Dog Grooming 101

Pets are like family, so in addition to feeding them, playing with them and giving them the proper love and attention, it’s also critical that we do what we have to do to keep them healthy and looking good – and that’s why grooming is so important.

Yes, first and foremost, grooming keeps dogs and cats looking good. But did you know that failing to groom your animal could result in yeast infections, ear infections, tooth decay, gum disease and other symptoms? A lot of people take their dogs to professional groomers and spend a lot of money to keep their dog looking good, and these professionals do a great job at making our dogs look their best. But, if you don’t want to spend all that money on a professional, here are some steps you can take to help make your dog look great.


To start with, you need to have the proper equipment and resources before you get started. For simple bathing, all you will need is some dog shampoo from the pet store, a shower with extendable head or hose, conditioner (optional), towels, a blow dryer, and a brush. If you are wanting to cut your dog’s hair, you will also need hair scissors along with hair clippers that you can pick up just about anywhere that sells hair products such as Wal-Mart or Target (I suggest Wahl brand clippers).


You are going to want to get the water warm, but not steaming hot. If the water is too hot, your dog’s skin can become irritated and your dog will likely be a little harder to control during the bath. Make sure to continuously comfort them with pets and telling them what a good boy or girl they are being. When rinsing them, start from the neck and work your way down (save the face for last). I suggest putting a cotton ball in each of their ears so water doesn’t get in. Start with getting their body nice and doused, then you can move on to the shampooing. Depending on your dog’s size and the shampoo brand, the amount to use will vary. We all wash our hair regularly (I hope), and apply as needed to your dog so that their fur gets nice and sudsy. You are going to want to work to the shampoo into the fur, spend some extra time on the neck where the collar sits, your dog will love you for this. Now that he or she is all bubbly, time to rinse them down.

Use the detachable nozzle or hose and bring it down to your dog’s level. Again, from the neck down begin to rinse in the same direction the hair grows. You want to rinse thoroughly until you don’t see any more suds. This can take a while if your dog has a thick coat, so don’t be afraid to spend some time rinsing the shampoo out. The last part is cleaning the face and ears. You will want to be sure to not get the soap in their eyes and try to get this part done relatively quickly. You can cover their eyes with your hand as you rinse the soap off of their face so it doesn’t get in their eyes. If you want, you can repeat all of these steps but change the shampoo for conditioner.

The Drying

Now that your dog is all clean and rinsed off, time for the drying. I let Tahoe drip dry for a few minutes in the shower to minimize the amount of water that sprays everywhere when they shake off. This allows you to get the towels, brush, and blow dryer set up in the meantime. After a few minutes have passed, grab one of the towels and begin drying off their hair. Don’t be afraid to get a little vigorous here, Tahoe really likes getting toweled down. Now your dog’s hair won’t be completely dry after the toweling, this is where the blow dryer steps in. With the brush and the blow dryer on COOL, begin brushing their hair in the direction that it grows while also going over it with the blow dryer. This will help prevent matting and make your dog look gooooood. After getting their hair relatively dry and all of their hair brushed, be sure to give your dog a treat and plenty of praise and let them air dry the rest of the way.

Getting the Haircut

Depending on your dog’s breed, there may be a certain style for them! But, you may trim them however you want. The following instructions are for just your simple trim, but there are plenty of online resources you can find on specific breeds and how to execute their haircuts with just hair clippers and scissors. For the trim, you may want to get a second person to help comfort your dog as you trim them up — the buzzing from the clippers can be unsettling for your dog. I suggest setting up somewhere with a hard surface so the hair can be easily swept up, AKA not the carpet. The clippers should come with attachments for various length. Pick the appropriate length and attach to the clippers. Time to start. Just like the rinsing, start from the neckline and work down the back along with the grain of the hair. You may need to take treat breaks and play with toys if your dog becomes shifty. Short strokes with the clippers are best, opposed to long ones. The best method I have found is a short swooping motion with the clippers to get an even cut. After all of the hair is clipped appropriately. I suggest scissors opposed to the clippers for the feet and ears/face. Be sure when you are doing the ears to not cut too much off of the end and accidentally nick your dog’s ear, I promise they won’t like that. Use the scissors to trim any other areas you deem necessary. Praise your dog for the great job they have done. And step back and admire your work!!

You now have a brand new, clean dog. And you did it all yourself! He or she may not have the luscious like Tahoe, but I am sure they will look great! One side note for those brave souls that cut their dog’s hair: When your sweep up the trimmings, I put some of them outside by my birdfeeder in a tree in my backyard and the birds use it in their nests!

Are you completely covered with fur every time you sit down on the couch? Here are some Tips on Removing Pet Hair from Furniture, Floors & More.

Brushing the Hair

Brushing your animal is the most important and easiest type of grooming to perform, especially if your animal has longer fur that gets matted easily. If left untreated, mats only enlarge to the point where they’re unmanageable and have to be cut out. If mats are left to get too large, they can also cause yeast infections. So simply take a pet comb to your animal every few days and brush from the neck on down. This helps prevent matting in long-haired dogs and also helps manage shedding in shorter-haired animals.


If you’ve found some mats in your animal’s hair that won’t brush out, cut or shave them out with scissors or an electric razor to prevent a yeast infection from occurring. Don’t ever try to comb the matted hair out – this may result in pulling the skin away from muscle, which can be very painful to your animal. Then, work on a few other important areas:

  • Eyes: Clean up any eye crusts that have developed. If left, these can lead to eye infections.
  • Ears: Apply some ear cleaning solution to a cotton ball and use it to wipe away any residue inside the ear. Dirty ears can lead to an infection.
  • Teeth: It’s estimated that as many as 80% of dogs have periodontal disease, a gum disease. Gingivitis is a common type of periodontal condition. So make an effort to brush your dog’s teeth a couple times a week. Minimally, try to introduce your dog to some pet-friendly mouthwash.
  • Nails: If your animal’s nails get too long, they can lead to skeletal conditions. That’s not good – so make sure that you stay on top of trimming your pet’s nails. Simply taking 1/16th of an inch off the nail using specialty dog clippers about once a month will usually do the trick.

Finding a Groomer

DIY grooming isn’t for everyone and many would rather pay a professional to make sure the job is done right. But what should you be looking for in a professional groomer? Here’s a look:

  • Ask for referrals: If you have pet-owner friends, ask for groomer referrals (especially if their animal is a similar breed to yours).
  • Check credentials: Look for before and after photos of groomed dogs that are similar in breed to yours at the groomers you’re considering. Also, make sure the groomer is licensed (if licensing is required in the city or state you’re in).
  • Tour the grooming facility: Meet the groomers before you take your pet there. This introduction will allow you to develop trust with the professionals.

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