In addition, we will answer this common question for pet owners: How often should I groom my dog?
General Dog Grooming Tips
Dog grooming at home can be something that both you and your furry friend look forward to. 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:
Reward and Praise Often
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 commercial dog treats.
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 focus on rewarding the best behaviour. Eventually, the undesirable moves will decrease in favour of the behaviour you have rewarded.
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 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.
Dog Grooming Tips: 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.
Tips for Clipping Your Dog at Home
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.
Second, 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.
Third, 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
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?
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.
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 for you to reach through both the top coat and the downy undercoat without scratching her skin.
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.
Dog Grooming Tips: Bathing
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 their 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.
Unless your vet makes recommendations for your dog to the contrary, bathing more than a few times a month is probably overdoing it.
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.
If 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 and conditioner that has Omega-3, which deeply moisturizes dry skin and promotes the good bacteria your dog needs for healthy skin.
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 illness.
In addition, their skin tends to be very sensitive, so allowing their natural oils do their job to protect their skin is recommended.
Dog Grooming Tips: Toenail Trimming
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.
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’s quick.
Practice Makes Perfect
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 you 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.
Do you groom your pet at home? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
Posted by Sharon
Sharon is a professional writer and received her M.S. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.