DIY Grooming Best Practices and Tips

December 30, 2019

Grooming is essential for dogs. Beyond looking good, proper grooming helps maintain your furry baby’s health. Whether due to time or finances, it’s not always possible to get your dog to the groomer as often as you’d like. 

In this blog, we’ll outline some tips and guidelines to help you keep your best pal looking and feeling great between trips to the groomer. 

Have the Right Tools

Before you begin, make sure that you have everything you need to create a great home grooming experience for you and your pet. One essential item in your home grooming kit is a brush. 

Regularly brushing Fido’s fur not only keeps it looking its best, but it also helps avoid and eliminate matted hair, massages your pet’s skin to activate natural oils that keep it moisturized, and reduces unwanted hair on clothes and furniture. Choosing the right brush for your pet’s coat helps maximize these benefits. Below is a quick rundown of the most common types of dog brushes.   

  • Slicker Brush: These brushes have short wires close together on a flat surface. Ideal for removing tangles and mats, breeds with medium to long hair or curly hair, such as golden retrievers, Yorkshire terriers, and cocker spaniels, benefit the most from slicker brushes.  
  • Bristle Brush: Characterized by tightly packed natural bristles, these brushes are best for dogs with smooth, short hair, like Boston terriers, Jack Russell terriers, and pugs. The bristles help remove excess fur and debris, leaving behind a shiny, healthy coat. 
  • Rake: These brushes are designed to penetrate thick coats on breeds like German shepherds, Chow Chows, and malamutes. Shaped like a razor, these brushes use slight pressure to remove dead undercoat and tangles. Hartz points out that you should choose a rake with bristles approximately the same length as your dog’s hair. Rakes that are too short can miss the inner layer of undercoat, and those that are too long can irritate the skin.   
  • Pin Brush: This brush looks similar to those typically used on human hair with thick, plastic-capped bristles. These common brushes are most effective when used as a finishing brush to remove any remaining fur before it sheds and fluffs a freshly groomed coat. 

Below are some additional grooming essentials: 

  • Shedding blade
  • Grooming table with a grooming arm for your pup’s safety and security
  • No. 10 grooming clippers
  • Nail clippers or a grinder
  • Styptic powder (for nail bleeds)
  • Pet-safe shampoo

Preparing Your Dog for Grooming

Grooming shouldn’t be a stressful experience for you or your pup. To ensure the best possible results, start slowly. Gradually get your dog used to being touched in sensitive areas, like feet, nails, or ears, and with behaviors like brushing or nail clipping. As your dog gets used to your grooming ritual, offer snacks and rewards for positive behavior. In addition, work on keeping your calm. For example, if you are nervous about clipping your dog’s nails, she can sense it and may try to get away. 

A full grooming session probably won’t be possible immediately with your dog. It will require patient, incremental and consistent work to reach a point of comfort and trust with your at-home grooming routine for you and your dog. As Dr. Neil Marrinan of Old Lyme Veterinary Hospital points out, “90 percent of the work will be before, and away from, the actual 10 percent of grooming.” 

Grooming Basics

  • Brushing: As mentioned above, brushing is the central component of any healthy grooming routine. Brush your dog a few times a week for a few minutes each session to remove dirt, debris, and excess hair. Check out this article from Preventive Vet for brushing tips and best practices. 
  • Bathing: Although your dog doesn’t require daily bathing, regular baths are necessary. How often to bathe your pup is largely determined by their coat type, activity level, and health needs. This article from the AKC can help you determine how often your dog should make a splash in the bath.  
  • Cutting and Shaving: If your dog has mats, needs hair trimmed around their pads, or requires a shave for comfort during warm weather, these can both be safely done at home. Start with a clean, DRY hair. Place the grooming table in a quiet area, secure your dog on the grooming table, and then carefully cut or shave your dog. 

When shaving your dog, remember that the blade can get hot and potentially burn your dog’s sensitive skin. If you’re unsure about cutting or shaving your dog’s coat, consult your veterinarian or a professional groomer for lessons and guidance. 

  • Nail Trimming: Many pet owners choose nail grinders over clippers. While these may be less nerve-wracking in the long-run, you still have to get your pup used to the sound of the grinder before you can engage in a full nail-clipping session. 

Regardless of using clippers or a grinder, you still need to use safe clipping techniques to avoid cutting nails too short, splitting, or chipping. With clear nails, clip until you see the pink (“quick”) of the nail. With dark nails, remove a little at a time until you see a small black dot. If you do accidentally cut the nails too short, have styptic powder on hand to quickly stop the bleeding. When using clippers, use quick clips rather than slow movements to avoid chips and splitting.

When done properly, at-home grooming can help maintain your dog’s coat between professional grooming sessions, save money, and even be a bonding opportunity.