For most people, having good hygiene is of utmost importance. Good hygiene, like washing your hair and body, along with brushing your teeth twice a day, is important for both your physical well-being and mental health. The same is true for dogs – a routine grooming can revitalize your dog’s energy and happiness.
Unfortunately, a good dog groom job can cost a fortune and can be somewhat inconvenient. However, it is possible to nail your dog grooming routine at home, saving you money from making regular trips to the groomers. With this article, you can read up on the best dog grooming tips and tricks that will help you nail your next dog groom job at home.
Brushing Your Dog
Regular brushing of your dog’s coat is crucial for maintaining a healthy coat by distributing the natural oils in your dog’s fur and skin, as well as removing any excess fur that has been shed. Additionally, removing excess fur through regular brushing will help cut down on the amount of fur found on your furniture and clothes.
To ensure that you are brushing your pet as often as they require and are using the right type of brush, you need to know what coat type your dog has. Long-haired breeds, such as Border Collies and some Terriers, require weekly brushings as their hair has a tendency to mat or tangle easier than short-haired breeds. Short-coated dogs, like Labrador Retrievers and Greyhounds, can go 2 weeks between brushings and only require removing any loose or excess fur. Here are brush variations:
- Bristle brushes — these types of brushes generally work well for all types of fur and can have different bristle types, such as soft or firm. Bristle brushes also come in a variety of sizes to fit both long and short haired coats. Usually, bristle brushes are used on short-haired, smooth-coated dogs that shed frequently and for dogs who will benefit from skin stimulation while brushing. Best used on: Pugs, Italian Greyhounds, Jack Russell Terriers, and Boston Terriers.
- Wire pin brushes — these brushes usually have wooden handles and have thin wire pins sticking out of the body of the paddle. To prevent scratching the skin, these brushes are designed with a small protective ball at the end of each pin, dulling its sharp edge. Wire pin brushes are best for long fur coats and are known for their ability to provide a thorough brushing without damaging the coat. It must be noted that wire pin brushes are not ideal for removing tangles, knots, or matted hair in a dog’s coat. Additionally, pin brushes only penetrate the top layer of the coat and are not ideal for massaging the animal while they are being brushed. Many experts recommend using a pin brush at the end of a grooming routine because they have little benefit of removing loose fur or tangles.
- Rake and mat brushes — these variations of brushes are best used on coats that are severely tangled or matted. A rake brush or undercoat rake are brushes that are in the shape of a “T” with rounded pins adorning the head of the brush. The design of these brushes allows for the removal of shedding fur and the dead coat from the dog without damaging the healthy coat underneath. These brushes are ideal for dogs with thick double coats
- Slicker brushes — A slicker brush looks very similar in design to a wire pin brush; however, the slicker brush is much smaller and has a square head. The wire pins on a slicker brush are much closer together than those on a wire pin brush, therefore making the slicker brush the perfect tool for removing debris, loose hair, and even mats in the dog’s fur. Slicker brushes are usually used on curly-haired dogs or those with thick coats. Since these brushes are used to get tangles and mats out of hair, it goes without saying that slicker brushes are not very gentle, but this trait lends to its ability of penetrating the fur down to the skin of the animal to massage as it brushes. Additionally, slicker brushes should not be used on short coats as they can irritate and damage the skin. Best used on: Golden Retrievers, Yorkshire Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, and St. Bernard’s.
- Flea combs — these combs, like their names suggest, are designed to remove fleas and their droppings from an animal’s coat. If you suspect that your dog has a flea problem, then you should look into buying a flea comb. Flea combs are designed to have long, fine teeth that are closely spaced together. While the teeth on flea combs are not long enough to go through a thick coat, they are the perfect length and size to separate the fur to look for and find both fleas and their droppings. What you may not know, however, is that a flea comb can also double as a face comb, allowing you to remove any gunk or debris around your puppy’s eyes and mouth.
Regardless of what brush or combination of brushes that you use, it is important to use the proper brushing technique to prevent damaging your dog’s coat or worse, their skin. Generally, you always want to brush down and out, away from your dog’s skin and in the direction that their coat grows. You should be gentle and never pull or stretch the hair until they break, which is damaging to their coat and irritating to the skin.
If you encounter a mat, apply a small amount of conditioner or mat spray to the tangle and let it sit for several minutes. Then, use a wide-toothed comb to gently separate the tangle and continue brushing. Severe mats are usually close in proximity to the skin, which you should never try to cut out, as you risk slicing your dog’s skin along with the tangle. Mats are often painful to get out, so you should be both careful and patient when you are working through them.
If you are unable to work through a severe tangle, or if it is too close to the skin to cut, you should take your dog to the groomer to get the mat out safely.
Dog nail trimming sessions are rarely an experience that you or your dog looks forward to, but it is an essential part of any regular grooming routine. Generally speaking, you should trim your dog’s nails about once a week. A good rule of thumb is if you can hear your dog’s nails against the floor while they walk, then they need trimmed.
On the other hand, if your dog is regularly running around on a rough surface that grinds their nails down, such as joining you on a daily run or jog on asphalt, then you can forego the once a week recommendation.
There are three styles of nail clippers that you can choose from to trim your dog’s nails:
- Claw-style trimmers — also known as “Miller’s Forge Trimmers”, these specific nail clippers work much like regular scissors. These are made with larger breeds in mind, whose thick nails require more force to cut than smaller breeds.
- Guillotine trimmers — guillotine clippers work much like a traditional guillotine. They are designed with a small hole, which is where you insert your dog’s nail, that contains a small blade that slides down and gently cuts the nail when you squeeze the handles. These nail clippers work best with small to medium sized dog breeds.
- Grinders — while not an actual clipper, nail grinders are a popular choice for those who do not want to risk cutting the quick of their dog’s nail. These devices work just as their name describes, by grinding down the nail and are recommended for breeds that need a lot of force to trim their nails, or for dog’s who fear traditional nail clippers. It may take a few sessions for your dog to get used to the vibrating sensation of nail grinders. Understandably, the process of grinding your dog’s nails will take longer than the traditional dog nail trimming routine.
After you have decided which dog nail trimming method works, you should brush up on the anatomy of a dog’s nail to make the trimming process as efficient and painless as possible. Much like our own nails, a dog’s nail is comprised of the nail itself and the quick which supplies the nail with blood. Since the quick is encased within the nail, it can be hard to spot and is prone to being nicked or cut with an inexperienced owner. Along with being very painful to the dog, a cut or damaged quick also bleeds heavily.
When trimming the nail, always work in small sections at a time, cutting off only a tiny bit of the nail. If any part of the nail feels spongy as you are trying to trim it, then stop immediately because you are about to cut the quick. Don’t forget to trim any dewclaws that your dog has, or they will start to grow into your dog’s foot, which is extremely painful.
Bathing and drying your dog
There are many places both in and out of your home where you can create a proper dog bath, depending on their size and coat length. For smaller breeds, a kitchen sink or deep bathroom sink can provide ample space for a good dog wash. If you have a large kitchen or laundry room sink, you may be able to bathe medium sized dogs. Sinks with a retractable sprayer attachment can make the bathing process much easier for both you and your dog.
For larger breeds, or if you do not want to use your sink as a dog bath, you can always bathe your puppy in a regular shower or bathtub. If it is warm outside, you can also wash your dog outdoors with a garden hose or pool, this method of washing should only be used when it is very hot outside, to keep your dog from catching a chill.
Unlike humans, dogs do not require a daily bath, in fact, most dog breeds can be bathed as regularly as once a month. Obviously, how often you should wash your dog is dependent on their coat — whether it is oily like a Basset Hound which requires baths once a week, water repellent like Golden Retrievers which require less frequently washing — their lifestyle, and their environment.
Tips on how to properly give a good dog wash
- Brush your dog before a bath and place a cotton ball in each ear to protect them from water. Water getting into your dog’s ears can cause irritation and possibly lead to ear infections.
- Use lukewarm water, not hot water to bathe your dog. Run the water at the same temperature that you would for a human baby, and cooler if you are bathing a large breed that overheats easily.
- Using dog shampoo, work the shampoo into damp fur to a gentle lather, massaging it into the dog’s skin, all over the body. Be careful not to get the shampoo into the dog’s eyes or mouth.
- Thoroughly rinse off all shampoo from your dog’s fur, as any shampoo left behind can irritate your dog’s skin after drying.
- Allow your dog to air-dry or invest in a hair-dryer that is designed for dogs, as a regular human hair-dryer is too hot for a dog’s skin and can lead to burns.
- Don’t forget to reward your dog with lots of pets, play, and treats to let them know that they did well during bath time.
Maintaining a Healthy Coat
After a bath, it is usually recommended that you trim your dog’s fur while it is clean and tangle free. If you want to trim your dog’s coat, then you must invest in a quality hair trimmer that is quiet and gentle. Usually, you want the trimmer to be as quiet as possible, so your dog won’t be anxious from the loud noises. Also, be sure to keep your trimmers sharp to ensure an even coat and easy trimming process.
When trimming your dog’s coat, you want to go slow to keep your lines even and pressure consistent. Clip the fur with the natural growth of your dog’s coat and pay close attention to each section of the body, as hair growth direction can change in specific areas.
You will want to start shaving the hair at the neck and using slow and controlled movements, shave to the back leg. Then repeat the process from neck to back leg on the other side of the body. Make sure to go over and trim every region of your dog’s coat, including the hair in between their toes and paw pad.
Grooming the paw pads are often neglected by at home dog groomers; excess hair growth around the paw pad can lead to traction problems and have the potential to cause slips and falls. Additionally, excess fur in between the toes can become matted and create friction as your dog moves, leading to painful sores that may become infected.
Grooming this area can be properly executed with a comb and sharp scissors. After trimming the nails and cleaning the foot, place your dog on a non-slip surface like carpet or a rug. Gently lift or bend your dog’s leg, making sure not to twist the paw. Gently manipulate the toes by holding the paw in your hand and pressing your thumb in between the pads to reveal the hair patterned in the shape of a “V”. Pull on the hair to where it is sticking out with your fingers or a comb. Next, use the scissors to trim the hair, making sure to hold the scissors parallel to the pads and never towards your dog’s paws. Keep your dog still with a chew toy or through someone else holding them and repeat the process for each paw.
It is good to have an image of what your dog’s coat should look like, using other dogs of the same breed as reference.
You can give a good dog groom job at home, without spending a fortune on grooming visits. With the right tools at hand, you can make sure you have the best dog groom practice at your fingertips, and can spend more on toys, treats, and trips, instead of groomer’s fees.