Part of being a responsible dog owner is making sure that your four-legged friend is properly groomed. You should groom your dog because it’s vital for your dog’s continued physical and mental health. Practicing regular dog grooming, even if the dog doesn’t look unkempt, has many health benefits for their coat and the skin beneath.
Why Should I Groom My Dog?
It’s also a great form of bonding between you and your pet. By spending quality time taking care of your dog, your dog will become accustomed to your touch, making the grooming process easier. If you’re grooming a pup, establishing that kind of contact is important for keeping your dog well-trained and obedient, too!
Remember that your dog can’t tell you things, no matter how expressive they are, so grooming is essential to check the physical condition of your dog. By grooming, you can better find sores, ticks, and any other physical issues that need to be addressed.
You can make the grooming process easier for your dog by offering praise and treats whenever they sit through it. Try to groom them after a walk or other forms of exercise, when they’re more tired and less stressed.
Helps Ventilate The Dog’s Coat
As we said, grooming your dog has amazing benefits for their coat. Just by brushing your dog’s coat, you separate hairs and introduce more air into their fur. This ventilates the coat, sweeping away any damaged, loose hair and allowing strong and healthy hairs to grow in their place.
As a result, the skin under that coat also breathes better. This stops grease from building up on the skin, which can block pores and cause skin issues, just like it can with us humans. Close interaction with your dog is necessary to identify potential sore patches/infections from where loose hair has tangled and pulled on the dog’s skin.
The act of putting pressure onto the skin and moving the skin around also promotes blood flow through the area. Allowing the skin and the hair to breathe puts a stop to this irritation and keeps your dog healthy and happy. A dog suffering from any physical irritation will become unpredictable in its behavior, so taking care of their body is very important for taking care of their mind.
All of these benefits come from just brushing your dog’s fur, which is only a part of the grooming process!
Helps Their Coat Grow Shiny And Healthy
When you practice regular grooming so your dog’s coat gets ventilated and the skin beneath stays healthy, their coat will grow shinier. How the dog’s coat grows will depend on what type of coat they have but what you’ll notice is that they look better and healthier.
This is because the ventilation/blood circulation in both the individual hairs and the skin beneath them allows for stronger coats to grow. Assuming the coat is tended to in other ways, many of which we’ve discussed below such as shampooing, then that coat can get pretty shiny!
Shiny coats are to be expected with dogs that have straighter, more flowing hairs instead of curlier ones. That said, you should notice a difference once you start grooming your dog.
Dog Grooming Checklist: What To Get
So, you’re sold on the importance of grooming your dog to make sure they’re feeling and looking good. Now you need to gather the equipment you’ll need. As we’ve said a few times now, grooming is a process. That means it’s going to take some time and the use of several different tools and products. By getting all of those products before you even start, you’re saving yourself from a headache later down the line.
Use the below section as a checklist. You may have some of them already but, if you don’t, you’ll want to have them before you follow the rest of this guide. There’s nothing worse than starting a job you can’t finish because you didn’t bring the right equipment.
To start with, you’ll need a comb. You may already own one, maybe the one that you use, but do you want to share it with your dog? It’s best to get a dedicated comb that has been made to work with the coats and underlying skin of canines. In truth, you may need a whole set of combs. Try to get the following:
- A medium-toothed, general-purpose comb.
- A fine-toothed comb for dogs with thin hair.
- A wide-toothed comb for dogs with thick hair.
- A flea comb for removing not just fleas but tangles too.
Just like with combs, you’re going to need several brushes to properly take care of your dog’s coat. While the face and nails of your dog are important to treat during the grooming process, you’ll spend most of the time treating their coat, so try to get hardy brushes that won’t break or degrade in quality too soon.
As for which brushes you’ll need…
- A slicker brush for all-purpose use.
- A curry brush for dogs with shorter hair.
- A pin brush for dogs with longer hair.
Dogs with very long or shaggy coats may need to be trimmed. Some dog species need to be trimmed properly just so they can see, like some of these iconic dog breeds:
- Afghan Hounds
- Bearded Collies
- English Sheep Dogs
- Poodles and miexes like Cavoodles
- Skye Terriers
This also applies to dogs who are very active outdoors, where they often get dirty and form tangles that can’t be undone through washing or taking a brush or comb to the area. While you’ll typically be able to untangle them, sometimes it’s fine to clip problem areas to stop tangles and other irritating coat problems.
It’s best to get an electric clipper and several blades for it, so you can swap them out to deal with different coat thicknesses and different parts of the dog. You should also keep some scissors handy that can cut through dog hair with ease, meaning they don’t pull on the skin or fail to cut through the hair. They can be used to cut with more precision than the average clipper affords you.
Along with an electric clipper for hair, you should also check out nail clippers. Once again, you don’t want to share any of your human nail clippers with your dog, and the ones you own are probably too small or not powerful enough to get the job done properly. You can find purpose-made dog toenail clippers everywhere.
We have more information on how to clip your dog’s toenails below. That said, you may want to stock up on a little something called styptic powder. This is an antihemorrhagic substance that stops bleeding, which can come in handy if you accidentally cut the nails too close! If you have natural ingredients lying around, you can also make your own styptic powder.
When grooming your dog’s coat, you’re going to wash them. We have detailed how the grooming process typically goes below; some choose to wash the coat before trimming etc. while others do it afterward. Whichever one you choose; you should make sure your shampoo is kind to your dog’s hair and skin.
The shampoos that we use are often too harsh for the skin of a dog. There are many nutrients in shampoo that are beneficial to our hair and scalp but, if put on your dog, it will do nothing or even worse – cause irritation. For example, one option you can consider is an oatmeal shampoo for dogs.
Nobody wants that for their pet dog, so take some time to find a shampoo that is pH-balanced and sold specifically for dog grooming. You can even get products that are specifically tailored to the coat of your dog, based on how long/short the coat is and how much they shed it.
You’ll also need a conditioner to keep that coat silky smooth, especially if you’re dealing with straight-haired and longer-haired coats!
Lastly, you should have some old towels lying around that you don’t use anymore. If you do, they can be used to dry off your dog once you’re done washing them. Or you can opt for a dog dryer.
While a lot of the grooming process focuses on preventing irritation and making sure your dog looks good, you also must be on guard. As we said at the start of this guide, dogs can’t explicitly tell us when they have a problem. This means they can’t tell us when fleas or a nasty tick has chosen them to feast on!
That’s why you should use the grooming process to check for any irritating pests and, for good measure, you should also grab some flea and tick preventatives. These are simple products that are easy to use and not invasive at all, so even the most dramatic or temperamental of pooches should be fine with the treatment.
You’ll also need some grooming wipes for general-purpose cleaning. They can be used to wipe away loose dirt on parts of your pet’s coat, such as stains around the mouth or eyes. They can also be used to rub dirt away from your dog’s paws and the nails that are attached to them. Some household wipes may be too harsh, so it’s best to get products that market themselves on their friendliness to the skin and hair of your canine companion.
Toothbrush & Toothpaste For Dogs
Dogs need to brush their teeth too! While we have certain treats like dental sticks that allow for some natural cleaning, the foods we give our dogs nowadays just don’t allow for self-cleaning often.
As you’ve probably caught on by now, you can’t use a human toothbrush and toothpaste for your dog, you’ll need to get specially made ones that don’t cause harm or irritation to your dog’s sensitive gums.
Want to know a secret? Up to 80% of dogs can have some stage of gum disease before 3 years old. This is because most dogs stay in stage one, a relatively minor and treatable state where there are no outward symptoms except for a little redness, which can be hard to see when you don’t look inside the dog’s mouth often and it’s all pink anyway.
If you don’t take care of their teeth, periodontitis can emerge and spread. It won’t just loosen teeth, it can also attack the underlying jaw bone if it gets bad enough, and that can disable your dog or even prove fatal to smaller breeds.
Eye & Ear Cleaning Equipment
Along with the teeth, taking care of the dog’s eyes and ears is also important. There are also ways you can take care of their nose, all of which we’ve covered later in this guide. It’s through their eyes and ears that your dog takes in its surroundings. They’re also incredibly sensitive, so it doesn’t take much to irritate them and ruin your dog’s day!
You can get specially made solutions that tackle eye and ear cleaning. Since these parts are sensitive, your dog may object to having you touch so close to their eyes. This is something that lessens over time and it helps if the dog is young, so they can learn there’s nothing to fear earlier in their life.
Look for eye cleaning solutions that are pH-balanced and made with natural ingredients (aloe, echinacea) or boric acid (which is used for our eye products, so totally safe!) These products not only help clean the eyes but can also break down tear stains so they’re more easily wiped away. That’s right, this is where you’ll be using those grooming wipes we mentioned earlier.
As for cleaning the ears, you should avoid solutions that use harsh ingredients like alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. If your dog breed is prone to ear infections, products with antibacterial/antifungal ingredients are great for preventing issues later on.
Not all dog breeds need their ears cleaned and over-cleaning can even cause infection. You should check your dog’s ears when grooming and only take action if a noticeable odor or any discharge is coming from the ears.
Dog Grooming Table
Last but certainly not least, grooming is a whole lot easier if you buy a dog grooming table. Is it necessary? Not if you have an elevated space that you can rest your dog on. However, for most people that’s a table or a kitchen counter, where food is eaten or prepared, so it’s often unhygienic. If you must put your dog on one of those surfaces, make sure that you cover it up with a sheet or towel and then wash the area thoroughly afterward.
If you want to groom like the pros, you can find grooming tables online. Many of them can be expensive, often the most expensive out of all the equipment we’ve included above. If you’re good with your hands, you can save some money with a DIY grooming table.
How To Groom Your Dog?
Those are most of the items you’ll need when grooming your dog, while others are just nice to have, so make sure you have everything you need before starting the grooming process.
Here are the six general steps that you need to do when grooming your dog, no matter their size or breed.
1. Clean Your Dog’s Eyes
Taking care of your dog’s face is something that can be done at the start or end of the dog grooming process, depending on your priorities. Take a look at your dog’s eyes to see if there’s any dirt or crust that needs to be wiped away, including tear stains. Use a damp cloth or a grooming wipe to wipe the area.
As we mentioned above, sometimes dogs won’t like you trying to touch near their eyes. Be careful, calm, and reward your dog for complying afterward so that they feel good about the experience and won’t be upset next time.
While you’re there, you should also observe the eye to see if there are any other issues. Sometimes eyes can become reddened or swollen, which can be symptoms of more serious eye problems that may need a veterinarian’s attention. Overly dry eyes across a long period can also be a cause for concern, especially for growing pups.
2. Clean Your Dog’s Ears
Next, you should clean your dog’s ears. A grooming wipe over the folds of the ear and the exterior flaps is typically enough to keep them maintained. If the dog requires deeper cleaning, an ear cleaning solution will be required. Stay away from Q-tips, they can be dangerous for the dog’s eardrums.
Try to clean the dog’s ears every two to four weeks and pay special attention to them if the dog gets wet often, either through swimming or through playing outside in wet weather.
3. Clean Your Dog’s Nose
You should also check your dog’s nose when grooming them. The nose is especially important for dogs, everybody knows that, so keeping it in good condition is key to giving your dog a happy life.
Healthy dog noses should be wet but may get dry throughout the day, specifically when they’re napping or otherwise enable to add moisture to their snout. A dry nose can be a sign of sunburn, dehydration, or maybe the air is just dry. Don’t leave the dog outside in severe heat or humid conditions, and make sure they have plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep their nose moisturized. You can also get a nose balm made for dogs that will protect the nose.
When cleaning your dog, take a cursory glance at the nose. If there’s any dirt, crust, or debris built up on the nose for whatever reason, give them a quick swipe.
4. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
By brushing your dog’s teeth, you don’t just keep tooth loss and periodontitis at bay, you can also make their breath smell better! Your dog’s standard breath won’t be anything special but trust us, you’ll know the difference if their gums are festering with disease.
Brushing your dog’s teeth gets rid of plaque and tartar, just like it does with our teeth, and that keeps the teeth and underlying gums healthy and strong. Try to brush them a couple of times a week and use toothpaste that has been made for dogs. Chew toys and dental chew sticks also promote healthy tooth and gum growth. The same can be said for bones or antlers, for those who prefer a more natural touch, but you should make sure your dog can handle them by checking with your vet.
5. Brush Your Dog’s Coat
Dog coats come in all shapes and lengths, typically falling into six categories:
- Puppy coat
- Curly/Wooly coat
- Wire coat
- Smooth/Short coat
- Silky coat
Most dogs will go through that puppy phase temporarily. Then, from there, it depends on the breed. Some dogs can exist somewhere between two different categories, especially if they’re cross-breed.
To properly brush your dog, you need to know which coat they have. There’s no use trying to brush the curls out of a curly-coated dog, after all, while silky and straight-haired dogs shouldn’t be curly. Check for knots and matted hair and take immediate action if you see them. Try to brush them out and, if that doesn’t work, wash them out. As a last resort, you may need to cut the hair away.
Brush the hair several times a week with a brush that’s compatible with your furry friend’s coat. Start along the back and then work your way across the sides too. If you have a larger dog with an upright chest, you can lightly brush that too, they’ll probably appreciate the scratches.
6. Trim Your Dog’s Hair
As we’ve covered, many dogs need frequent trimming to stay healthy and presentable. It can take a while if your dog is big, so keep treats handy so your dog doesn’t get bored and try to wander away.
Like with brushing, start around the neck and then move down across the body, to the nail. Short-haired dogs only need some curved/straight scissors while longer-haired dogs can take clippers, and then have more precise cuts with scissors. When using clippers, play it safe by starting with the largest clipping guard and then transitioning to smaller ones when needed.
It’s important to trim in the direction that the dog’s hair flows. If you don’t, you’ll make unsightly lines on their coat, and you don’t want to give your dog a bad hair day. Place the clipper flat against the coat too, so you don’t accidentally hurt the skin.
Be careful around sensitive areas like the underarms and the bellies, using scissors if they don’t like the clippers. Finish off with the head, legs, and tail where you expect they’ll move the most. The process becomes much easier if you can have somebody hold the dog still.
How To Maintain Your Dog’s Nails & Paws?
With most of the grooming done, it’s time to pay attention to your dog’s paws and nails. They’re your dog’s feet, they take a lot of punishment and need to be taken care of sometimes. Long, overgrown nails can make walking difficult and will break much easier, or even curl inwards and penetrate their paws.
You also don’t want your dog’s paws looking like a mole’s paws, so it’s time to trim them! Like always, it’s best to start early so that your dog is used to having its paws and nails touched.
Overgrown Nails Can Cause Walking Difficulties In Dogs
If your dog’s nails get long enough, their paw becomes a splayed, stressed foot that’s difficult to walk on. If allowed to persist, this can cause damage to the tendons. The nails themselves will get deformed too from this pressure. Here are the symptoms that point to overgrown nails:
- Loud tapping when the dog walks.
- Pus/crusting around the nails.
- Blood around the nails
- Licking or biting at the paws and nails, caused by itchiness.
- Unusual gait when walking.
- Change in color in the nails.
All of these are signs that there’s a problem. While you can help by cleaning and cutting the paws and nails, some may need to be seen by a vet.
How To Clean Your Dog’s Paws?
Even if your dog has nail issues, a clean paw will reduce the likelihood that infection takes hold. Use grooming wipes to wipe the paw pads, particularly the spaces in between the paw pads where debris can build up. Like the dog’s nose, their paws should be moist, uncracked, and protected from the elements. Dog balm can also be applied to their paws during extreme weather to safeguard their paws.
How To Use Nail Clippers/Grinders?
Before you think about taking nail clippers to your dog, you should know how to use them. Your clippers should be easy to use, comfortable to hold, and sharp enough to get the job done with minimal discomfort. Those blades need to stay sharp over time too, so you get more use out of them.
An alternative is an electric nail grinder that comes with interchangeable heads. It should have a safety cap that your dog’s nails slip through, so you don’t grind any other part of the animal.
Whichever you choose, you should then introduce it to your dog. Let them see it and smell it to get its scent profile before you put it on them, or you could frighten them.
How To Cut The Nails?
Now it’s time to cut the dog’s nails. Before we do that, you should understand how a dog’s nail is structured. There are two parts, the hard outer nail and then a softer, inner part called the quick that’s full of nerves and blood vessels.
If you cut the nail too much, or at the wrong angle, you run the risk of cutting the quick and causing your dog to bleed. A towel and some styptic powder will stop the bleeding in no time if that happens. It may look like a lot of blood but most quick injuries are very minor. Time the bleeding for 30 minutes and, if it doesn’t stop by then, go to the vet.
With that in mind, follow these steps:
- Make sure your dog is comfortable sitting on your lap or on a table.
- Find the black or pink spot on your dog’s nails – this is the quick.
- Cut at a roughly 160-degree angle across the edge of the nail, so the nail ends in a flat surface that’s at a slight diagonal slant. Don’t cut down across the edge of the nail, otherwise, the dog will be walking on thin points. Don’t cut horizontally along the nail either, you’ll risk hitting the quick.
Dog Grooming Advice & Tips
If you’ve done everything we’ve detailed above then congratulations! You’ve groomed your dog. Remember that it’s a continuous process that needs to be done again, though how long will depend on your dog and the kind of life they lead.
That brings us to some tips that will allow you to maintain a high standard of care for your dog. Here you’ll find how often you should groom and trim your dog, along with ways you can hold yourself to a grooming schedule.
A Dog Should Be Groomed Every 4 To 8 Weeks
While it may be popular to throw around arbitrary periods, your dog needs to be groomed when they need to be groomed. By knowing the signs of them becoming unkempt, you can take action and solve the problem.
So, we say four to eight weeks, but don’t hesitate to groom your dog sooner if you see a problem that needs solving. Generally, the longer you leave between grooming sessions, the more you’ll need to do.
Your dog’s breed, coat length, and what style you like on them will also determine if you groom them often. Assuming they’re cleaned and brushed often, you can support longer, shaggier coat styles on your dog. Longer coats will need to be groomed sooner than short-coated dogs. Even without regular grooming, you should at least brush your dog’s coat several times a week.
Owners Must Ensure Their Dog Nails Are Trimmed Every Two Months
Dog owners should try to trim their pet’s nails every two months. While there’s a lot of variation in dog coats, their nails will grow at the same rates. This means you don’t need to worry about your dog breed or their size, you just need to make sure they’re walking properly and that the nails aren’t infected or causing any other issues.
Put Dog Grooming In Your Calendar With A Reminder
Lastly, it can be easy to fall off of a routine if you don’t have reminders in place. Write down grooming sessions on the calendar or program them into your phone’s calendar app.
Dogs love schedules as it allows them to anticipate certain events, so they’ll be less apprehensive when they happen. That includes grooming, so make sure you get a schedule that both you and your dog know.
Now you are ready to start grooming your dog
That brings us to the end of our guide on grooming your dog. Not only does it have everything you need to get the job done, but we’ve also detailed how to brush, trim, and clean your dog’s coat, paws, and nails.
With the way we’ve arranged it, you can also use it as a checklist while you’re grooming, so you can always come back if you’re unsure of what to do next or you feel you’ve missed something. You’ll get the hang of it after a few times and your dog will love you even more for it.