Every dog needs to be groomed, but many pet parents don’t have the experience or confidence to groom their furry friends themselves. Instead, they’ll visit a vet or professional groomer to get their dogs brushed, bathed, and more.
But you can save money and bond with your dog by grooming them at home. For many breeds, at-home grooming sessions are more than sufficient. With that in mind, let’s break down how to groom a dog at home so that you know what to do and what to use the next time you need to brush and bathe your pup.
Brushing Your Dog
Firstly, you’ll want to brush your dog regardless of the coat type they have. Brushing is more important for dogs with long or curly hair, but it’s also good for dogs with short and fine hair.
In general, you’ll want to brush your dog several times per week (or once per day if your breed requires it). Why?
Brushing imposes lots of physical health benefits for your pup, including:
- It keeps their fur neat and clean, meaning they ingest less dirt and hair over time.
- It stimulates blood flow to the skin and hair, removing flakes of dandruff and improving the health of their coats.
- It cuts down on shedding, so you’ll have less loose dog hair around your home and on your furniture.
Generally, it's a good idea to brush your dog all-around their body (but mostly their backs, necks, and legs) for about 15 minutes per session or even a little less. This all depends on how large your dog is. Brushing is also the first step in a thorough grooming routine that includes bathing your dog and cleaning other areas of their body.
Never bathe your dog without brushing them first. If you do so, you might end up clogging your bathtub drain with tons of dog hair and dirt.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Naturally, you’ll brush your dog with different equipment depending on the length of their coat and their breed. If you have a long-haired dog, you’ll need pin brushes.
Pin brushes have long and round-ended stainless steel pins, which are adept at getting through your dog's hair and coaxing free dead skin and loose hair. On the flip side, some other dog breeds (such as those with short or medium length fur) may need bristle brushes, which have more prickly bristles that are great for the same reasons but that don’t penetrate through thicker coats as well.
On top of those brush types, you may also want the following materials for each brushing session with your furry friend:
- Slick brushes. These are ideal for removing dead hair or mats from your pup. Buy a brush like this if your dog frequently has matted hair.
- Rubber curry combs. These are ideal for polishing your dog’s coat and getting rid of excess dead hair.
- Stripping knives. These can be useful for removing matted fur.
- Hairdryers. If your dog has long, fluffy hair, you will want their coat to dry a certain way after giving them their bath.
As you brush your dog, double-check for burrs (prickly remnants from plants that your dog might pick up if they play outside) and any other plant material. You should also use brushing time as an opportunity to check your dog for cuts or scrapes, which may need to be cleaned or treated.
Giving Your Dog a Bath
The next phase in any good dog grooming routine is giving them a bath. Bathing your dog every once in a while is great for their overall health and skin cleanliness (even if they don’t appreciate it). Labs and golden retrievers might be the only dogs that look forward to baths.
At the same time, you don’t want to bathe your dog too frequently. If you bathe your dog too often, you could wash away the natural oils that keep their fur coats and skin properly moisturized and healthy.
The Proper Bathing Procedure
- Fill the tub without your dog present (if you are giving them a bath indoors). The crashing sound of water filling a tub could be overwhelming for your dog. It could also frighten them.
- Next, guide your dog to the bath and either convince them to enter the tub with a treat or place them gently in the tub by picking them up.
- Your dog should stand in the tub the entire time. Place a couple of cotton balls in their ears to keep them dry.
- Wet your dog with warm water all over and thoroughly apply the conditioning shampoo, starting from the neck and running your hand all the way to the back.
- Be sure to thoroughly lather and scrub your dog. Make sure the shampoo gets into their undercoat, not just the top layer of hair.
- Then rinse your dog with warm water once again. You’ll want to make sure that you get rid of all the shampoo you can. If you leave too much shampoo in your dog’s hair, they could ingest the shampoo as they lick themselves when they’re drying.
- Once your dog is rinsed, drain the tub of water and dry them in the bathtub with a soft towel. Pat your dog dry rather than scrubbing them to ensure their comfort.
- After a couple of moments, stand back and hold up the towel to shield yourself from your dog’s vigorous shaking!
Bath Stuff To Add To Your Shopping List
When bathing your dog, you’ll need to put together a grooming kit:
- A shampoo of mild strength specifically formulated for dogs. Don’t use human shampoo or shampoo for any other animal. Only designated dog shampoos are made with the right chemicals to strip away excess oil and clean your dog without drying out their skin. You should also only use mild shampoo unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.
- A blow dryer if necessary. This can be helpful if your dog has long and fluffy hair and you want to make sure that they are all the way dry when they run through the house
- A comb or brush if you want to style their hair or remove excess hair to prevent them from shedding all over your furniture
Next up is nail trimming. Even though your dog might naturally trim their nails to some extent by digging or playing outside, chances are they do need their nails to be trimmed at least a little bit.
It’s important to trim your dog’s nails because long nails:
- Can make walking painful or awkward
- Can make it difficult for your dog to run
- Can break easily, leading to infections: Nail breaks usually happen at nail bases, where there are lots of nerves and vessels.
If you hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor when they walk or run, it’s a good sign that they need to be trimmed.
Don’t use a human nail clipper on your pup. Instead, you should use a designated dog nail clipper. These have safety guards that can stop you from accidentally cutting your canine companion’s nails too short.
When cutting your dog’s nails:
- Only trim the ends of the nails
- Position the clippers before the “quick,” which is easily noticed as a dark red or purple blood vessel inside the nail. Take a look at your dog’s nails beforehand and locate the quick so that you don’t accidentally clip too far.
Since your dog probably won’t want to sit still while their nails are trimmed, you can use treats to keep them calm or enlist the help of a friend or family member to hold them. Don’t worry if it takes you multiple tries or treats to train your dog’s nails from start to finish. Most dogs don’t want to sit in your lap for too long.
What if you accidentally trim the quick of your dog's nails? You can use styptic powder and tissue to stem the bleeding. Then take your dog to the veterinarian for a quick check-up.
Cleaning Ears and Eyes
Your dog’s eyes and ears also have to be taken care of, even though they are generally self-cleaning.
If your dog is older or is prone to ear problems, they should be cleaned once per month or even more, following the advice of your veterinarian. When the time comes to give your dog’s ears a cleaning, never clean the interior of their ear canals. This can introduce bacteria and lead to infection or injury. Only ever clean the outer areas of your dog’s ears.
To clean your dog’s ears:
- Take a cotton swab or damp cloth that has some mineral oil.
- Rub the outside of your dog’s ears carefully and get rid of any visible dirt or debris.
- Don’t force anything too deep inside your dog’s ears.
In some cases, your dog might need his or her hair plucked at the inside to ensure that air circulates properly. This isn’t a task for you. Contact your veterinarian to see what they think. They may do the hair plucking for you with each annual visit, as well.
Your dog might not floss, but they do need to brush their teeth (or rather, you need to brush their teeth for them!).
Fortunately, dog-specific toothbrushes are available to make this task easier, along with dog-specific toothpaste (human toothpaste is not safe for your pets). Your best bet is to purchase one of these toothpaste products. Since it tastes delicious, it will make your dog look forward to tooth brushing time.
If your dog simply can’t handle having a toothbrush placed in their mouth, put some of the toothpaste on your finger and rub his or her teeth and gums. This may get them used to the toothpaste and allow you to give their teeth a good scrubbing.
Alongside brushing your dog’s teeth, giving them natural, hard treats or chew toys will go a long way toward resisting plaque or tartar buildup. Wild One’s Baked Treat Bundles are perfect examples of delicious (and teeth-healthy) delights your dog will love.
Cleaning Anal Sacs
There’s one last part of giving your dog a thorough grooming: cleaning the anal sacs. The anal sacs are small glands located on either side of the canine anus. They’re responsible for secreting a scent that marks territory and sends messages to other dogs whenever they evacuate their bowels.
You only need to clean these if your dog scoots along and tries to wipe their anus on your carpet or the floor, which may indicate that their anal sacs are “impacted,” meaning they’re not in the right position. Your veterinarian may give you tools or procedures to follow to fix this at home. More likely, they may handle the issue themselves; contact them before doing anything without instructions.
A Good Rule of Thumb...or Paws
When all is said and done, fully grooming your dog is quite the task! It's no wonder many people prefer the experts to do it over a 45-minute or one-hour appointment. But with the right products and your loving care, your dog can be just as clean and taken care of in your home as they can at a dog spa! Remember to use lots of praise and rewards to make this experience a happy one for your pup.
Luckily, you can get those products in an all-in-one grooming kit we offer at Wild One. Every product in the kit is made with natural or safe ingredients and materials, so you’ll need to worry about your dog ingesting something toxic. Keep your dog clean and comfy with our grooming kit and the rest of our pet products at our online store.
Dog grooming tips | Animal Humane Society
How Often Should You Bathe a Dog? | CCSPCA
How to Trim Dog Nails | Caring Hands Vet
Anal Sac Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatments | Pets WebMD