Owning a dog comes with many ups and downs. Just like children, they require tons of patience. Your days will be spent training and building a bond so that your new best friend can live a long, happy, and fulfilled life. Part of building the bond is learning how to keep your dog clean and healthy. Although part of that is based on diet and exercise, a large part of dog ownership is dog grooming.
The term ‘grooming’ covers a wide range of pet care from teeth and nail upkeep to brushing and bathing. How in-depth you’ll need to go when grooming your dog highly depends on the age, breed, and temperament of your dog. Dogs with curly or wire-haired coats are usually brought to the groomer as early as 12 weeks old and every 4-6 weeks after that to keep up their appearance. Medium to long-haired dogs like German Shepherds and Huskies also visit the groomer somewhat frequently in order to help keep shedding to a minimum. If you’ve already decided that you’ll be DIY’ing your dog grooming it is imperative that you do your research into what your specific dog needs to be healthy and happy.
A great place to start the grooming process is with the nails. All dogs have nails, and it’s pretty easy to keep them maintained. If you can hear your dog walking across your tile or wood floors, it’s time for a trim. The most common tool for trimming toenails are nail clippers, but many pet parents can attest that trimming their squirming dog’s nails is like a W.W.E wrestling match. The best way to avoid this behavior is to start working with a paw touching at a very young age, although any dog can be taught to let us handle its feet over time. A lot of the problem comes from the fact that it is extremely easy to accidentally nick the quick, which can be traumatizing for both parties involved, and often quite bloody. Fear of nicking the quick often leads to hesitancy towards nail trimming in general, which gives your dog’s nails more time to grow. The problem there is that as the nails grow, so does the quick, meaning that the longer you wait the easier it’ll be to injure your dog. Overgrown nails can lead to posture problems which quickly spiral into spine problems as they age.
In order to avoid toe clipping anxiety, a lot of owners have taken to using a nail grinder instead. Grinding down your pets’ nails is much slower than clipping, but the process makes it virtually impossible to injure your dog so many pet parents have made the switch. You may be surprised to know that even the best dog nail grinders, or dremels, available on the market today, could very well be in your price range. Keep in mind that you’ll be trimming your dog’s nails at least once a month so investing in a nicer nail grinder is recommended.
Your dog’s ears are one of the most important tools they have, seconded only by their incredible sense of smell. Just like our own ears, your dog’s ears have to be kept clean and free of earwax that builds up otherwise you run the risk of infection. Dog breeds like poodles and schnauzers will typically have the fur growing within the ear itself pulled out, which seems painful but once you get the hang of it, it isn’t really all that bad. Unlike our ears, the structure of a dog’s ear makes it somewhat difficult for them to shake out ear wax, especially because dog wax is usually thicker. If you’ve ever seen your dog attempting to shove their entire back leg into their ear it’s possible that they’re overdue for an ear cleaning.
The outer ear can be wiped with a baby wipe or cotton ball, but you should never attempt to shove anything into the ear canal of your dog. Just like our ears, the use of Q-tips can cause eardrum perforation or wax blockage further down in the ear. The best tool at your disposal for this task is a dog ear cleaner. If your dog has a yeast infection or any other bacterial issue your veterinarian will send you home with a special solution to be used during the cleaning process. You simply drip a little bit of the liquid solution into your dog’s ear and give it a moment to settle before allowing your dog to shake. Always use the best dog ear cleaner you can find or a vet-provided solution. Don’t pour things into your dog’s ears frequently, as this can also lead to an infection. Depending on the type of ears your dog has, an inspection once a week will usually suffice .
The middle part of your dog is where grooming gets a lot more specialized. Clipper usage, types of brushes, and even shampoo can vary based on the breed of your dog. Allergies also play a factor. When it comes to deciding the best dog shampoo to use when bathing your dog, most big box stores offer a small selection of basic use shampoos. If your dog has skin problems you might need to order specialized shampoo online or get a bottle from your vet. Some people even just use dish soap, which isn’t really recommended for long-term use because it can cause dry skin issues, but will work in a pinch.
Brushes go hand in hand with hair clippers in softer-coated breeds. Undercoat rakes and de-shedding brushes are quite popular these days, but each type of brush has a specific coat type in mind so trying a few brushes to see what works for you is recommended. Often dogs like poodles, doodles, terriers, and huskies require daily, intense brushing to keep their fur from forming thick mats. Matted fur not only looks bad, but as the fur binds together it pinches the dog’s skin, causing pain and irritation which can translate to an ill-tempered pet. Proper brushing is key to being able to maintain a luxurious coat and a happy, fluffy dog. Look into your dog’s breed when deciding what kind of brush to use, and if you still have doubts you can always ask a local groomer for some pointers.
Clippers, on the other hand, can have a cult following. Every groomer will have a favorite brand of clippers, so the best advice is to do some research and consider the purchase of the best dog hair clippers for your pup as an investment, similar to the nail grinder. Clippers are mostly used on ‘hypoallergenic’ breeds, even though you’ll sometimes see huskies, malamutes, and German shepherds shaved even though their thick double coats should never be shaved. If you are inclined to shave your dog or try to give it a classic shape there are resources available on YouTube or TikTok for more in-depth help on your specific breed.
Teeth are, arguably, the most important part of your dog’s health. Just like our own mouths, a dog’s mouth is the gate to their stomach and subsequently their source of nourishment. Dog’s also use their mouths like hands, mouthing and nipping other dogs as a way to communicate. If your dog’s teeth are in bad shape it can not only lead to dental disease but also temperament issues because they are in pain. Dog dental treatments can be very expensive too because they have to be knocked out to have the work done. The best way to avoid having to pay upwards of $500 for a dental cleaning every year is to maintain their teeth at home through brushing and dog dental chews.
Brushing your dog’s teeth might seem a bit odd at first, but once you settle into a routine with your pet it becomes second nature. There are many types of brushes, including finger brushes, traditional toothbrushes, and tri-faced brushes that brush all 3 sides of the tooth at one time. After picking your preferred brush, the next big decision is to find the best toothpaste for dogs. Doggy toothpaste is usually flavored something like chicken or beef, often with very light mint scents to make it pleasing to our noses. Feel free to try out a few different flavors until you find one that your dog enjoys.
Some dogs never come around to the idea of brushing, and if you just can’t keep up with brushing your dog’s teeth yourself you can rely on your dog to keep plaque away using dental chews. The best dog dental chews will last long enough with your dog to get the job done, but not one small enough to be swallowed whole. Greenies are a popular brand of dental sticks, designed to be used daily. There are also chewing toys that can be used in conjunction with an enzymatic toothpaste that help brush as the dog chews on the toy.
FAQ’s about DIY dog grooming
How can I groom my dog myself?
Routine grooming is an essential part of taking care of your dog. Most breeds just require a bath, brush, and regular nail trims alongside daily dental maintenance. You should be conditioning your dog to be groomed at a very young age. Allowing their mouths to be inspected and paws held for nail trims is crucial to making grooming easier for both them and you. Try to develop a routine that works for you and your pet together, but don’t be afraid of mixing things up every so often to keep your dog active and engaged. Remember that clipping or scissor-cutting your dog’s fur should always be done by a professional groomer, but common cuts are often found online and one can teach themself to do a good enough job to carry their pup until their next appointment.
Can I trim my dog myself?
In theory, yes, although it should typically be left to professionals. Shaving your dog at home can lead to trust issues between you and your pet if things go south. If your dog is matted or has anything sticky or binding in their fur they should see a groomer immediately. If you’re looking to extend the amount of time between grooming visits you can ask your groomer to give you a few pointers in order to keep your pet comfortable until they can get back in for a proper haircut. The biggest advice here is to consider the price and commitment of grooming when deciding on what kind of dog to get. Don’t have time to brush your dog for an hour every day? Then you probably shouldn’t have something large and fluffy.
Is it better to cut a dog’s hair wet or dry?
Humans usually get haircuts after a wash while their hair is still wet, but dogs are usually blow-dried before cutting. The reason behind this is that many breeds have a hard time drying off on their own. For example, a poodle can take upwards of 4 hours to air dry, and air drying will lead to more tangles and mats. This is why groomers always use a high-velocity dryer to dry and fluff the coat before any cutting begins. You can purchase and use these dryers at home but they are very expensive. If you have a breed that gets groomed often you’ll have to start them at a young age to ensure they acclimate to the groomer easier.
How do you groom a dog without clippers?
Grooming a dog without clippers definitely adds to the amount of time needed to complete the job, but some dogs just never adjust to the sight, sound, or sensation of clipping shears. When it comes to scissor-cutting a dog it’s all about the positioning. Make sure the dog is at the right height to be groomed using a table or a counter. Brush them thoroughly before beginning to remove any knots or mats. Don’t be tempted to hack away like you’re trying to give yourself bangs on a whim. With dog grooming the key is to remove small bits at a time and only use the tips of the scissors just in case your dog moves or spazzes. This will help reduce the risk of accidents.