Different breeds and types of dogs have different grooming needs. Taking care of a puppy’s grooming not only makes them look pretty, it can also keep them in good health. A few areas of every dog that should be tended to, regardless of breed, are coat, claws, ears, and teeth.
Keeping your dog’s coat clean will help you to be aware of any sudden dullness, which could indicate a greater health issue. Keeping knotty fur and matts at bay will help keep puppies comfortable, and their skin free from irritation. Cleaning ears can help stave off bacterial infections. Regular brushing can keep a host of later-life issues at bay, like periodontal issues and even stomach problems. Cleaning a puppy’s teeth early on in a dog’s life will help them get used to the strange sensation.
Some grooming practices are more for humans than for the puppies themselves. Remember to groom for health first, and for style second.
How to Groom a Puppy's Coat
All dogs need brushing, some more than others. Long haired breeds should be brushed at least once a week if not more. Matts should be attended to, as they can be painful when they get tight and begin pulling on the dog’s skin. Regular brushing will prevent matts from forming. Medium and short haired dogs can be brushed less often, but as often as person and pet would like. Brushing is the easiest way to take care of your dog’s coat, and it’s a great way to bond with your dog in a low-key interaction.
There are all sorts of different brushes that suit different coats. Brands are usually marked with what type of coat they’re best for, to make it easy to decide which one is best for you.
We may be inclined to bathe more frequently those lucky puppies who are allowed on furniture. Although we all want pleasant smelling couches and beds, we should avoid bathing puppies more than once a month. Dogs at all life stages can become irritated and itchy if they’re bathed too often. It’s important to allow a puppy’s natural skin oils to be present, and not to constantly wash them away.
If spot-on flea treatments are being used, it’s important to remember to wait four to five days either before or after bathing to apply the treatment. This will allow a puppy’s natural body oils time to regenerate. The natural skin oils are what carry the pesticides into the puppy’s layer of subcutaneous fat, and they need time to rejuvenate after a bath in order for spot-on flea treatments to be effective.
A natural and gentle dog shampoo should be used. Overly harsh, scented, or chemical shampoos should be avoided. Human shampoo should never be used on your puppy since the pH balance is not right for a dog’s skin.
Bathing can be done in a tub, or outdoors with a hose. Water temperature should be about what you’d use to bathe a human baby, or a bit cooler. Most groomers recommend lathering at the neck, and working down toward the tail. Use a washcloth to clean the puppy’s face, and avoid getting soap or much water in the eyes or ears.
Cleaning a Puppy's Ears
Gently turn the flap of your puppy’s ears back to expose the ear canal, if necessary. Wipe ears with a damp towel. Don’t jam your finger into the ear canal, but do wipe in all the little nooks and crannies right at the opening of the ear. Jenna Stregowski, RVT says, “Signs of an ear infection can include odor from the ears, frequent shaking of the head, redness of skin inside ears, excessive scratching at ears, and excessive ear discharge or debris.” Look for these signs when you’re cleaning your dogs ears, and be sure the ears are dry when you’re done. Wet ears can end up causing these problems. Stregowski adds that, “Using an appropriate ear cleaner, you can release wax and debris from the canal and help dry the ear,” which will help prevent infections.
Ear cleaning can be done at bath time, around once a month.
Trimming a Puppy's Claws
For dogs who spend a lot of time walking outside, especially on paved surfaces, regular nail trimming may not be necessary. Some dogs will never need any of their nails clipped. Rule of thumb, no pun intended: claws should be about flush with the pads of your puppy’s feet. If they’re slightly longer, and no one seems bothered, you can probably skip clipping. If they’re longer than the pads, and your puppy seems find them to be getting in the way, it could be time for a trim.
Some puppies only require the dewclaw to be trimmed - that’s the claw on the higher up thumb-type extra toe. Some dogs have it, some dogs don’t. If the dewclaw becomes too long, it may get caught on things, and might need occasional trimming.
The single most common problem people have when trimming claws is that some tend to treat doggie claws they way they’d treat their own nails. Don’t make the same mistake! Dogs have a “quick,” a blood vessel that runs down into the nail. You want to trim only the portion beyond the quick, otherwise you’ll hurt your dog. Cut small slices from the tip of the nail only, at a forty-five degree angle, avoiding the quick.
Brushing a Puppy's Teeth
Brushing your dog’s teeth can be about as fun as taking your dog’s temperature. They avoid, you chase, rinse and repeat. Dental care is one of the most important aspects of canine health, and also one of the most forgotten. It’s unpopular, probably because it’s even less convenient or enjoyable than baths, for pets and their pet parents alike. However, starting with tooth brushing early will get both you and your pet used to the chore. Finger toothbrushes make the task more manageable.
Removing plaque from a puppy’s teeth through regular brushing will save both time, pain, and money later on down the line. Brushing a few times a month should be often enough in most cases, especially if your puppy likes to chew on raw bones or rawhide. Some hard treats and toys are also designed to help remove plaque, unbeknownst to puppy, while they chew.
More on Dog Grooming
How to Groom a Dog
The Best Skin and Coat Care Products
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.