for your clothes, as your dog is likely to shake its head once you let go your hands.

In addition, be mindful of the condition on the ear flap. If you see it’s dirty, clean it using cotton wads dabbed in otic ear solution.

Step 8: Trim toenails

dog's nailsYou should trim your dog’s nails whenever they are long. If they keep getting snagged or “click” on the floor as your dog walks, you know its time to get the clippers. Long unkempt nails can become ingrown or cause serious infections. Clip the dewclaw nail just inside the leg as well.

If you are just learning to groom a dog yourself, you may have never dealt with the dreaded toe nail clippers before. These clippers can prove to be pretty scary for dogs, and this can lead some to acting aggressively if they have had a bad experience before.

For this reason, as a pet owner it is a good idea to get your dog used to his or her feet being handled from a young age. If you do this, nail clipping will be nothing for the dog. However, if your need to groom a dog that is aggressive (may bite), you may need someone else to hold the dog while you cut; a muzzle may also come in handy.

dog nail and quickIf you are new to the nail clipping process, try cutting the dog’s nail at a minor angle, taking small snips as you go. If you cut back the nails too far and accidentally clip the quick (this is the pink part just under the nail), it can cause bleeding and a lot of discomfort for your dog, resulting in a dog that dislikes grooming time in the future. Be careful with dark nails as the quick is difficult to see.

Be sure also to have a bottle of styptic powder immediately available, just in case you cut the quick. If an accident occurs and there is bleeding, use the styptic powder and apply pressure on the wound. Avoid removing the clot after bleeding has stopped.

Keep in mind that not trimming the nails regularly will cause the quick to grow longer inside the dead part of the nail. And, when this happens, it can increase the possibility of bleeding when you do finally cut the nails.

A good tip is to trim the nail when wet as its softer then. Better still, consider using a dog nail grinder instead.

If you want to keep them short and healthy naturally, consider also walking your dog on cement, as it wears the nails down.

Step 9: Brushing teeth

Dog TeethThe health of your dog’s teeth is important. After all, they use those teeth to chew, playing with toys, lick and pick up objects for their owners.

Thus, overtime, their teeth will become dirty and start to decay. Use a dog toothpaste and toothbrush to brush your dog’s teeth. Like the shampoo, never use human toothpaste.

When it comes to do it yourself dog grooming, you need to practice so you can get comfortable in the process. When you are comfortable, your dog will be comfortable.

Of course, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of doing your dog’s grooming, then you should find someone who can do it for you.

Still, with the do it yourself dog grooming method, you give yourself and your dog friend a chance to bond. Use the above tips to help your dog feel healthy and look his/her best.

You are done!

treatTake this moment, or other appropriate times during the process, to reward your dog with kind words or a nice treat. Remember, positive re-enforcement of good behavior, such as behaving while grooming, will pay dividends in the future. If you do a good job when you groom dogs, your pets will know and appreciate your skill. They will look forward to each grooming session.

However, if your dog seems to respond in a negative way, you may be using the wrong tools or doing it too hard. You can always talk to your veterinarian for pointers on how to make grooming better for you and your dog.

Oh, one more thing…..When you are grooming your dog yourself, it allows you a good chance to look for injury or other signs of illnesses. Use each of your grooming sessions to look for belly irritations, scratches or cuts between toes and gunk in the ears or corner of the eyes.

Make Pet Grooming An Enjoyable Experience For Your Dog

Grooming sessions, be it at home or at a grooming parlour, should be enjoyable and stress free for your dog. Yes, dogs do experience stress like us humans if it is expected to stay put for a long time at a grooming parlour with sharp tools and objects coming towards him.

Even we humans would get nervous at a new place, but with time you know that the barber is a safe person, this is achieved gradually by conditioning your mind about the place and the person. This may not be a big deal for you now after a few experiences with the tools and knowing that the barber does not mean to harm you.

calming your dogThe same applies for a dog; dogs may find visiting a grooming parlour traumatic. Dogs need to be relaxed before you take them to a pet groomer for grooming. It is very important for you to get your dog accustomed to this experience at an early stage if you want to have a stress free grooming session be it at home or at the groomers.

What Dog Owners Need To Understand About Dog Grooming and Dog Groomers

Dog groomers are trained in the art of dog grooming so they make your pet look good; they are not dog trainers. Dog groomer training does not include dog behavioral training. So, don’t expect the dog groomer to train your dog on the proper behaviors. It would be helpful to get your dog acclimatize to the dog grooming process first.

If getting your dog started with grooming, the first thing to remember is to keep the session short initially for the dog to get used to experience. Gradually increase the session time until it becomes a regular routine for him.

Let your dog associate grooming as a positive thing by introducing him/her to the new experiences slowly and regularly. Slowly bring in new dog grooming tools, showing it to your canine. Allow him/her to sniff each one for several seconds, and if he/she responds positively, provide your dog a treat to show your approval.

For example, when bathing your dog, introduce your pet to running water especially warm water in the sink. Always use the same sink every time you decide to give your dog a bath. This will make him comfortable with the sound and feel of the water. Maintain a playful and friendly attitude with your dog if you are planning to groom him on your own. Make him comfortable by touching his belly and back, thus reducing its anxiety levels.

Lulu with a brushWhen you first brush your dog, place the brush on their fur. Once accepted, give him/her one stroke. If your pet responds positively, give your dog a praise as a reward. Continue to do this until he/she understands that brushing is a good thing. Break the process down into tiny steps because it allows your dog the opportunity to see the whole dog grooming experience as a positive thing.

Go through the same process with the rest of the grooming tools. Start slowly introducing them to your pet so that he/she becomes acclimated to them and will like the grooming process as he/she gets older.

If your dog is of an excitable type then make sure to select a time when he is relaxed to make the whole process enjoyable for him. Be positive and reassuring to the dog while learning to groom the dog. A dog owner who looks and feels nervous will also spread nervousness and make the dog uncomfortable.

Remember… If a dog associates a grooming procedure as a negative experience, it will become more difficult to groom the dog in future. So….

Avoid Dog Grooming on a Bad Day

Bad days happen to everybody, and when you’re experiencing one, don’t groom your dog. Your pet will sense your negative energy and feel uncomfortable to be near you. Rather than muddling through the process, spend some time with the puppy, playing games. They’ll love to have your undivided attention and it’ll make you feel better seeing them so happy.

You want to make all home dog grooming sessions with your pup to be positive… not just for him/her but for you as well!

researchFinally, a dog owner should also do some extensive research about dog grooming at home before venturing into the new domain. You should be aware of few things about dog grooming like, how to clip the dogs nails, the type of your dog’s coat and breed etc. A well aware dog owner will be able to do the job well. Knowledge of the best grooming tools and its uses will help you in getting the job done without any hassles for you as well as your pet dog.

How Often Do You Need to Groom Your Dog

The coat of your dog, how often it sheds and how often it stays outdoors affect how frequent the animal needs to be cleaned.

On top of that, breeds with hair that’s corded, double-coated and long will require more grooming efforts than those of short-haired or hairless breeds. Poodles will require a certain grooming style which might take hours while other dogs might require only minimal care.

A Maltese enjoying the fall leaves with a neatly groomed coatDogs shed to some degree so they all need at least some grooming care to brush away any loose hair, so that these hairs are not “littered” around the house. And if your animal shed frequently, you may also want to groom the animal more often.

Take time when grooming the dog and don’t be in a rush. It’s easy to injure an animal if you’re not careful with clippers or other instruments that are sharp. Once you groom the dog several times you’ll determine which methods work the best for you. Try and keep a periodic grooming schedule and maintain it so your dog is well looked after. If you learn how to groom the dog properly, it will save you energy and time while making the dog feel great.

Finally, remember to practice grooming your dog at home consistently on a regular basis, you will find that it become easier and require less time as time goes by. If you wish to learn more about our do-it-yourself dog grooming techniques, check out our store for the eBook “How to Groom a Dog”.

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