As many non-essential businesses are being temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you may have found your pups groomer to be among them! While we don’t recommend going all out and giving your pup a whole new hairdo – we’ve got some basic at home grooming tips to keep your pup looking fresh until you can visit the doggy salon again. If you’ve got a short haired breed, or one that doesn’t need regular haircuts, these basics will keep your pup looking and feeling their best year round, too!
The most important thing to remember is that you want your dog to enjoy (or at least not hate) the grooming process. Some pups might not mind at all, while others may find the whole soapy situation incredibly stressful. This may mean breaking up the grooming process into small steps, only a couple minutes a day, instead of making a whole day out of the process. Of course, be sure to give your dog plenty of treats along the way!
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As a general rule, you should plan on trimming your dog’s nails once a month. Some dogs will need more or less frequent nail trimming depending on a couple different factors. For example, larger and more active dogs that spend a lot of time outside on pavement will wear down their nails naturally and will need to be trimmed less often than a smaller pup that spends most of his day napping on a comfy bed.
The most important thing to remember when cutting a dog’s nails is that pups have a vein in their nails called a quick that will bleed (and hurt!) if you cut it too short. In dogs that don’t get their nails cut frequently enough, the vein can grow very long, so you can only take a little bit off at a time. If that’s the case, you should trim a little bit off your dog’s nails every week to encourage the vein to shrink back into the nail.
If you use dog nail clippers, the easiest way to cut your dog’s nails is to position your dog in a way where you can flip their paw back and look at the underside. Once you’ve got your dog comfortably situated, begin to trim. In dogs with white nails, the quick is visible, and thus, it’s easier to trim the nail to avoid coming near the quick. If your pup has black nails, however, only cut off a little bit at a time. You will see a tiny black dot surrounded by white when you get close to the quick. That’s how you know to stop.
Nail grinders are a great way to get your dog’s nails short and smooth with less risk of cutting the quick. Nail grinders can be loud however, so you may need to introduce it to your dog slowly. Use the same process to take off a little bit at a time until you see the dot in the middle of the nail showing that you’ve gone short enough.
It’s a good idea to keep styptic powder handy to stop bleeding if you trim a nail too short!
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Most dogs benefit from being brushed a couple times a week. Even if you have a pup whose breed requires less frequent brushing, all pups can benefit from a regular brushing routine: it helps dogs to remain calm during grooming appointments, keeps their skin healthy and prevents a buildup of dander, and it’s an excellent way to bond with your best buddy! But which of the many grooming tools do you actually need for regular coat maintenance?
SMOOTH AND SHORT COATS:
For our “bully” breeds and hounds, a bristle brush works well. A gentle rub-down with a rubber brush or grooming mitt to loosen dead hair and dirt should be sufficient, but if your dog has a long enough coat to get some small knots, a pinhead brush will sort them out.
Old English Sheepdogs and other shaggy breeds are prone to tangles and matting. Use a slicker brush or wide-toothed comb to gently work through any mats – don’t cut them out. An undercoat rake is needed to get through all the layers of hair and reach the roots after the tangles have been removed.
Most retrievers and shepherds have a double coat – meaning they have a soft, seasonal undercoat that sheds twice a year, and a coarser outer coat that sheds only once a year. Double-coated dogs can have both long and short coats. For either coat length, start with a slicker brush to remove loose hair from the outer coat and any debris trapped in the coat. Then, use an undercoat rake, which is a specialized tool to get through the double coat and gently remove any dead hair or tangles from the inner coat.
Yorkies and other soft lap dogs typically have long and fine hair, with no undercoat. Use a comb to remove tangles, and a bristle brush to keep it nice and shiny.
Many terriers have wiry coats that are rough and do not shed. Use a curved-wire slicker brush and a stripping comb to thin out an overgrown coat and brush away mats.
Doodles and Poodles and Schnoodles, oh my! These coats are soft, thick, and puffy. They may shed less than other breeds, but they can be hard to maintain. To remove tangles from curly coats, use a metal comb or dematting tool and work slowly, exercising patience.
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80% of dogs have periodontal disease or other dental problems by the time they’re 3 years old – that’s a staggering percentage! Gum disease is no small matter either: it can lead to lost teeth, abscesses, a broken jaw, heart disease, or even death. That’s right – the bacteria from your dog’s bad teeth can get into their bloodstream and cause a myriad of problems.
You should aim to brush your dog’s teeth every day, but a couple times a week at a minimum will suffice. If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth before, you need to start slowly. Always use a dog specific toothpaste – not your own! They come in an array of pup-friendly flavors too! Let them sniff and lick the dog toothpaste first, then put the toothpaste on your finger and rub it on the outside of your dog’s teeth. Work your way up to a finger toothbrush and then a dog toothbrush.
If your dog refuses to let you brush their teeth, you may also use dental sprays, water additives, and tooth wipes that are still a better choice than no dental care at all!
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Some people never wash their pups, while others bathe their pups every weekend. You should aim somewhere in the middle. Most dogs should be bathed every 1-3 months, but no more than once a month. If you absolutely must bathe your pup more frequently, be sure to use a very gentle shampoo made specifically for dogs – such as a hypoallergenic or oatmeal shampoo. As overwashing can dry out your dog’s skin and coat, following shampoo with a dog-specific conditioner can help to retain necessary coat moisture. Never use human shampoos to wash your pups, as humans’ skin pH is different than dogs, and even gentle baby shampoos are too harsh for your pup’s skin.
Pro-tip: Be sure you’ve gathered all necessary supplies before you start the bath – there is nothing worse than chasing a slippery dog around the house who got loose while you went to grab a towel!
Prepare the tub with a bath mat or towel to give your pup some traction; dogs don’t like the feel of slippery sink or bathtub surfaces underneath their feet.
Make sure to use lukewarm water – the temperature you would use for a baby’s bath is perfect! If you have a flexible sprayer attachment, this is WAY easier and time effective than trying to rinse a dog with a cup, but you can make do either way.
First things first: Get your dog wet! Start at their back end and work your way forward toward their head. Then it’s time to soap them up. Be careful NOT to get shampoo in your pups’ eyes – nobody likes that! Using a rubber scrubby brush (as shown in the “brushes” section above) can help you get the shampoo thoroughly through their coat and loosen up dead skin/fur as well!
Once they’re all sudsy, rinse thoroughly to remove all shampoo! When you think you have all the shampoo out, rinse an additional time (and then once more, for good measure)! It’s easy to accidentally leave a little shampoo in your dog’s thick coat.
Use a towel (or two, or three) before your pup escapes the tub to get them mostly dry then it’s up to you whether you want to use a blow dryer or not. If you do use a hair dryer, make sure to use a cool setting. Dogs can overheat very easily. Otherwise, enjoy watching your dog bolt around the house overjoyed to be out of the tub!
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Your dog’s ears should be cleaned at least once a month. You can use an ear cleaner specifically made for dogs or witch hazel on a cotton ball. It’s normal to see a little bit of dirt on the cotton ball after swiping the inside of your dog’s ear, but if the cotton ball comes out gunky or stinky, your dog likely has an ear infection and needs a trip to the vet.