Newfoundlands may be beautiful, but how will you get and
keep all that fur clean? Keeping large dogs groomed is
important for their health and worth the extra work. Here are
some special grooming tips hand-picked for your dog's big paws.
For more information on grooming, find out how to brush your dog's teeth and find the
best grooming supplies.
Overall, frequent fur brushing (several times per week) is one
of the best things you can do for your dog, but a few
techniques will help keep them safe while getting clean. Make
sure to use a recommended brush for
large dogs for daily grooming.
Big dog bath time
Bathing is a special challenge for large dogs because they may
not fit in your bathtub! It's important to start bathing young
so that your dog learns the process and can be trained to
behave. You may need to have baths outside, and keep your dog
on a leash to avoid running. Look for a collar to use during
bathing which will not bleed color onto the fur when wet—you
can return to the regular collar when they're dry. You can also
try self-service pet washes at pet stores to access the proper
tools and leave the mess behind.
Brush your dog thoroughly before a bath to remove matted fur
before they get wet. Make sure that you use dog shampoo (human
shampoo is too harsh for dogs) and if needed, dilute it with
water before massaging into your dog's fur. Two rounds of
diluted shampoo will be easier to wash out than one thick
round. It's important to rinse out all the shampoo because
leaving shampoo on your dog's skin can lead to irritation.
The added challenge for some large dogs, such as Newfoundlands
Great Pyrenees, is that they have a double coat, making
bath time twice the challenge. It is difficult to get the soap
into their fur and to ensure that you rinse it out completely,
so use two diluted batches of shampoo instead of one big glob.
Drying on time
Some giants (especially those with double coats) may take all
day to dry, and may need your help to speed up the process. You
can start with a towel, but you may need to upgrade to an
electric dryer. You can use a hairdryer, but make sure it is on
the cool setting—you don't want to burn your friend! For
double-coated dogs, like
Bernese Mountain Dogs and Newfoundlands, you may prefer a
pet dryer to speed up the process and avoid burns.
No one likes it, but every dog needs their nails trimmed to
avoid damage to the toes or feet from long nails. Big dogs require special trimmers or
clippers to handle their large nails, which should be cut just
long enough to touch the floor as they walk, but not too short
as to cut into the quick (blood vessel in the nail). This can
be a tricky task, which is why it's better to take off a series
of small slices and trim more frequently, ideally several times
per month. Resist the dangerous urge to rush through the
process by making one big cut on each toe.
To trim nails, get comfortable on the floor and have your dog
lay on their side so that you can access all of their feet, or
teach them to “show belly.”
Before trimming day, expose your dog to foot handling by
rubbing your dog's feet, so that they can become comfortable
with the experience. If you do cut too far and a toe starts to
bleed, use styptic pads to stop the bleeding. If you or your
dog don't like using clippers, try using a grinder instead.
Training will help your dog stay during this process, and a
nice meaty treat at the end will show your appreciation.
DIY Dog Grooming
Grooming at home can be a fun experience for both you and your
dog, but many people underestimate just how essential it is
that they are regularly bathing, brushing, and grooming their
What Does Your Dog Need?
The first step to proper at-home grooming is to consider what
your dog actually needs. A terrier isn’t going to need a shave
and a poodle isn’t going to need coat sheen. Determining what
your dog needs can be quite simple, especially if you know
their breed. A quick look online will tell you what is
considered essential for the health of their quote.
During the summer, for example, a Saint Bernard or other
long-haired breed may need a buzz to keep them cool. Meanwhile,
a curly-haired breed is going to need special grooming to
ensure their coat doesn’t tangle, and they might also need a
trim to help keep them cleaner and cooler for longer. A
short-haired breed won’t need much in the way of razors, but
they’ll still need some moisturizer applied to keep their skin
and coat in good shape.
Determine what your dog needs based on their breed and coat,
then come up with the right routine that will incorporate those
Your Grooming Checklist
Once you have the care plan figured out for your dog’s specific
coat type, you also need to put these essential tasks down onto
your grooming checklist. These are things all dogs need to have
done at regular intervals:
Ear cleaning. Cleaning your dog’s ears will help
prevent smelly (and painful) infections from becoming an
issue. Ear cleaning won’t be necessary during every
session, but you should check their ears regularly for
dirt, debris, and signs of infection to keep them in their
Nail trimming. Overgrown claws will go “tip tap” when
your dog walks across a wood floor. This means your dog’s
nails are far too long and they need to be trimmed down.
Get some sharp dog nail trimmers to do it. When you’re
done, their nails should not touch the floor when
Dental health. You probably won’t be able to brush
your dog’s teeth every night, but it is still a good idea
to keep a close eye on their dental health. Regularly lift
their lips to check for healthy gums and any teeth that may
be giving them issues. A doggy-approved tooth brushing once
a month is essential to helping them fight plaque and
Seasonal care. During the summer, a short-haired dog
especially is going to start turning pink on their belly
and nose if allowed too much time out in the sun. Doggy
sunscreen is in order for their snout and other exposed
areas of skin. During the winter, moisturizing balm may be
necessary for your dog’s nose and paw pads.
Health check. Just like a certified groomer, when you
have finished with your grooming routine, it’s important
you do a quick once-over to make sure your dog looks to be
in good health. Are they gaining weight? Losing some? Do
they have any bumps or wounds that need to be addressed?
Your weekly grooming session is a good chance to screen
your dog and make sure they’re in good health between vet
Once you have written up your grooming checklist, the next step
is to figure out how often your dog needs to be groomed.
Depending on how much time they spend outdoors, and how
tolerant you are of dirt and debris, some dog owners bathe and
groom once per week. At minimum, you should groom your dog once
a month and do everything on your checklist.
One thing that stops many people from grooming their dog at
home is that some dogs just don’t like to sit still. If you
find that your dog doesn’t like baths or doesn’t like being
brushed, work with them so that you can get to the point where
you can groom them yourself.
You may see it as a hassle, but grooming is very important to
your dog’s health and happiness. Not only will you be keeping
their coat clean and beautiful, you will be checking for
important things too that will have a big impact on their
comfort and health.
Most dogs won’t enjoy having their paws held to be trimmed or
their lips lifted so their teeth can be inspected, but these
are things you’ll simply have to get your dog used to with
time. Be patient, have a friend step in to hold them for you,
and be sure that lots of treats and “Good dog!” compliments are
involved in the process.
If you make grooming an enjoyable experience, it’ll just be a
matter of time before your dog begins looking forward to the
If you have a long-haired dog or one that gets particularly
dirty, grooming will be required more often in order to keep
their coat in good health. Look up your dog’s breed so you can
get a better idea of how often their coat needs to be groomed.
Generally, your health and dental check along with an ear
cleaning and nail trim can be done 1-2 times per month, but
their coat type is going to determine how often you need to
pull out the hose.
Depending on the season, environment, and your dog’s breed, you
might also need to give them supplements to support a healthy
coat and, on occasion, topical ointments for any skin or coat
conditions they may be experiencing. This will soon become a
normal part of their grooming routine as you get in the habit
of thoroughly checking them each time you work with them.
Small Dog Grooming
You might think that owning a small breed dog means
less grooming, but in
reality there are a wide range of small breeds from extra-tiny
to medium, and their grooming requirements vary as much as
their size. It’s true that some small breed dogs -- such as
Chihuahuas, Beagles, and Italian Greyhounds -- are relatively
low maintenance when it comes to grooming, but other breeds --
like Toy Poodles and Shih Tzus -- require a lot of upkeep. Here
we’ll look at some grooming considerations that apply to small
breed dogs in general.
Train for Grooming
Many small breed dogs have big energy, and this can translate
to impatience and fidgeting during grooming. This type of
behavior is not only frustrating, it can also be dangerous when
performing delicate procedures such as nail trimming or
cleaning around the eyes. Train your dog from an early age to
be comfortable sitting still. You can make the grooming area
more pleasant for your dog by using a towel, blanket, or
skid-free mat. Your dog should also learn to be comfortable
having different parts of their body touched. In quiet moments
with your dog, pick up a paw, rub their ear, gently slip a
finger into their mouth, and touch their face. This way your
dog won’t be so surprised when you reach for a paw or open
their mouth during grooming.
In many cases grooming your small breed dog at home is
completely doable, but you’ll need the right tools. One of the
trickiest parts of grooming is nail clipping, and for this very
sensitive procedure you’ll need a nail clipper that is sized
appropriately for your dog. For many small breed dogs a pair of
small pet nail clippers will work -- this is the same size used
on cats. Always check the packaging of the product before using
it on your dog. If you have a medium sized dog, you may need to
go up a size or two. For fussy dogs who just can’t stand the
sight of those clippers, you can try using a dremel to sand
down the nails instead.
Another tool that you need to get right is the toothbrush. Small breed dogs are more
susceptible to dental problems because of their small mouths,
so daily teeth brushing is a must. Never use a human toothbrush
or toothpaste on your dog. For small breeds, you can find a
small angled handheld brush or a soft brush that fits over your
finger. Dog toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors including
poultry and peanut butter. Your dog may end up liking this
necessary grooming step.
Low-Maintenance Small Breed Dogs
All dogs need to have their nails clipped, teeth brushed, and
get regular checks for fleas and ticks, but beyond that, many
small breed dogs require little grooming. The following breeds
have easy to care for coats and less grooming needs than other
small dogs: Affenpinscher, Beagle, Boston Terrier, Chihuahua
(short haired), Dachshund (smooth and wirehaired), English Toy
Spaniel, French Bulldog, Hairless Chinese Crested, Italian
Greyhound, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Papillon,
Pug, Rat Terrier, and Toy Fox Terrier.
High-Maintenance Small Breed Dogs
Some small breed dogs need a lot
of grooming to keep their coats healthy, clean, and
free of mats. These breeds aren’t for the owners who just can’t
put in the time, as in many cases daily brushing and care is
needed. The following small breeds need some extra pampering:
Australian Terrier, Bichon Frise, Bolognese, Coton de Tulear,
Lhasa Apso, Havanese, Maltese, Miniature Poodle, Pekingese,
Powderpuff Chinese Crested, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Skye
Terrier, Toy Poodle, and Yorkshire Terrier.
More on Dog Grooming
How to Groom a Dog: A Step by Step
How to Trim Australian
How to Clip a Golden Retriever for
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.