Is your dog looking shaggy and unkempt? Like you, your dog
feels happiest – and healthiest – when clean, fresh smelling,
and well maintained. While you can take your dog to an expert
for grooming, learning how to do it yourself will be a big
savings, and may even be more convenient, too. Follow these
steps to keep your dog looking fresh and healthy.
Step 1: Get Your Supplies
This potentially wet situation will go smoother if you gather
up supplies first. You'll likely need:
- a dog brush or comb
- lots of clean towels
- bath mat or non-stick mat for bottom of the tub
- optional: a leash, pet nail clippers, Q-Tips, cotton balls,
alcohol, blow dryer
Of course, if you're going to be bathing your dog, you'll also
want to make sure you're wearing casual clothes that you don't
mind getting wet or grubby.
Step 2: Brush Through Fur
Combing your dog will help you to get rid of your pet's extra
hair, leaving you less to wash, and will also remove any knots
and matted fur. Brush in the direction the hair grows, and
cover the dog's entire body. While bathtime can be
uncomfortable for some dogs, many will enjoy being brushed. You
can also use a fun bath toy such as Snowman Loofa to reduce stress while
Step 3: Get Your Dog Wet
Place your dog in a tub, and get started by thoroughly
saturating your dog's fur. You can use a pitcher or plastic
container to pour water over you dog, or try using a handheld
showerhead to get your dog's coat thoroughly wet. Test the
water before it hits your dog – warm water, which is neither
too hot nor too cold is best.
Tip: A non-stick bath mat will help keep your
dog from sliding around in the tub. If your pet is squirmy and
doesn’t enjoy bath time, putting on a
leash may help you keep your dog relatively still while
Step 4: Time for Shampoo
Once all of your dog's fur has been thoroughly moistened,
shampoo them up. Make sure not to
get shampoo in your dog's eyes, ears, or mouth, which can be
irritating and painful. It's easiest if you apply shampoo and
massage and rub it in a little at a time, working through each
area of the dog's body. Make sure not to apply too much shampoo
– you want lather, not overflowing bubbles. Work the shampoo
through all of your dog's hair.
Once your dog is all lathered up, use warm water to rinse all
the shampoo off. Make sure it's all removed.
Tip: If someone can help you with the bath,
have your assistant hold onto the dog's head. Instinctively,
your dog will want to shake his head, which can make you, and
your surroundings, wet if you don't prevent it. If you’re
without a helper, do your best to hang on to your dog’s head
Step 5: Dry & Brush
Now it's time to dry off your dog. Use towels and rub along
your dog's fur. You can also lay a towel on the floor, and your
dog will most likely helpfully rub his body against the
You can also cautiously use a blow dryer to dry off fur, but be
very careful, and only use the lowest setting of the blow dryer
or the cool air function. It’s very easy to burn a dog if the
blow dryer is on medium or high heat. Brush through your dog's
fur again to help it dry and keep it tidy.
Step 6: Clip & Clean
As you’re finishing up with your dog’s beautification, now is a
great time to clip your dog’s
nails, clean their ears, and wipe off any tear stain marks or snotty nostrils.
Ta-da! Your dog’s spa day is over, and they are clean,
refreshed, and have sleek, shiny fur. Dogs can be brushed
daily, and can have baths as often as twice or three times a
Puppy Grooming for Beginners
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
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
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.
5 Winter Tips for a Well Groomed Dog
Cold weather increases the fur quotient in most dog homes.
While extra coat helps keep your dog warm and protected, fur
also acts like a dust mop that traps and carries debris and
smells into your home.
A grimy dog’s paws track dirt into your house, stain carpets
and smudge your pillows. Doggy odor from dirty fur or pungent
breath makes snuggling with them unpleasant. The smell gets
into everything, from their bedding to your carpet. Besides
being unsanitary and obnoxious, poor grooming impacts your
Healthy fur protects dogs from bad weather, but dogs can’t comb
and brush themselves to stay well groomed. Eyes, ears, teeth
and toenails also need attention. These 5 tips offer you a
can-do plan for your well-groomed dog.
Set up a schedule
Dogs thrive on routine. Find a time that’s convenient for you
and put it on the calendar. It’s much easier and takes less
time to maintain good grooming than to perform “damage control”
for mats, grungy hair or torn nails. Hang an old towel near the
door for paw-wiping and drying wet fur each time they come
inside, and schedule brush sessions in front of the TV after
dinner, for example.
Give the sniff test
Wet fur has a distinctive odor but a bad smell from your dog’s
ears or mouth could point to ear infection or tooth problems.
If they smell with dry fur, your dog may have an issue with
anal glands. Ear, teeth and anal glands (under his tail)
generally need veterinary attention.
Petting for Health
Fur can hide a host of problems. Generally your veterinarian
only sees your dog at their scheduled checkups or if they have
an obvious problem, but you live with them all year long.
Petting feels great to your dog and doubles as a home health
checkup. Every time you pet them, let your fingers find fur
mats, lumps and bumps, or make note if they flinch so you can
tell your vet about a sore joint, for example. Don’t forget to
check for overgrown claws on those fuzzy feet and keep nails
trimmed so they don’t split.
Comb & Brush
Choose a comb or brush that best suits your dog’s
coat type. Smooth fur may do well with a bristle brush or just
a chamois cloth can work to polish short hair. A comb that
reaches through thick fur works well for luxurious double
coats. Remember that you don’t have to comb and brush the
entire dog all at once, and you can divide up the job over a
week if your dog won’t sit still for the whole process. Pay
special attention to mat-prone areas behind the ears, in the
“arm pits” and under the tail.
Dunk Your Dog
Small dogs can be bathed in the sink, but larger pets require
the tub. Wear old clothes because you will also get wet.
A shampoo designed
for your dog's or puppy’s sensitive skin is best—human shampoos
can cause allergic reactions when they dry the skin. After
you’ve soaped and rinsed your dog, rinse them again. And then
twice more to be sure all the soap is gone. A conditioner helps
reduce the drying properties of baths. Finally, be sure you
keep your dog warm until they're completely dry. Dogs may get
grubby in the winter and need a bath, but they also are prone
to chills and must be protected from drafts.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant,
consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning
author of 23 pet care books.
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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. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or
other qualified professional with any questions you may have
regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking
professional advice due to what you may have read on our