Ultimate Guide to Caring for Dogs that Need Grooming

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20 Minute Read
Updated March 27, 2021

If you are looking to cut down on the cost of owning a pet, this ultimate guide to DIY dog grooming can help. Many of us rely on professional groomers to take care of our dogs’ grooming needs.

While it can be convenient and time-saving to outsource this job, outsourcing comes with a significant price tag. Dog grooming services usually cost $40 upwards, and can even verge into the $100 plus territory! Yikes!

How to Groom Your Dog At Home

The alternative to paying a professional is doing your own dog grooming at home. Not only is grooming your dog at home a great way to bond with your pet, but it’s also fantastic for your wallet.

If you’ve avoided DIY dog grooming because you imagine it to be too difficult to get a handle on, you’re not alone. It can certainly feel intimidating to start if you simply dive in.

That’s why we recommend you first arm yourself with some expert advice. To help you out, we’ve put together this handy guide of DIY dog grooming tips for:

  • Bathing
  • Hair Cutting
  • Brushing
  • De-shedding
  • Nail Trimming

In addition, we will answer this common question for pet owners: How often should I groom my dog?

General Grooming Tips

general-dog-grooming-tips

Dog grooming at home can be something that both you and your furry friend look forward to, especially with breeds like the Portuguese Water Dog. This is especially true if you make the experience something that your dog enjoys. Use these simple training tips to keep grooming sessions positive and stress-free. Many a breed's coats require grooming from the long-haired Bichon Frise to the curly coat of the poodle. Check it out:

Reward and Praise Often

It would do dog owners well to have some very small pieces of what your dog would consider a high-value reward on hand. These include little bits of things she loves, such as bits of cooked chicken, cheese, or her favourite commercial dog treats.

Here are a few of our favourite, super tasty dog snacks that you can try:

When she is behaving particularly well during her grooming session, such as laying down nicely and giving “soft eyes” showing that she is relaxed, then let her know with a “Good Girl!” and a treat.

By praising and rewarding during grooming sessions, you are teaching your dog to associate the grooming ritual with a pleasurable experience where she gets some extra good stuff. This will help her not only look forward to the next grooming session but also help her overcome the trauma if you accidentally nip her with the clippers.

Avoid Correcting Your Dog While Grooming

Along the same lines of reward and praise, avoiding harsh verbal corrections during your sessions will go a long way towards keeping the tone positive. Correcting your dog while he is already a little bit stressed out only makes things more stressful and scary.

It is unlikely to be effective at stopping any fear responses, and may even make them worse.

Just ignore behaviour that is not ideal, such as when he yanks his paw away from the nail clippers, and instead focuses on rewarding the best behaviour. Eventually, the undesirable moves will decrease in favour of the behaviour you have rewarded.

Natural Chews

Bring Patience and Calmness to the Table

Your dog is tuned into your emotional state of mind. When you start to get frustrated, whether or not you show it, your canine feels it. If you notice that you are starting to feel frustrated, it is better to end the session than to press on.

Ultimately, you want your dog to experience grooming as a positive experience. If you can’t provide that by staying calm and positive, you may be contributing to your dog’s anxiety about being brushed, bathed, trimmed, or clipped.

While it may not be a problem now, you can accidentally create a problem down the road if you try to groom your dog when you are not in a positive frame of mind.

Use a Grooming Table

Most of us don’t have a proper area to groom our dogs at home, so we make do with a makeshift area. If you’ve made the switch to DIY dog grooming, it’s well worth buying a well-designed dog grooming table to get the job done properly.

A dog grooming table will help perfectly position your dog so you can give them the support and comfort they need during your grooming session. Using one also makes it far easier for you to groom them accurately and efficiently.

De-shed Your Dog’s Coat

If your dog is prone to shedding, you should make de-shedding a regular part of your DIY dog grooming routine.

“If you’re sick of constantly cleaning up your dog’s excess hair, you should learn to de-shed them with a de-shedding tool,” says Angela Stringfellow from Pet Life Today. “These tools are designed to be easy to use, so you’ll quickly pick it up. Your dog will look smarter with their well-groomed coat and you also won’t need to waste so much time cleaning up after them.”

Try a de-shedding tool like the Furminator. These brushes are designed to safely remove dead fur that is loosely attached and can reduce shedding by up to 90%.

Don’t Forget the Nails!Dog holding nail clippers

With all the focus on grooming your dog’s coat and skin, it can be easy to forget about their nails. After all, their nails aren’t as visible as their hair, so it’s no wonder they sometimes grow a little too long.

Clipping your dog’s nails prevents them from suffering any pain or infections too. We’ll go into more detail with tips for clipping your dog’s nails below!

Start Spot Grooming

Leaving all of your dog’s grooming to the last minute will mean that you have a lot to take care of at once. It’s far better to continually groom your dog. What we mean by this is that you make little fixes when you can.

For instance, if you notice your dog’s ears are in need of cleaning but you don’t have the time to give them a big clean, use a dog ear cleaner, like Burt's Bees Ear Cleaner. Likewise, if their eyes have tear stains, you can wipe them off with some eye wipes.

Earthbath Facial Wipes

Allergen Check

Can dogs have allergies? Yes, they can! And a clear indicator of dog allergies is dry, itchy skin, or worse, hot spots.

These painful, dry patches and characterized by red, raised bumps on the surface of the skin. Your pet may also bite or lick them excessively. Hot spots can be a sign of environmental or food allergies. For immediate relief, seek out hot spot sprays or ointments, such as Vet's Best Hot Spot Spray.

Grooming regularly can also help soothe your pets’ skin and stay on top of their allergies. However, it’s wise to determine what exactly is causing the allergies in the first place.

If food allergies seem to be the problem, make sure you are checking their dog food as well as their treats. Treats can have ingredients you may not have expected hidden in the list.

Whole foods and natural treats make better choices than cheaper mass-market treats available at your grocery store. These low-quality treats often include high allergen ingredients such as corn, wheat, and soy.

Pets can also have environmental and seasonal allergies just like we do. Detergents, cleaning supplies, parasites, seasonal allergens, and foods could be causing your pet’s dry skin.

Dog Grooming Tips: Bathing

dog-grooming-bath

Bathing your dog is an important part of DIY dog grooming as it helps to remove any excess debris and hair they may have. In turn, bathing keeps their coat clean and silky and also minimizes any unpleasant odours.

Bathing your dog properly can help reduce shedding and promote skin health. Here are a few tips to make the most of this dog grooming ritual:

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

The frequency that you bathe your dog will depend on several factors. The length of their fur, how dirty they get (city dogs tend to need fewer baths than country dogs who spend more time rolling around in the dirt), and your tolerance for “dog smell” are all important considerations.

Your dog has natural oils in its skin that protect both the skin and the hair from drying out. It takes 2-3 days after these oils are stripped from a bath for them to restore throughout the coat. Therefore, it is quite possible to bathe your dog too much.

Too much bathing can be bad for your pet’s skin and encourage shedding. Keep baths down to once a month.

Unless your vet makes recommendations for your dog to the contrary, bathing more than a few times a month is probably overdoing it.

Bathe Your Dog with the Right Products

Many dogs are sensitive to certain chemicals used to make shampoo smell good or act as stronger detergents. It is important to stick to dog shampoos made with natural ingredients designed to be gentle and moisturizing for your dog’s skin health.

Also, it is important to make sure you are using a dog shampoo that is made specifically for dogs. Human shampoos have different pH and can dry out your pet’s skin further. They also can contain dyes and perfumes that could cause irritation in sensitive pets.

We recommend selecting a well-reviewed dog-safe shampoo such as Earthbath’s Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo. You’ll also need a soothing dog conditioner, such as Skout's Honor’s Probiotic Dog Shampoo + Conditioner.

Using high-quality products will ensure your dog gets a thorough clean and can enjoy a luxurious bathing experience to boot.

Use a Probiotic Shampoo

Skouts Honor Shampoo1If a persistent foul odour is a problem for your dog, more bathing with strong detergent soaps may even make the problem worse. Instead, choose a gentle probiotic shampoo that has Omega-3, which deeply moisturizes dry skin and promotes the good bacteria your dog needs for healthy skin.

Don’t Forget the Conditioner

Use a pet conditioner after shampooing. Make sure to let the conditioner sit on your pet’s coat for a few minutes to absorb into the skin. Look for natural shampoos and conditioners, like the Kin + Kind line. Harsh chemicals or dyes found in conventional bathing products can further dry out the skin.

Adding essential fatty acids or a skin conditioner like coconut oil to your pet’s food can moisturize the skin and coat and reduce shedding.

Try Waterless Bathing

If your pet needs a refresher, but you don’t want to bathe her and potentially worsen her dry skin, there is an alternative. Waterless dog shampoos and wipes, such as Earthbath Hypoallergenic Pet Wipes, can keep pets clean and fresh in between regular baths.

A Note About Puppies

Unless instructed by your veterinarian, avoid bathing puppies under the age of 12 weeks. Very young pups can’t maintain their body heat efficiently, making them very susceptible to catching a chill after a bath which can lead to other illnesses.

In addition, their skin tends to be very sensitive, so allowing their natural oils to do their job to protect their skin is recommended.

Dog Grooming Tips: Hair Cutting

dog-grooming-hair-clipping

Short Growth Breeds

There are two basic kinds of dog hair. Short growth hair is fur that gets to a certain length, dies, and then is regrown. Most breeds have this type of fur.

Examples include Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, and German Shepherds. You know your dog has short growth hair if they maintain a certain fur length without needing to have a haircut.

It is important to understand that if you do have a short growth breed of dog, that you should never cut their hair or shave them unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian.

Many people mistakenly believe that shaving a dog, such as a German Shepherd, down will help them stay cool in the summer months. In fact, the opposite is true. By removing their fur, you are also removing their protection from both the heat and UV rays of the sun.

Long Growth Breeds

The second type of dog hair is long growth. For long growth breeds such as Poodles and Shih Tzus, the hair will continue to grow indefinitely until it is cut.

Many so-called “hypoallergenic” dog breeds actually have this type of long growth hair. Since the hairs don’t die and shed as regularly, these canines leave less hair behind to get stuck in carpets, drapes, and furniture.

For dogs with long growth hair, haircuts are a required grooming practice. Depending on the style of cut that you prefer, as well as the speed at which your dog’s hair grows, you may need to give her a trim every 4-8 weeks.

Use the Right Dog Clippers

You can save a great deal of money by learning how to clip your dog’s hair at home. The most important key to success is to start with high-quality, professional-grade dog clippers.

Cheap gear is a recipe for frustration. They will require more blade changes, they can heat up and burn your dog, and the motors will burn out quickly. It costs less, in the long run, to invest in top-quality clippers right from the start.

Start Off Easy

Start with easy cuts, such as a puppy cut. This style uses only a few different blade changes and keeps the process very simple. Once you have the hang of using your clippers, you can graduate to fancier styles.

Be Extra, Extra Careful

Use dog safety shears to do the delicate areas around the eyes and ears. The blades are very sharp in order to cut hair cleanly, but they have a rounded tip to prevent accidentally harming your dog with the pointy tip found on most scissors instead.

Only professional groomers should use clippers in the face area since one wrong move can have disastrous consequences.

Dog Grooming Tips: Brushing

dog-grooming-brushing

Brushing serves three important functions. First, it helps to remove dead hairs which can drastically decrease shedding inside your home. Second, it helps move the natural oils of your dog’s skin throughout the fur, keeping it glossy and healthy. Third, it keeps small tangles from turning into mats that can require clippers to remove.

How Often Should I Brush My Dog?

There’s a reason why dogs who sport a luscious coat appear to be so healthy. As DogTime points out, brushing their coat regularly serves a number of purposes. For starters, it removes excess hair. It also helps to distribute the natural oils in your dog’s fur and skin.

Brushing regularly gives you the chance to look for signs that something is not quite right with their coat, such as matted or tangled fur, or if you find anything worrying on their skin, like lumps, ticks, fleas, and cuts. Get in the habit of brushing your dog's coat regularly with a reliable dog comb or brush.

So, how often should you brush? Most medium to long-haired dogs will benefit from being brushed at least once a week, outside if possible. Short-haired breeds, such as Pitbulls, don’t require brushing at all. Longer silky breeds, such as the Bearded Collie may require daily brushing to keep their coat tangle-free.

Use the Right Brushes and Combs

Specialized brushes and combs made just for dogs are important for being as effective as possible when brushing your dog. Well-designed dog brushes allow you to reach through both the topcoat and the downy undercoat without scratching her skin.

There are many options for dog brushes, so check out this chart to get an idea of which dog brush might be appropriate for your dog's coat.

Grooming-Brush-chart

A good quality dog brush can decrease the amount of time you spend brushing and reduce pet shedding. Using the right pet brush can make sure you are getting all the shed hair you can from your pet.

Undercoat rakes, slicker brushes, rubber brushes, and shedding blades are just a few of the different tools you can use to reduce shed pet hair in your house. 

A Note About Double Coated Breeds

Many double-coated breeds, such as Huskies and German Shepherds, develop a thick downy undercoat in the winter months. These breeds will generally have a large shed in the spring when the weather turns warm. When they start to shed this undercoat, you will need to brush them as much as twice a day for a week or two until the undercoat is gone.

Specialized tools, such as the Furminator Deshedding Tool, make this heavy-duty job much easier.

Dog Grooming Tips: Deshedding

furminator-deshed-tool-1

No amount of sweeping or vacuuming seems to affect the endless wave of pet hair that attaches to every surface in your home. Try as we might, shed happens!

Shedding season brings even more pet hair tumbleweeds and while these seasonal transitions aren’t fun for anyone, it’s a natural and healthy part of your pet’s skin and coat health.

Shedding and dry skin in dogs is a constant problem for many pets and their owners. All pets shed at least a little, even hypoallergenic breeds, but here are some tips to limit the amount.

How Often Should I Use Deshedding Tools?

Even though it’s important to stay on top of your pet’s grooming during shedding seasons, they actually shed all year long. Routine grooming practices help keep their skin and coat healthier and prevent matting, tangles, and breakage.

Most deshedding tools will remove dead hair that is still loosely attached, but when those hairs are gone, deshedding tools can start to pull at fur with live roots. This is why deshedding should be done less frequently than regular brushing.

Depending on the type of hair that your pet has, deshedding is recommended weekly, with regular brushing as close to daily as possible. This will collect dead, loose hair that is just waiting to jump onto the couch or your clothing. and leave live healthy hair alone.

Regular deshedding practices will also help desensitize your pet to the grooming process. Many pets fear deshedding tools, especially if they get groomed infrequently, so it's best to slowly get your dog used to the deshedding process while incentivizing with treats, toys, and lots of love. 

How to Prevent Dog Shedding

Managing your dog's seasonal sheds doesn't have to be difficult. The right deshedding practices can help to reduce the amount of dog hair that floats around your house and help your dog get through a heavy shed with fewer issues.

When it comes to normal, year-round shedding though, prevention is the best solution. In addition to regular deshedding practices, you can further reduce shedding by keeping their skin and coat healthy. Let's find out what you can do to minimize daily shedding.

Feed the Right Diet

A poor diet can contribute to your pet’s shedding and dry skin. If you’ve tried other solutions to your pet’s shedding problem, try upgrading to a whole, natural pet food.

Natural Dog Food

What you put into your pet affects what comes out, and we’re not talking about poop this time. Their skin and coat health is dependent on a wholesome balanced diet, rich in natural vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids.

The benefits of a healthy diet can be seen throughout many aspects of your pet’s health, and their skin and coat is a good indicator of health.

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids as well as many vitamins and minerals aid in skin and coat health, by conditioning their skin and promoting healthy cell development. Many common skin issues can be related to poorly balanced diets or synthetic and poorly digested nutrients. Switching to a higher quality diet can reduce dry and itchy skin, as well as excessive shedding.

During shedding seasons, you can aid further by supplementing fish oils and fresh produce to supply these key nutrients in a natural and digestible format.

Dog vitamin supplements can fill in the gaps in your pet’s diet that could be causing dry skin, shedding, and other health conditions.

Limit Stress & Anxiety

Shedding can be a sign of pet stress and anxiety. If you’ve ruled out other causes, a natural dog anxiety solution such as Omega Alpha E-Z Rest may be helpful for your dog’s shedding problem.

If you are all of a sudden seeing more of your pet than usual on the carpet and furniture, you may want to look into ways you can relieve stress for your pet at home.

Dog Stress & Anxiety Solutions

Omega Fatty Acids

Lots of grooming supplies can help to condition your dog's fur from the outside, but much like the power of a good diet, conditioning starts internally. Your dog's diet likely already includes some levels of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, but some dogs need more than what a standard dog food contains. 

Adding omega fatty acid supplements like salmon oil, or hemp oil can help to boost their skin and coat health by conditioning from the inside out. 

Many skin and coat supplements can support the natural cell cycle of your dog's skin and coat leaving the fur healthy and reduces shedding naturally. 

Shop Pet-Tek Wild Salmon Oil

Use the Right Deshedding Tools

Many deshedding tools are designed to not only remove loose hair but also gently pull out dead hair that may still be attached to the follicle. This doesn’t hurt your pet when used routinely, but using this type of brush too often can result in the brush pulling outlive and healthy hair, which can be not only painful but can damage the fur and skin.

Before you start deshedding your pet, go over them briefly with a standard brush, like a slicker, pin or comb style brush. This will remove loose hair and detangle in preparation for the deshedding tool.

Another important thing to remember when you are deshedding is that these brushes don’t require a lot of force. If you encounter knots or tangles, stop. Keep a softer slicker brush or comb handy to work out tangles, and then proceed with the deshedding process.

Use short gentle strokes with the deshedding tool and clean the hair out of the brush often. This will make the brush more efficient and ensure that your pet will be less intimidated by your grooming techniques.

Best Deshedding Tool

There are many brands that make deshedding tools for pets, but we have a favourite. The FURminator deshedding tool stands out in the crowd of grooming tools and we recommend it for both dogs.

If you're not familiar with this product, then check out these benefits:

  • The FURminator deshedding tool, when used regularly and as directed, can reduce shedding up to 90%!
  • The brushes are available for dogs, cats, small animals and any pet with an undercoat.
  • It works by using stainless steel teeth that gently loosen and remove dead undercoat hair, without damaging their topcoat.
  • The fine teeth also remove dirt and debris that can easily get trapped in the undercoat.
  • The curved edge design makes it smoothly glide across your pet's skin without discomfort or irritation.
  • The easy FURjector button pushes out the collected hair for easy disposal.
  • They, and we, are so confident that this brush will work that they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all deshedding tools. If you don’t like it, just return it for a full refund.

The FURminator deshedding tool is a necessity for furry households. You’ll be surprised at the amount of dead hair that your pet is carrying around just waiting to leave a trail wherever they go.

We definitely recommend using this brush in an area that is easy to clean, like tile or even outdoor areas. 

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A Note About Hair Cycling

Dogs go through periods of increased shedding, and it’s not just in the spring and fall. A sudden increase in shed hair can just be a part of your pet’s normal hair cycling.

No need to raise concern unless the time frame lasts longer than a few weeks. Just increase your pet’s grooming and brushing at this time.

Protect Your Home

Controlling shed hair in your house can be an ongoing problem. Find pet beds in washable fabrics so that you can regularly pop them in the washer and dryer. Use furniture slipcovers or blankets and seat covers for trips in the car.

For more tips on de-furing your home, checkout our Best Pet Hair Removers to Deshed your Life.

Dog Grooming Tips: Toenail Trimming

dog-grooming-clipping

It is important to keep up with trimming your dog’s nails. Overgrown nails can affect your dog’s gait and posture, and if allowed to get too long, can even cause long-term problems such as lameness and joint degeneration.

How Often Should I Clip My Dog’s Toenails?

Different dog’s nails grow at different rates and hardness. In addition, dogs that regularly walk on concrete tend to need fewer trims than those running on softer terrain such as grass.

Keep an eye on your dog’s toenails to determine what frequency will maintain a good length. In most cases, trimming twice a month will maintain a healthy length.

Bladed Nail Trimmers for Dogs

It is important that you cut your dog’s toenails with gear that is made just for dogs, has a very sharp blade, and includes a guard to keep you from accidentally going too far into the sensitive quick area. The quick is the vein that runs up your dog’s nail.

Generally, these types of dog nail trimmers come in guillotine and scissor style. Both work well, so it really comes down to your personal preference.

Grinder Nail Trimmers for Dogs

Another increasingly popular way to trim your dog’s nails is grinder-style nail trimmers that use a sandpaper disc to gently grind away the excess.

They have the advantage of making it easier to take a very small amount of nail off at a time, preventing injuries to the quick. They also leave a rounded edge, making claws less sharp after a trim.

The main key to using grinding trimmers is to start slow, reward often, and only apply them for 3-4 seconds on each pass because the friction produces heat which can burn your dog quickly.

Learning to trim your dog’s nail takes time. Here are 11 Dog Nail Trimming Tips to help you get started.

Ask an Expert

If you still have concerns or if your pet is showing other odd symptoms, bring it up at your next vet check-up. Dry skin and excessive shedding are signs of physical stress and can be a symptom of many conditions, like allergies.

Practice Makes Perfect

dog-grooming-patience

Don't be discouraged if you struggle with maintaining your pet's grooming routine. It can be stressful for both you and your pet, so take your time and keep trying. Over time you will learn which tools work best for your pet and you will be more comfortable handling them.

Finding the right time and environment for grooming will require some trial and error too, but helping your pet see grooming as a positive activity will make a big difference.

If you are not comfortable grooming your pet at home, you may want to take them to a professional groomer where they have the best tools and experience to handle a pet that is less than enthusiastic about their grooming needs.

If your pet isn't warming up to at-home grooming techniques, try to find small ways to groom your pet in between professional groomer visits. This can reduce the need for professional grooming, and help maintain a healthier more luxurious coat.

Dog Grooming Supplies

Do you groom your pet at home? Share your tips with us in the comments below!
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