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 pet 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 canal 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. These professionals do a great job at making our dogs look their best. But what about doing your own at-home grooming sessions? If you don’t want to spend all that money on a professional, here the grooming basics every pet parent needs to know.
When cutting a dog's hair, you need to have the proper grooming tools 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). Dog owners should also consider trimming their dog's nails with specially made nail clippers that can found in the grooming supplies section of most pet stores.
For in-home dog grooming, you are going to want to get the bathwater warm, but not steaming hot (which can irritate your dog's skin). Make sure to continuously comfort your pet and tell 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). You can try 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. You are going to want to work the shampoo into the dog's coat, getting it nice and sudsy, and massaging into the undercoat. Now that they are all bubbly, it's time for a rinse 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 to avoid skin irritation. 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 type, so don’t be afraid to spend some time rinsing the shampoo out. The last step 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 to get rid of tangles.
Now that your dog is all clean and rinsed off, time for the drying. I'd suggest letting them drip dry for a few minutes after bathtime in the shower to minimize the amount of water that sprays everywhere when they shake. This allows you to get the towels, brush, and blow dryer set up in the meantime. After a few minutes, grab one of the towels and begin drying off their hair. Don’t be afraid to get a little vigorous here, my dog Tahoe really likes getting toweled down! Your dog’s hair won’t be completely dry after the toweling, this is where the blow dryer steps in. With the blow dryer on COOL, begin brushing the dog 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 good. 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! Wondering: how often does a dog need to be groomed? How often should I groom my dog?? This will also vary according to breed! A long-haired dog is going to require more maintenance than a short-haired dog. 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 (and how often) to cut their hair. For the trim, you may want to get a second person to help comfort your dog as you trim them up, especially if you're not sure how to use dog clippers -- the buzzing from the clippers can be unsettling for your dog. I suggest setting up somewhere with a hard surface so the loose hair can be easily swept up (AKA not the carpet). The clippers should come with attachments for various lengths. 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 is antsy. 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 rather than 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. Use the scissors to trim any other areas you deem necessary. Praise your dog for the great job they have done.
Now step back and admire your work! You now have a brand new, clean dog. And you did it all yourself!
Pro Tip: When I 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!
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 the muscle, which can be very painful for your animal. Then, work on a few other important areas:
Eyes: Clean up any eye crusts. 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 dog groomer 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.