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Dog Grooming at Home: Tips to Make It Easier

November 08, 2022 8 min read

Dog Grooming at Home: Tips to Make It Easier

Grooming your dog at home can save you significant time and money in the long run. But grooming a dog at home can sometimes be a nerve-wracking experience for both dogs and humans alike, leading many pet parents to take their dogs to professional groomers instead. If you’ve been outsourcing your dog grooming to others, here are tips for getting both yourself and your dog comfortable with brushing, bathing, and nail trimming at home (with the help of lots of praise and treats for dogs).

General Tips for Grooming Dogs at Home

There are many different aspects to grooming your dog at home, including brushing, trimming their coat, giving them a bath, and trimming their nails. Most people are able to at least brush their dogs and bathe them at home, which can save you money and stressful trips to the groomer. Some dog owners prefer to leave coat and nail trimming to the professionals, while others master doing this at home as well.

If neither you nor your dog is used to grooming at home yet, brushing is usually the easiest activity to get started with since it doesn’t involve water, scissors, or clippers. You can then work your way through bathing, then clipping their nails, and finally trimming their coat if necessary (not all dog breeds have coats that need trimming).

Whenever you try out a new grooming activity at home, keep the sessions short to start out with. The point isn’t necessarily to get all the grooming done at first, it’s to get both you and your dog comfortable with the grooming process and tools. If your dog is very nervous and hates being groomed, you might need to begin with them sniffing the grooming tools or just running the water in the tub until they calm down enough for you to actually start grooming them.

build positive associations dog bones

Shower your dog with praise throughout the grooming process and periodically reward them with long-lasting dog bones. You want to show them that grooming isn’t a scary experience and that it involves lots of compliments and treats. The praise and treats will help them build positive associations between getting groomed and receiving rewards, which will help to address any nervousness they feel about grooming.

It can sometimes help to have a friend or family member help you bathe your dog, especially if they are on the larger side or very nervous and prone to bolting. That way, one of you can hold the dog steady while the other one uses the brush or gives them a bath. Your helper should be someone the dog knows and loves since introducing a stranger into the equation will likely stress them out further.

Always go slow and don’t rush the grooming process. Expect things to take longer in the beginning since you are still learning the grooming processes. You will also be periodically stopping to praise and treat your dog, which will add time to the process. If you rush things, you will stress both yourself and your dog out — not to mention that you will be more prone to accidental mistakes like getting soap in their eyes or nicking them with the trimmers.

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Brushing and Trimming Dog’s Coats

Regular brushing will keep your dog looking good and also stop their coat from becoming matted and tangled. Brushing also helps you to prolong the time between baths because it will loosen dandruff and remove dirt and debris that has gotten caught up in your dog’s coat.

How often you should brush your dog depends on their coat type. Dogs with very short coats may only need to be brushed once a week, while dogs with long coats might need to be brushed on an almost daily basis. Most dogs are somewhere in the middle, needing to be brushed three to four times a week (roughly every other day). Your vet will be able to tell you how often you need to brush your specific dog.

different coats and brushes

Different coats also require different kinds of brushes, and you need to choose the right tool for the job. Pin brushes look similar to human hairbrushes and feature loosely spaced pins tipped in plastic for safety. They are meant to be used on long, silky coats that don’t have an undercoat. Slicker brushes feature densely packed metal pins and are designed to remove loose fur while detangling medium to long coats. Rake brushes feature one or two layers of longer metal pins that are meant to remove dead undercoat from thick-haired dog breeds. A bristle brush features clusters of natural or plastic fibers that are perfect for short or wiry coats.

If your dog hates brushes, then start out with a grooming glove that will mimic the feel of being petted. Use the grooming glove on non-sensitive areas such as their back and gradually work up to using it on their whole body. Once they get used to the motions, you can introduce them to the brush or comb and incorporate that into your routine.

Brushing should always be done on a dry coat. Wet hair can make tangling worse, not better. Carefully remove any mats prior to brushing by picking at them with the appropriate comb. Don’t brush directly over mats, which will tug your dog’s skin, or cut them out of their coat. Once all the mats are removed, brush in the direction of your dog’s fur, starting at the top and working your way down and back.

Even if you take your dog to a professional groomer for everything else, brushing them is a simple and relatively inexpensive task that you can easily do at home. Not only will regular brushing keep your dog healthy and happy, it will also give you an excuse to spend quality time together multiple times a week. You can even end your brushing sessions with a little massage so that your dog feels happy and relaxed every single time you brush them.

trimming dog ear hair

Trimming a dog’s coat is more difficult, and most pet parents leave it to the professionals rather than trying to DIY it. If you are interested in learning how to cut your dog’s coat, you will need to find a professional to demonstrate for you. Always use specialty scissors instead of clippers and never cut a dog’s coat shorter than one inch to avoid nicking the skin.

Bathing Your Dog at Home

Dogs need to be bathed at various frequencies depending on their coat length and also their lifestyle. Dogs with medium to long coats typically need to be bathed more often than those with short coats, although this varies a lot from breed to breed. Dogs who swim a lot or who tend to have run-ins with skunks or mud puddles will also need to be bathed more frequently.

Use your eyes, nose, and sense of touch to determine if it’s time to bathe your dog. If their coat is visibly dirty, they smell gross, and you can feel the dirt crusted in their fur, it’s time for a bath. Don’t be too vigilant about bathing them, though. Washing a dog too frequently can strip their skin of necessary oils and dry out their skin.

When it’s time for a bath, you need to choose where to bathe your dog. Smaller dogs may be able to fit in the kitchen sink, while medium and large dogs will need to use the tub. Some pet parents also invest in a special tub that is specifically designed for washing dogs, but not everyone has the money or storage space for this (although it might be cheaper in the long run rather than taking them to the groomer for a bath multiple times a year).

get them their own shampoo

You will also want a shampoo made for dogs and possibly a conditioner as well, depending on their coat. Human shampoo is usually scented and also contains chemicals that aren’t meant for a dog’s coat and skin, so get them their own shampoo. If your dog struggles with itchy skin or other topical conditions, you might need to get them a medicated shampoo. You might want to dilute the shampoo with some water in a small bowl to make it easier to lather up your dog.

When bathing your dog, use water that is warm to the touch but neither too hot nor too cold. Get them wet and then lather up their body and rinse it thoroughly. Follow up with conditioner if necessary, and leave that on for the specified amount of time before rinsing it out, too. If they have skin folds, be extra careful about soaping them up and rinsing them out to ensure that no residue is left behind. Be sure to praise them profusely throughout and to give them bully sticks for dogs as a reward.

A sprayer and hose attachment will make it easier to rinse your dog with precision, and the gentle rain effect may scare them less than water streaming from the high showerhead or loud tub faucet. Save washing your dog’s face for the last part of the bathing process since it’s imperative not to get soap into their eyes, ears, or mouth. Use a damp, soapy washcloth to wash around these areas, and then use a clean wet washcloth to rinse off the soap.

When you’re all finished, dry your dog with an absorbent towel and then allow them to shake off the excess. Again, if they have skin folds, you should carefully dry in between them using a soft towel or washcloth. Most dogs’ coats are fine to air dry, but if they have a very long coat, they might need to be dried using a hair dryer on the lowest setting — especially in cold and damp weather. Clean and dry their ears out afterward to help prevent ear infections.

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Trimming Your Dog’s Nails at Home

Trimming a dog’s nails can be very anxiety-inducing for both you and the dog. But letting their nails get too long is worse since nails that are too long can lead to pain, infection, and other health problems. Most dogs' nails need to be trimmed about once a month to keep them healthy. Nails should be cut straight across to keep them growing evenly and you should push the hair back to avoid accidentally catching it in the clippers.

clipping dogs nails

It’s very important not to cut into the quick when trimming the dog’s nails; otherwise, you will cause them bleeding and pain and make them fearful of future nail trimmings. On light colored nails, the quick will appear as a pink patch at the top of the nail. On darker colored nails, the quick is harder to see, but it may manifest as a chalky ring around the nail. Try not to cut within two millimeters of the quick.

If your dog hates the clippers, get them acclimated by letting them smell and see the clippers first. Then, touch the clippers to their paws without actually cutting the nails and click the clippers in their vicinity so they can get used to the noise. Once your dog is ready, you can try trimming off the thinnest bit of a single nail. Repeat the process each day until you have sufficiently clipped all their nails. Reward them liberally with treats and praise throughout this entire venture to make getting their nails trimmed a positive experience.

At Best Bully Sticks, we sell premium dog treats that are the perfect reward after a bath or nail trimming session. We offer treats for dogs of all sizes, from small puppy chews to the best treats for big dogs. Order today and receive free shipping on your U.S. order over $79!


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