DIY dog grooming


Rover just got back from the groomer. Given that extra spring in his step, you can tell he feels great. Everyone in the household raves over his fresh, shiny, sweet-scented coat. But how can you keep him looking, feeling and smelling this good between grooming appointments?

Tools of the trade

Grooming tools have come a long way, and some very good ones are available these days. First, you need to consider your dog’s coat type. Is it short or long, curly or wiry? Is he single coated, flat coated or double coated? If you’re not sure, ask your groomer or do some research on your dog’s breed.

The next step is to invest in the appropriate grooming tools. To learn what kind of tools would best suit your dog, ask your groomer for advice or refer to the internet – it’s amazing what you can find on YouTube.

Essential brushes

Slicker brush: With its rectangular head and angled pins, the slicker brush is suitable for most breeds. I prefer one with a curved handle and soft to medium angled wire pins from a rubber base. The curved handle prevents fatigue in your wrist while the pins or bristles do a thorough job of removing loose coat while unknotting tangled fur. Brushing against the coat will reveal matted or impacted areas.

The slicker is ideal for breeds such as the Cocker Spaniel, Airedale, Schnauzer, Poodle, Shih Tzu and Labrador Retriever. For puppies, use a soft and appropriately sized slicker brush. 

Undercoat rake: Used to efficiently remove the thick shedding undercoat that can become compacted and transform into mats, the undercoat rake works well for breeds with thick hair.

Great for Husky breeds, the Shetland Sheepdog, Collie, Pomeranian and Samoyed.

De-shedding tool: Made for double coated breeds, this tool does a spectacular job of pushing through the topcoat to the undercoat and removing shedding hair without damaging the coat or cutting skin. There are a variety of options available, depending on your dog’s coat length and type. (Double coated refers to dogs with a soft undercoat as well as long guard hairs.)

Ideal for the Golden Retriever, Siberian Husky, German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever. 

Curry brush: A rubber curry brush is the best tool for removing dead undercoat while bringing protective natural oils to the top coat and creating a healthy sheen.

Works well for the Boxer, Bulldog, Miniature Pinscher and Great Dane. 

Bristle brush: The natural bristle brush is soft, and perfect for bringing natural oils up into the entire coat for a gleaming appearance.

Perfect for the Doberman and Dachshund. 

Flea comb: This very inexpensive tool is a “must have” for any dog. Not only does it take care of pesky fleas, but it’s also handy for dislodging tiny burrs and even removing the discharge that commonly builds up in the eye corners of many breeds, including Shih Tzus, Poodles, Bichon Frises and Bouvier des Flandres. Before combing out dried eye discharge, moisten an old facecloth with warm water and soak the area. Then use the comb to gently loosen and pull out the softened eye debris. Not only will your dog look better, but you’ll find his face smells better!

Greyhound metal comb: Made up of rounded tooth ends and a combination of medium and finely distanced teeth, this comb exposes all the tangles and mats that weren’t resolved by a thorough brush out. You should be able to comb through easily from the skin up.

Ergonomic pet comb: Don’t let its appearance fool you. While it might look a little cumbersome, this tool’s design saves your hand from fatigue and is gentle on your dog’s coat and skin. It removes mats and shedding fur, and finishes the comb out. It is a “workhorse”. This metal comb with rounded teeth is best as a medium to coarse combination.

Once you have your grooming equipment, you need to use it regularly to ensure you’re keeping up with your dog’s hygiene. With patience and practice, your at-home grooming sessions will prove enjoyable and become a perfect opportunity to bond with your dog.

8 grooming tips

1. Plan out your grooming location and set it up. Smaller dogs can be groomed on top of a clothes dryer, for example, but make sure you put down a rubber bath mat for secure footing. Larger dogs will require open space on a hard surface floor (easier for cleanup than carpet). Again, a rubber mat will be helpful. Make sure your tools are close at hand.

2. Dogs are usually calmer and more cooperative if they’re not worried about dinner or going out, so exercise and/or feed your dog prior to grooming.

3. Start off with a collar and short lead on your dog to help control him better.

4. When shampooing, always brush or comb out a medium to long coated dog before you bathe him.

5. After shampooing, always use a pet conditioner.

6. Dry his coat thoroughly with a blow dryer. Ensure the dryer is far enough away by placing your hand on the dog’s coat to ensure it’s not too hot for his skin.

7. Finish the job by fully brushing or combing out your dog.

8. There are two kinds of nail trimmers: guillotine and scissor type. Nail trimmers with plastic moulded hand grips give flex when cutting nails, which may result in a less precise trim. A toenail file or dermal is best for removing any sharp edges left from a nail trim. You should keep Styptic powder on hand if the quick is cut from a nail trim. The rule of thumb is that your dog’s nails generally need trimming approximately every four weeks.

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Susan Dalmer has over 25 years of experience grooming, exhibiting, breeding and training dogs. She is a member of Ontario Dog Groomers Association and the National Cat Groomers Institute of America. Susan operated Dogz and Katz Coiffure Pet Grooming in Trenton. She has since relocated to Cornwall with her spouse and their Bengal cat, and plans to bring her grooming talent to that area in the near future. In addition to writing articles, Susan enjoys painting dogs, horses and wildlife.