8 steps to grooming your dog like a pro

Want to recreate that spiffy salon look at home? Grooming your dog is easier than you think. Follow these 8 tips for success.

Have you ever picked up your dog after a grooming and wished you could reproduce those same wonderful results at home? Your professional groomer is an expert, of course, but with the correct approach and tools, you can do a lot to help your dog look his best at all times.

1. Organize your tools

Gather all the necessary supplies and keep them within easy reach. They should include:

  • Towels
  • Washcloth or sponge
  • Paper towels
  • Natural shampoo and conditioning rinse
  • Doggy toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file
  • Blow dryer
  • Comb and brush
  • Scissors

Also add clippers if your dog’s coat warrants clipping. A dematter may be needed for coats that tend to tangle. It’s a special grooming tool that breaks up mats and helps remove especially stubborn knots, and is most often recommended for long-haired and double-coated breeds. A dematter is designed to pick away at mats instead of painfully pulling at the coat or cutting the hair.

2. Choose a location

Decide on the best place to bathe your dog, whether it’s a bathtub, sink or shower.

Location is important for your comfort as well as your dog’s. Choose a place that offers you a surface on which to work with your dog before and after his bath. For a small breed, you can easily use any type of table or extra work space in a laundry room or bathroom, if you don’t have a grooming table. For larger breeds, it’s best to work in a space with lots of elbow room.

3. Prepare your dog

Brush out the dog’s coat. This step is important for dogs with long hair. If you come across a mat, and you likely will, use a dematter tool to help remove it. Gently clean inside your dog’s ears, using a little mineral oil on a paper towel.

4. Brush his teeth

A clean dog needs a clean mouth. This step is best done before bathing. Apply the toothpaste to the brush, lift one side of the dog’s jowls, insert the toothbrush and brush his teeth. Concentrate on the outer sides of the teeth in the back of the mouth first, then move forward. Switch to the other side of the mouth and repeat the process. Then brush the outsides of the upper and lower front teeth. Finally, clean the insides of all the teeth. This step can be done quickly when a dog is familiar with the procedure. Familiarity comes from starting to brush your dog’s teeth when you first get him as a puppy. If you find yourself having a difficult time, or if your dog is not cooperating, you may find it easier to go over his teeth with a damp washcloth.

5. Clip and file nails

This can be done with nail clippers designed for humans. You can also file down your dog’s nails with an electric nail grinder or even a human nail file. Be careful not to get too close to the quick, the soft inner part of the nail that contains blood vessels and tender nerve endings. In dogs with light colored nails, the quick can often be seen as faintly pinkish in color.

6. Bathe your dog

Adjust the water temperature to lukewarm and place your dog in the tub, shower or sink. It’s helpful to have a handheld showerhead or sprayer. If you don’t, a large plastic cup will do.

Thoroughly saturate his coat with water and apply shampoo. It’s best to use a natural product that’s gentle on the skin and does not have a lot of artificial fragrances or colors.

Oatmeal based shampoos can be good for sensitive skin. Often, puppy shampoos are gentler and can also be used on adult dogs.

Lather up well and massage into the coat, starting on the back to the top of the head, chest, underbelly, tail and down the feet. Leave the shampoo on for five to ten minutes. A wash cloth works well as a soft and gentle way to clean the muzzle and sensitive areas around the eyes. Rinse well, but avoid getting too much water in your dog’s face or inside the ear canal. To remove excess oil or any unusual odor your dog may have, a final rinse can be made using a gallon of warm water with ¼ cup of vinegar.

Apply a natural conditioning creme. This will lock in the moisture and keep the coat shiny. Leave the conditioner on for five to ten minutes, then rinse completely until the coat is squeaky clean and free of all residue.

7. Dry and groom

Comb out your dog’s coat and blow it dry. A handheld blow dryer adjusted to a medium setting will work fine. Pay special attention to the hair behind his ears. Mats tend to form here when a dog isn’t dried well and then scratches behind his ears. If your dog needs a clip, it’s best to follow his natural outline or a previous grooming cut. Put an extension on the clippers so you do not get too close to the skin.

8. Finishing touches

Once your dog is dried, brush out his coat with the comb or a brush best suited to his breed or type. A pin or slicker brush is often used on longer coats while short coats just need a good towel dry to be complete. Wipe the dog’s face one more time, paying special attention to the eyes. Finally, put down clean bedding for your dog.

At-home grooming doesn’t have to be difficult for either you or your dog. By making it part of your routine, and staying organized and methodical, it can become an enjoyable time of bonding for both of you.