Questions about dog grooming? Look no further. This guide offers dozens of expert tips about brushing, bathing and primping your pooch.
Grooming is an important part of your dog’s healthcare routine. Make sure you cover all the bases by following this helpful guide!
Turn brushing sessions into massages!
A gentle, therapeutic touch is the key to reducing stress during grooming, especially if your dog doesn’t tolerate brushing well. Invest in a tool that doesn’t pull his hair or scratch his skin (soft rubber brushes are ideal), and be conscious about every stroke. He’ll be leaning into it in no time, and you’ll accomplish way more than you would if he was squirming to get away.
Soothe and hydrate with oils
“Look for a hydrating shampoo that uses argan oil as its carrier oil, along with lavender essential oil, which is known to be particularly useful for soothing issues such as rough, dry, irritated skin,” says Mauro Spina, co-founder of Spina Organics. “Green tea leaf extract is also helpful, as it’s a powerful antioxidant that reduces skin inflammation and neutralizes free radicals.”
Though it may not seem like it, regularly tending to your dog’s coat, nails, ears and other grooming needs is a huge time – and money – saver. By keeping up with his care, you’ll cut down on the hours and dollars you’d have to fork over dealing with major issues, like mats in his coat or smelly, infected ears.
Choose the right tools
“Getting a tool that hurts the dog, and not realizing it, is one of the biggest mistakes a dog parent can make when it comes to grooming,” says Jay Michaelson, inventor and CEO of HandsOn Gloves. “I can’t tell you how many people talk about their dogs hating to be groomed, and the pain factor never crossed their minds.”
Take him to an expert
Even if you’re diligent about grooming, taking your dog to a professional groomer once or twice a year is a good idea.
Use a mat during bathtime
Nobody likes slipping in the tub! A non-slip mat at the bottom of the basin can give your pup something to grip onto so he doesn’t slide all over the place as you lather and rinse. The mats are cheap, easy to find, and can prevent serious injury!
Be gentle with bath-haters
There’s a few measures you can take for canines who don’t like bathtime. “Use lukewarm or cool water to bathe the dog,” says Mauro. “Hot water can increase itchiness. Also, use a sprayer attachment if possible, so you’re able to better control both the water pressure and where the water falls. To ensure you don’t scare the dog, use light to medium water pressure and hold the sprayer close to his body so the water doesn’t bounce off. Reassure him as you bathe and he’ll love you forever for doing it!”
Check his feet
Your dog’s paws take a beating, especially if you go on lots of long walks, or live in an extreme climate. Whenever you brush or bathe him, pick up his tootsies and inspect them for cuts and/or lodged debris, then apply a natural lotion to his pads to keep them supple.
Make a habit of brushing
Some breeds require more grooming than others (see sidebar below). But no matter what kind of dog you have, it’s important to establish a grooming schedule and stick to it. “Even if you have a non-shedding dog, you need to massage the dirt and dander off the skin and massage the natural oils through the coat,” says Jay. “This will prevent matting and tangles in those breeds. On shedding breeds, brush daily to keep that hair out of your house and cereal bowl.”
Use your senses
The best way to keep on top of your dog’s grooming needs is to use your senses. Peek at his ears once a week or so to see if they need to be wiped. If you notice he’s starting to stink or look dirty, it probably means he’s overdue for a bath. Feel mats in his coat? Whip out the comb! And carefully feeling your animal’s skin during grooming is a great way to search for lumps, bumps, ticks, and anything else that isn’t normal.
Be wary of harsh tools
“Some blades, metal bristle brushes, metal curry combs and the like come with a warning not to use them too much, and/or not to go over the same spot more than a few times,” says Jay. “These devices actually cut even the good, non-ready-to-shed hair and can damage the coat.” They’re usually fine in moderation, but be sure not to overdo it!
Use positive reinforcement
Reward your pup for good behavior when grooming, especially during bathtime! “Be as gentle as possible and massage rather than scrub the pup as you work in the body wash,” says Mauro. “Choose a pet shampoo with all-natural ingredients, and work from the neck down, taking care not to get soap in his eyes. This experience sets the tone for future baths, so make it’s a positive one! Give him a treat when it’s over.”
Tend to his eyes
Does your pup have eye discharge? This is a common problem, especially in small dogs, and can be caused by allergies, tear duct problems, conjunctivitis, and numerous other factors. You’ll have to talk to your veterinarian to get to the root of the problem, but in the meantime, prevent tear stains by wiping his eyes daily with a warm washcloth and gentle eye cleaning solution.
Avoid chemical-based soaps
“Toxic preservative like parabens or sulfates wash away the natural antimicrobial peptides, proteins, and water-proofing oils your dog’s skin creates,” says Mauro. “They also strip the skin and coat of vital moisture, exposing them to harmful microbes, allergens, and numerous health risks.” Also avoid human shampoos, which can throw off the pH balance of your dog’s skin.
Brush “with the grain”
Always brush your dog in the direction his coat grows to prevent pulling. If you hit a snag, resist the urge to yank. Instead, grab a comb and continue to brush gently away from him. Hold the base of the mat to avoid hurting his sensitive skin, and don’t be afraid to reach for the clippers when necessary!
Clean his ears
Add a few drops of witch hazel to a cotton ball or damp cloth and use it to wipe your dog’s ears. Don’t put anything directly in his ear canal – just worry about the area around it.
A thorough rinse is the most important part of a bath! Any residue left on your dog’s skin can cause itching and irritation, so make sure to get all that soap off.
Get in the nooks and crannies
Breeds with loose skin and wrinkles, like Pugs and Shar-Peis, require some extra grooming. To prevent moisture and bacteria from building up in his folds, clean and dry them thoroughly every few days and after he gets wet.
Blow dry or air dry?
Either one works! If your dog doesn’t like the sound of the blow dryer, opt to rub him down thoroughly with a towel after his bath. If he’s okay with the noise, be sure to set the dryer on “low heat” to avoid burns.
Dogs with long hair may require regular trims. If you feel comfortable doing this yourself, invest in clippers or shears that are designed for canines. Watch a few “how-to” videos before diving in, and take it slow. If your dog resists, or you have doubts about your abilities, take him to the groomer instead.
If you’re planning to use conditioner on your pup, Mauro suggests looking for one that’s free of wax and silicone. An all-natural conditioner will moisturize the fur without leaving behind toxic residue.
Don’t skip the nails
Your dog’s nails should be done once a month or so. There are a few different types of clippers available, so choose a product based on your preference, and make a switch if your dog isn’t a fan. Trim a bit at a time to avoid hitting the quick, and use styptic powder to stop bleeding if you accidentally snip too far.
Brush those chompers
Dental issues abound in dogs, and most are preventable with regular brushing! You can also keep his teeth and gums healthy with a brush-free spray, gel or water additive.
Express the anal glands
It’s not fun, but it’s necessary. If his anal glands get too full, they can cause discomfort and infection, and can empty in less-than-ideal places (like your couch). To prevent these issues, ask your vet or groomer to express your pup’s glands at your next appointment, or learn to do it yourself.
Your grooming session is done! You can now choose to let your pup go au naturel, or add a few fun finishing touches. Tie a bandana loosely around his neck, or fasten a bow to her hair before snapping that “freshly groomed” photo for social media. You can even add a splash of color to his coat with a temporary dye job – just make sure the product you use is non-toxic.
Must-try grooming products
Looking for some new tools to add to your grooming kit? Take a look at what these one-of-a-kind companies have to offer!
Angels’ Eyes – angelseyesonline.com
EQyss – eqyss.com
The Gentle Groomer – striphair.com
HandsOn Gloves – handsongloves.com
ProBioraPet – probiorahealth.com/probiorapet/
Pure and Natural Pet – pureandnaturalpet.com
Spina Organics – spinaorganics.com
Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.