Benefits of Grooming
Grooming your dog is an essential part of pet ownership. These benefits should encourage you to groom you dog a little more often then needed:
Protection and Defense
Your dog’s fur is not just for cuddling, in fact it is their body’s first and most important line of defense against water, weather, skin disorders and attacks from other animals.
Health and Hygiene
Your dog’s skin is also their largest body organ and can indicate if something is wrong on the inside, so keeping it clean plays an important role in their overall health.
Grooming is not just for pampered city pooches either. Dogs love to get dirty and are often seen rolling in the mud, getting into the garbage, swimming in the lake and playing with friendly woodland creatures like skunks. But even if your dog stays indoors and does not get dirty, he will still accumulate body oils and dandruff over time and will need a bath about once a month.
For some dogs, regular grooming is more than just for aesthetics. Dogs with allergies, fleas, skin conditions, or skin rolls will also benefit from regular grooming to stop itching and irritation.
Helping Senior Dogs
As your dog ages he may not be able to do as good a job of keeping his fur clean, so regular grooming will help boost his immune system and make him feel good.
Proper grooming of your dogs coat also helps him convey emotions such as anger and excitement.
Some breeds require more grooming than others.
Breeds with skin rolls such as Shar Peis and Pugs require regular bathing in order to keep their skin from breaking out in rashes.
Grooming Your Dog At Home
Professional grooming costs can add up, especially if it is done monthly, so here are some tips for how to groom your dog at home.
However, remember that hair-cuts vary by breed, so a styling book or private session with your groomer can help you achieve the look you want.
First you will need to choose where you will bathe your dog: in the shower, in the sink, in the tub, or outside?
If bathing indoors is an option, most likely you will have warm water, and you can bathe your dog any time of the year.
Bathing outdoors with a hose is limited by weather and cannot be done in the winter time. Also most dogs do not enjoy being bathed with cold water, especially senior dogs.
Some pet grooming salons also offer “do it yourself” bathing tubs for a minimal fee.
You will also need some supplies:
- Dog shampoo and conditioner
- A brush
- A collar and leash
And if you really want to go for salon quality, you will want to also pick up:
- A nail trimmer
- Kwik-Stop styptic powder (in the event a nail bleeds),
- Tear stain remover pads (if applicable),
- Ear wash and gauze pads.
- You can also find shower-head or hose attachments and hair traps for your drain in most pet supply stores that make the job a little easier.
Shopping Tips – Choosing a Shampoo
When choosing a shampoo, you want to first base it on your needs. What's your priority:
- Are your priorities just having a clean and shiny dog?
- Do you want your dog’s white or black coat to shine brighter?
- Do you need a medicated shampoo for hot spots, itching or other skin conditions?
- Are fleas and other pests making your pet miserable?
Knowing what you want your end result to be will significantly help you narrow down your options.
When browsing through shampoos, you want to be looking for labels that specify that they are easy to rinse, especially for pets with skin that is easily irritated. You also want your shampoo to be tearless in case it gets in your dog’s eyes.
Go All Natural
When possible, look for shampoos made with natural ingredients.
These will help prevent your dog’s skin from drying out and they are much less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Ingredients such as oatmeal are especially good for calming itchy skin.
When it comes to flea shampoo, also try to look for natural ingredients such as cinnamon, lemongrass, cedar, rosemary or clove oils.
What About Pesticides?
If a natural flea shampoo is unavailable, a common pesticide ingredient to look for is pyrethrin, which is also used in topical flea medications to halt the flea growth cycle.
However, pyrethrins are extremely toxic to cats so NEVER use a dog flea shampoo on a cat.
Also be sure to rinse the entire product off so it is not ingested when your dog licks and grooms himself.
Special Puppy Considerations
If you are bathing a puppy, be sure to buy a gentle shampoo specially formulated for your puppy.
Young puppies should also only be bathed with shampoo once or twice a month, as their skin is highly prone to drying out.
If your puppy gets dirty in between baths, use a warm washcloth or a puppy cleaning wipe to clean their fur.
Love The Scent
Lastly, you should love the scent! If you are going to be hugging and kissing your pooch, they shouldn’t be pungent.
Shopping Tips – Choosing a Brush
There are a wide variety of brushes available for different coat types, and choosing one can be a daunting task. Generally you want to choose the brush that is best for your dog’s hair type.
Dogs with heavily matted coats may require a professional groomer to remove them, or you can do this at home with a lot of patience and elbow grease.
Pin Brush: medium-long hair and curly coats.
Bristle Brush: all coat types. Longer coats need brushes with wider spaces in between the bristles. Coarse or wire coats require stiffer bristles.
Slicker Brush: All coat types. Used for removing mats and tangles.
Dematting Rake and Mat-Breaker: used for breaking up and removing tough mats.
Shedding Blade: all coat types, mostly short. This brush helps remove loose fur.
Flea Comb: used for combing out individual fleas. Remove one at a time and drop the flea into oil to kill. If you are not sure if your dog has fleas, run this comb through your dog’s fur and wipe the comb with a damp paper towel. If the paper towel turns red or brown, this is “flea dirt” or feces left behind by the fleas.
The Best Brush Ever: the Furminator!! If your dog sheds a lot, this is the only brush you will ever need to buy. It easily rakes away clumps of fur even down through the double coat, leaving your dog’s fur smooth and shag-free.
Grinder: safest option, but not tolerated by all dogs. You can desensitize your dog to the sound and feeling through training though.
Scissors: generally only used for dew claws that have grown close to the pad.
Guillotine: safer than scissors and usually well tolerated.
How To Groom Your Dog in 10 Easy Steps
Step 1: Brush
Using your brush, start from the head and work your way back. Be sure to remove as much loose fur as possible.
Step 2: Nails/Ears/Eyes
Trim your dog’s nails first, using Kwik-Stop or any other type of styptic powder to stop any bleeding that may occur.
Ears can be cleaned using an ear wash applied to a gauze pad. Wrap the pad around your index finger and swipe out any build up with your finger.
NEVER use a Q-tip to clean your dog’s ears, as you may accidentally injure their eardrum.
You can use the same finger method using a Tear-Stain Remover pad to clean any discoloration around your dog’s eyes as well.
Step 3: Prepare Your Dog
When you are ready to bathe your dog, put them in the bathing area (a tub, a shower, etc) and secure them with a leash.
Have your bathing supplies there before you bring in the dog so the dog is not left on the leash unattended.
When you are ready to bathe, you can place two large cotton balls in your dog’s ears to stop the water from getting inside. Be sure not to push them deep into the ear canal. You want them in just enough so they will not fall out.
Soak your dog with water from head to toe, ensuring the water reaches the skin. Watch out for shaking, you may get wet too!
Step 5: Apply Shampoo
Using your shampoo, lather your dog starting from the top of their shoulders, working backwards to the tail and feet.
If you are using a flea shampoo, carefully shampoo the face and head and work backwards. Fleas tend to migrate to the head and will go into a dog’s ears and nose when flea shampoo is applied.
Step 6: Massage
Work the shampoo down into the skin and massage it all over your dog’s body.
The more you massage it in, the more dirt and oils you will loosen up. Be sure to get your dog’s tail, undercarriage and paws.
Use this time as an opportunity to bond with your dog and to inspect their bodies for any lumps, bumps or skin concerns.
Step 7: Rinse completely
Shampoo that is left on the skin can really dry it out and cause irritation and itching, so be sure that after you rinse your dog you do not see anymore suds in their fur. If you do, rinse again until the water washes away clean.
Step 8: Condition
This is optional, but it will help replace the natural oils you just washed away so your dog’s skin stays moisturized. It will also help de-tangle your dog’s fur. Lather and rinse in the same way you used the shampoo.
Use a towel and dry your dog thoroughly then let them air dry.
You can use a hair dryer set on a warm (not HOT) setting and blow it backwards through their fur, but be sure that their skin does not get hot as they can easily burn.
Senior dogs have skin that is more sensitive than younger dogs, so blow-drying is not recommended. If you are going to blow dry your dog’s fur, be sure to use a conditioner as blow drying can also dry out their skin.
Step 10: Brush
Smooth out your dog’s coat with a quick brush and some great smelling finishing spray so your dog looks and smells his best!
Show Off Your Dog!
Add a bandana or some cute bows and your dog is ready for a night on the town. When you are all done, give him lots of praise and treats for his great bath manners. Now its time to show off your pretty pooch!
A Parting Tip on How To Groom A Dog – Don't Forget The Anal Glands
No “How To” on Dog Grooming can be complete without at least mentioning this topic.
All dogs have two sacs located next to their rectum called Anal Glands. These glands secrete a putrid smelling discharge that is typically expelled when the dog is under stress. The scent also helps dogs identity each other.
These glands occasionally need to be emptied because they can be irritating when they are full (you’ll know it is time when you see Rover scooting his bottom on your rug!). Not to mention the unpleasant smell can undo all you hard work grooming Rover to begin with.
This emptying of dog's Anal Gland is essential for proper hygiene and is called Anal Sac Expression. However, only a groomer or veterinarian should attempt anal gland expression.
Be sure to fit this into your grooming regimen.
Calvin is the co-founder and one of the main contributors to dogtemperament.com. He has been an avid dog lover all his life. He enjoys researching and sharing great ideas on how you can avoid common pitfalls of dog ownership and build the most loving and enjoyable relationship with your dog.