There may be times when it’s not possible to head to a groomers for your pup’s regular head to tail spruce up.
What do you do then?
Take the ‘grow it and see’ approach (well it could make a fun Insta post) or roll up your sleeves and take some action yourself?
For all dog parents who’ve decided to take the latter approach, this one’s for you…
(And by the way, I’m not encouraging the former approach at all! Grooming’s a must, but I’ll go into why another time. Today, we’re concentrating on the practicalities.)
How to groom your dog at home
Okay, so key focus areas are:
Now for the nitty gritty…
How to groom your dog’s hair and skin
Depending on the type of hair your dog has, determines the frequency of brushing needed.
As a general guide:
- Long hair breeds – may need daily brushing or combing to minimise tangles and matting.
- Medium hair breeds – once or twice weekly brushing, also to avoid tangling and matting.
- Short hair breeds – once or twice monthly, unless they’ve been running through the countryside, often playing in water, or are shedding.
But this is just a guide. If your dog loves being brushed, there’s no harm in gently brushing more often. It’ll keep their coat shiny and healthy, their skin clean, and ensure they remain irritant-free.
And the good news is, most dogs do love it. It feels good, helps form a stronger unit bond, and means they get to spend more time with their best friend – you!
Don’t be scared, bathing doesn’t have to be as traumatic for you both as you’re led to believe. If you start when they’re young or approach it in a relaxed manner, you should avoid the ‘wet dog running around the house’ scenario!
First things first though, don’t overdo bathing.
Dogs have natural oils in their skin and hair, so if you wash too regularly you could dry out their skin by depriving it of the natural oils they need. Once every couple of weeks is generally enough.
Use a pet shampoo, not your own as that’ll be too harsh. Apply to your hands and form a lather then gently rub on to your pooch. This method allows you to more easily reach the areas that need washing most.
Try to avoid getting water into your dog’s ears. It can create infections or irritation. Simply hold his ears gently closed while you wash that area, this should keep most of the water out.
You can simply towel down your dog and let him dry naturally. But to avoid the ‘wet-dog smell’ that can come from air-drying, you may want to use a hairdryer.
If you decide to use your hairdryer, and your dog isn’t scared by the noise or object, make sure it’s set to cool, and don’t hold it too close or on one area for too long.
Throughout this brushing, bathing and drying process, make sure to do a skin check. You’re looking for irregularities or changes which would allow you to react quickly if something was up.
Look for lumps. Dogs will often have lumps at all ages, but by regularly checking your dog’s skin, you’ll notice any changes that may require vet attention.
Before bathing, check if the skin feels moist anywhere. If so, it could be the sign of a skin infection.
Are there any persistent rashes? Running through the countryside could result in a rash that disappears after a few hours or at worse, a couple of days. But one that remains could be something more serious.
This is also a good time to check for any weight changes. It’s easy to feel their body during brushing and bathing. You may start to notice weight loss, or gain, and can adjust their diet accordingly, or consult a vet or canine nutritionist for support.
And of course, check for any ticks, fleas or other doggie clingons! Though, regular brushing and bathing should minimise these.
How to groom your dog’s ears
Keeping your dog’s ears clean will prevent infection. So about once a week, either use a dog-specific ear cleaning solution on cotton wool, or a baby wipe around your finger, and gently wipe the inside surface of your dog’s ear.
Don’t go further than your finger can easily reach, and absolutely don’t use Q-tips into their ear canal. The damage this could cause would be incredibly painful and potentially irreversible.
If you notice excessive ear wax or an unpleasant odour coming from his ears, consult your vet as it’ll likely require medication to clear up.
How to groom your dog’s teeth and gums
This is quite a tricky one as your dog may not like you taking a look at his teeth. But good dental hygiene reduces the possibility of gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss, so it’s worth starting young and/or persevering.
Start small. Stroke around his cheeks and jaw for him to get comfortable with you touching that part of his body.
Next, add some dog toothpaste to your finger and allow him to smell and taste it.
Eventually, move on to placing the toothpaste on a dog toothbrush and repeating the taste and smell idea.
Finally, raise your dog’s upper lip gently and place the brush on one tooth and brush slowly in a circular movement.
Yes, it’s a slow process, but he should start to allow you to continue doing it as he learns you’re not trying to harm him and that it’s not a painful experience.
Remember, take your time. And only up it from one to two and more teeth when he’s ready. The ideal is to build up to around 30 seconds of brushing of top teeth, and 30 on the bottom set.
With any training like this, praise and reward is a great way to get him onboard! So give him a treat through each of the stages.
Also incorporate chew toys as these help build and maintain strong teeth.
If you see a lot of brown tartar build-up, red gums, exposed teeth roots, or he has very bad breath ongoing, head to your vet for a thorough mouth check-up.
How to groom your dog’s paws
Take time to look over your dog’s feet to make sure they aren’t cut, have something lodged in them, or look infected.
It’s also a good idea to trim the hair on top of your dog’s feet as it will reduce the number of foreign objects or bitey things getting caught up, some of which could be dangerous.
You can use ordinary scissors to trim but be careful. Only neaten up the hair around his feet, don’t go for a Grade 1 effect!
How to groom your dog’s nails
Certainly the hardest part of dog grooming. And for that reason, I wouldn’t recommend doing it yourself without being shown how by a professional groomer or your vet.
The pro’s will use clippers, but inexperienced owners can often cut too short when using clippers which can lead to infection, not to mention pain for your poor pooch.
An alternative is a rotary tool, aka, a nail file (there are both manual and automatic ones available). This is less likely to cause pain, but it takes longer and can put your dog under undue stress, particularly if they don’t like the sound.
So check your dog’s nails often, but my advice, head to your vet or trusted dog groomer to maintain them as needed.
And there you have it, a few relatively easy ways to keep your dog well-groomed.
So what are you waiting for… go grab that brush and get to work!