The ultimate dog grooming guide

The ultimate dog grooming guide

Questions about dog grooming? Look no further. This grooming guide offers tips about brushing, bathing and primping your pooch.

Depending on your dog’s breed and lifestyle, he may require bathing every month or twice a year, but grooming should be done on a regular basis. Follow these tips for grooming success!

Choose the right tools

Using a brush or comb that hurts the dog, without realizing it, is a common home-grooming mistake. Some people claim their dogs hate being groomed, when in actual fact it’s the tools that are causing pain and discomfort. Use the right tool for your dog’s coat and a gentle, therapeutic touch to reduce stress during grooming.

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!

Maintenance matters

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 ear infections. 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.

Make a habit of brushing

Some breeds require more grooming than others. Even if you have a breed that doesn’t shed, it’s still important to massage the dirt and dander off his skin and move the natural oils through his coat, to prevent matting and tangling. If you have a shedding breed, daily brushing will keep his coat looking good and prevent hair from getting all over your house.

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. Find one you’re comfortable with through references or reviews and visit ahead of time to check out the facilities and chat to the groomer.

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.

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.

Clean his ears

Add a few drops of natural ear wash formulated for dogs or 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.

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.

Cut carefully

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.

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.

Finishing touches

After your grooming session, you can 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.

6 Bath Time Tips

1. Use positive reinforcement

Reward your pup for good behavior when grooming, especially during bath time! Don’t scrub your dog when washing him – use a massaging motion instead as it’s much gentler and more enjoyable for him. Work from the neck down, being sure to avoid his eyes. And always give him a treat when it’s over.

2. Avoid chemical-based soaps

Looks for dog shampoos made from natural ingredients. Parabens, sulfates, and other chemicals often found in commercial shampoos wash away the natural oils and proteins created by your dog’s skin and coat. They can also dry out his hair and skin, leaving it more prone to irritation and allergic reactions. Also avoid human shampoos, which can disrupt the pH balance of his skin.

Instead, look for a hydrating dog shampoo with colloidal oatmeal, shea butter or coconut oil. Dog-friendly pure essential oils like lavender can help soothe dry, irritated skin too.

3. Rinse well

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.

4. 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” and keep the dryer well away from skin to avoid burns.

5. Use a mat during bath time

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!

6. Be gentle with bath-haters

There are a few measures you can take for canines who don’t like bath time. Always use lukewarm water since a dog’s temperature runs hotter than a human’s and hot water can be uncomfortable. As well, using a spray attachment helps you better control the pressure and direction of the water flow. To help keep him calm, stay away from high water pressure settings, and hold the sprayer close to his body so it’s less noisy and doesn’t “pound” his skin. And remember to reassure him as you bathe him!

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Emily Watson is a staff writer for Animal Wellness Magazine and Canadian Dogs Annual. She is a certified yoga and medical Qi Gong instructor and has been writing — creatively and otherwise — for ten years. Off the mat and away from the keyboard, Emily can be found hiking, camping and travelling with her wife and fur babies.