Whether you’ve been unable to get yourself an appointment with a pet groomer in the last few weeks, or you’ve just simply had enough of the ever rising monthly rate of your mutt’s quick snip and blow dry – there’s no question your pup is now a dishevelled dog as opposed to a prized pooch.
Too much hair, overgrown nails and a distinctive stink are usually the signs that something needs to be done about your mutt’s less than desirable aesthetic, and the time has now come for you to bite the bullet and take on the grooming challenge yourself.
But if you’ve been leaving your dog in the care of a master groomer for several years, it’s hard to even know where to start!
So to help you kick off a grooming routine of your own at home, we’ve put together an in-depth guide of the most crucial grooming sessions, your dog needs and how you should go about them!
Don’t worry, you’ll be an expert in no time!
Before You Begin
Grooming your dog at home can be done, but be warned it takes effort and time!
It’s worth it in the long run, as it helps reduce shedding around your home, saves you money over time and also keeps your dog healthy and happy!
However, it really is a trust exercise, as dog’s aren’t particularly desperate to have any of these treatment’s done!
If your dog is skittish or unreliable when it comes to things like keeping still and being touched in sensitive areas, it’s going to take a regular and slow grooming schedule to get them to conform, ensuring each session is filled with treats and rewards to build up positive association.
At first, this means you probably won’t get as much grooming done as you’d like, but by building up the regularity and rewards, you’ll eventually get more and more done each time.
Why You Need To Groom Your Dog
What You’ll Need To Groom A Dog
To successfully groom a dog in all areas you will need:
A high-quality brush or comb
This will help remove mats and tangles from a dog’s fur. Metal-pinned brushes are best for long haired dogs whereas short haired breeds will likely get by with a rubber toothed one.
Professional grade dog grooming scissors
These will help finely trim your dog’s hair without snagging or pulling.
A grooming table
These are great for securely and safely keeping your dog in place while you cut their hair.
Electric dog clippers
Safer than human clippers, try and find a quiet set which won’t frighten your dog.
Always choose medicated or sensitive skin options to prevent drying out your pooch’s natural moisture.
Dog Toothbrush & Paste
Human toothbrushes & toothpaste are both incredibly harmful for dogs and so you need to make sure you have dog specified versions of both.
Brushing & Bathing
Brushing is actually one of the key ways to keep a dog clean, as it helps distribute healthy skin oils, promoting a shiny coat and removing dirt by causing it to slide right out of their hair!
This helps limit bathtimes, reduce shedding around your house by removing hair manually, as well as tidying up the tangles and mats in your pup’s coat.
How often you’ll need to do it will usually depend on your dog, with long-haired breeds requiring more frequent brushes. In general, you should just do so as required, whenever you notice their coat looking dull or tangled.
On average this will be a weekly occurrence stretching anywhere from a few minutes to several hours!
You should also always brush your dog before bathing, as moisture can get trapped in matted hair and cause skin infections if not dried properly!
How To Brush
Use a slick, metal pin brush which will allow you to glide more easily through hair and get a good amount of traction, pulling out any dirt or debris as you brush.
A good tip is to also get your dog used to getting brushed while standing as opposed to lying down, as this helps you reach everywhere you need to, and is the way a professional groomer would do it.
How To Bathe
Although bathing doesn’t necessarily need to be done all the time, it does help keep bad doggy smells down to a minimum and is probably vital if your dog has just jumped in a murky river or rolled around in some fox poo!
When bathing a dog, use a high-quality shampoo which is free of harsh ingredients and sensitive to skin to avoid drying out your dog. For the same reason, use lukewarm temperature water which will also reduce the risk of burning your dog.
For a more in-depth look at how to bathe your dog see our guide here.
Cutting Dog Hair
A great thing to do after successfully brushing and washing a dog is to give it a nice trim, especially if it is looking a little shaggy!
You should always cut a dog’s hair when it is dry, not wet and be sure to never use the maximum range of your scissors.
By this we mean using the tips of the scissors rather than their full length, which helps prevent accidents should your dog decide to suddenly move.
For any tricky, matted hair, you should use dog clippers, and one’s that are fairly quiet to avoid your dog becoming startled or nervous by the noise.
As a general rule, clippers are better for dogs with short hair and scissors are best for pups with longer hair. However no matter their breed they may need a mixture of both to successfully trim everywhere you need to!
Grooming tables, although not mandatory, can also be a great tool for helping you cut your dog’s hair and will certainly stop wrigglers and escape artists from ending up with a mohawk!
How To Cut Dog Hair With Scissors
After bathing and brushing your mutt, make sure they are 100% dry before beginning the process of cutting.
Starting with the legs, begin trimming their hair, using your fingers as a guide to determine the length you are going for and moving slowly and cautiously with detail.
The speed you are going at and time you are taking should help relax your pet and you can then move on to doing the same on high areas of fur like the neck, chest, forepaws and belly.
Once you have tackled the body, it is then up to you whether you want their hair to go any shorter, although remember you want your dog to have some hair left!
So be sure to research thoroughly what length of hair your breed requires to support their welfare needs.
By trimming a long-haired dog down suitably though, you will then be able to use dog clippers to reduce the volume of hair further, not applying too much pressure and always going in the direction of the coat.
From here you can move on to cutting the face or around the ears if needed, especially if your dog breed gets hair in their eyes. It goes without saying you need to be extra careful when cutting this area though!
How To Use Dog Clippers
Dog clippers are a lot safer than using scissors and thanks to their length guards, they give your dog a certain amount of protection if you’re lacking in hand-eye coordination!
It really is crucial to wash and brush a dog before using clippers, as anyone who’s been to a barber knows that if they catch a piece of dry tangled hair it can create quite a nasty pulling sensation!
For your method, always work with the dog’s hair by moving the clipper in the direction of your dog’s coat.
Work from their neck to their back leg on one side before changing to the other, moving slowly to ensure the reduction of hair is even and they don’t end up with any streaks or markings.
Once the body is done, you can then use scissors to tackle trickier areas like the paws
The first point of action after any doggy haircut should definitely be to shower them with praise and reward them – even if you already did so a million times during their snip!
This will help dogs remember the positive association with haircuts and so in the future may be more willing to let them happen.
However, your most important step is actually to get rid of all those freshly cut little dog hairs nestled all in your puppy’s fur that are just seconds away from ending up all over the house!
Using a blow dryer and a comb, remove the excess hair and be sure to keep the dryer on a low heat and at a safe distance from your pup.
Usually nail trimming isn’t something you’ll have to do, as walking around on different surfaces every day usually keeps doggy talons down to a decent length.
But if you’re pooch hasn’t been getting out much and you’re starting to hear their nails clickety-clacking on the pavement, it’s almost certainly time for a trim!
Before whipping out a pair of doggy nail scissors though, you’ll need to give yourself a quick schooling in canine anatomy.
A dog’s toenail is made up of two parts, the nail (obviously) and the ‘quick’, a pink blood vessel that provides blood to their nails.
Just like our own human nail beds, these are very sensitive if exposed or cut into, and so your main aim when trimming nails is not to cut into this, as it will likely bleed quite a bit as well as hurt your mutt!
How To Trim Dog Nails
Firstly, you need to hold the foot very steady, while holding it very gently. A grooming table can help you achieve this, and keep your dog more still.
Then, using your dog nail clippers, place a very, very small amount of nail into the clipper and snip!
Try and test the waters a little bit before committing to the snip, and if you feel a spongy resistance rather than a strong one, stop what you’re doing! Because that’s the quick!
It’s so important not to cut the quick, as it is very painful for dogs to the point where it will leave a lasting memory, meaning they’re unlikely to ever let you cut their nails again and who knows what else!
That’s why the key word here is trimming, not cutting the nails, as you only need to do the tiniest amount!
Of course, accidents do happen sometimes, and so if you have accidentally nipped the quick, you need to have things on hand to stop the bleeding. A nail cauterizer will do the trick or any styptic powder applied with a cotton swab,
You also need to try and remember the often neglected dewclaws – the raised claws that sit further up on the inside front legs of your pup.
As these don’t touch the ground, they’re likely to be the longest nails on your mutt, and actually really do need cutting to stop them becoming overgrown and painfully rubbing or poking your dog’s foot!
So often a neglected activity, cleaning your dog’s teeth is very important and can help prevent one of the most common ailments suffered by pups!
The stats around dogs with dental disease are horrifying with over 87% of domestic dogs suffering from issues of the gums and teeth.
This of course comes from owners neglecting to treat their dog’s teeth even just a little bit, even though there are plenty of hassle-free methods such as plaque-destroying chews and supplements available to help improve periodontal health.
Of course, teeth brushing remains the most productive way of ensuring a canine’s canines endure, and that’s why we suggest it should be part of every owner’s grooming routine.
For a more in-depth on how to treat this issue, see our guide on dog teeth cleaning.
Dog Grooming Tips
Make A Regular Schedule
Think about how often you go out and get your nails done, hair done, or if you’re not that kind of person, how often you brush your teeth, clean your ears, wash your hair or even just shower.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll probably do all these things on a fairly regular basis, and if you don’t then we hate to inform you that you probably smell.
But if you’re doing all that lovely self-care for yourself so often, why are you only grooming your dogs every few months?!
Try and organise a weekly schedule of grooming sessions, so across the month your dog will have been treated to every different treatment from teeth to combed fur and cleanliness.
Be Positive and Confident
Dogs are intelligent creatures and if they sense you’re worried or nervous about wielding a pair of scissors around them, they’re almost certainly going to panic!
If you can stay calm and reassured, go slow and respond with care to your dog’s reactions you should be absolutely fine.
Be wary of signs that your dog is not enjoying the experience through whining or shaking and feel free to take a break if they need it. If your dog is anxious no matter what you try, just up your grooming sessions and try and do a tiny bit each day, they’ll soon learn that it’s nothing to worry about!
Choose a Good Location
Things like brushing can be done pretty much anywhere, but for trimming activities, try and do them in a well-lit room on a non-slip surface to stop your doggy ever slipping or falling and putting themselves in danger!
Use Quality Equipment
Naturally, you are going to want to make sure you have all the best nail clippers, hair scissors, trimmers and any other sort of dog grooming equipment you can get your hands on if you want to do a good, professional quality job.
You might even want to consider getting a high-quality brush to give specified care to your dog’s personal fur and skin type!
Up Your Brushing For Long-Haired Dogs
Longer haired dogs unfortunately require a lot more maintenance than short-haired breeds as their hair is at risk of developing irritating mats and entanglements all over their body, which don’t look particularly smart either!
Keep alert on how their coat looks, as extra brushing is recommended to keep them looking clean and preen!
Dog Grooming Mistakes To Avoid
Dogs can find grooming a stressful experience, and so you can be forgiven for trying to rush them through the process as quickly as you can. But 15 minutes of torture for you and your pup is so much worse than an hour of calm, peaceful grooming. Be cautious and be kind to your dog, give them plenty of treats, and they’ll soon learn that grooming isn’t such a bad experience after all!
Don’t Bathe Too Much
Look, we get it, your dog just can’t stop jumping in muddy puddles and rolling around in dirt, and so they often desperately need a bath.
But you still need to get into the habit of not bathing them too often, so if it’s only a speck of dirt, why not just use a wipe instead?
When you wash a dog’s coat, it strips them of their natural oils which can cause very dry and irritated skin if you’re shampooing several times a week!
Don’t Cram Everything Into One Session
Doing a grooming session sounds incredibly overwhelming.
How are you meant to bathe them, trim their hair and nails, brush their teeth and more all in one go?!
The answer is you can’t, and as you’re not a professional groomer, what’s the point in trying?
It’s only likely to make both you and your dog grumpy, stressed and tired and will be a horrible weekly or monthly routine that you come to dread.
Instead, split them up into shorter, more frequent sessions and be sure to shower your mutt with treats once it’s over!
Don’t Neglect Anything
We’re all well aware that we should be trimming our dog’s hair and nails and giving them a bath every once in a while. But some of you are avoiding grooming tasks which are just as important, and you know who you are!
Teeth brushing is the most commonly neglected task, but is actually of the most important because if you’re not keeping on top of it you open your dog up to painful tooth decay!
Don’t Use Duff Tools
There’s a reason there are so many specialised dog grooming tools out there, and that’s because some kitchen scissors and an old pair of nail clippers aren’t going to do the job properly!
Dull, blunt blades will likely pull and be painful for your dog’s hair and dog nail clippers need to be sharp!
Take Care When Cutting Nails
One of the biggest mistakes owners make when cutting dog nails is going too short. This is because dog nails contain a blood vessel which when cut into can result in painful bleeding and so you need to be careful.
By cutting too near the bed, you risk causing a great deal of agitation and upset for your canine, so it’s best just to trim off the very tips of the nail and simply increase your grooming sessions to stop them getting too long.
Don’t Give Up So Easily!
Sometimes you may be unable to get to a local groomer, and so learning how to give confident and knowledgeable domestic mutt manicures is a fantastic skill!
It’s easy to just throw in the towel after a few struggles, keep at it and your dog will soon learn to accept grooming and perhaps even love it!
You know your dog better than anyone, and so there’s no one more qualified to give them the most loving and careful grooming session of their life!
Don’t Be Forceful
If your dog struggles, the temptation might be to hold them down in place or gripping their fur.
We probably don’t need to tell you that this is quite cruel and not a nice way to treat your dog.
Again, be patient and use rewards and praise to teach your dog the experience you want them to go through is a good one!
Avoid Guarded Nail Clippers
Quite a few doggy nail clippers come with a guard to prevent the over-trimming issues previously mentioned. However, although a great idea, they’re often very clunky and it’s a miracle if you can actually manage to see and workout what you’re clipping.
Instead use a finger or rest their paw on a hard surface to use as a guard. Trust us, it’s not that hard!
Avoid Harsh Shampoos
Dog’s can be very sensitive to certain wash products and so you need to take lot’s of care when reading the label. Generally, one’s that are unscented and medicated are the most likely to prevent your dog’s skin drying out or coming out in a rash.