Taking care of your dog isn’t just a good diet, exercise and regular trips to the vets - it means regulars grooming, too. Most new dog owners don’t know how to groom a dog - but we’ve got it covered!
There’s no arguing about it; grooming your dog is vital. It keeps them smooth, tangle-free and glossy whilst also allowing you to keep an eye on their overall health. And the bonus? It’s a great bonding and trust-earning process, too.
“Grooming your dog is necessary to his health and wellbeing. Grooming your dog helps cement the bond between you while keeping you aware of his health. It helps rid him of his shedding coat and allows you to view his body up close in order to detect any changes, lumps, bumps, or parasites. Brushing and combing feels good to him and a well-groomed dog is a pleasure to pet!” says Sandy Blackburn in The Everything Dog Grooming Book.
How to groom a dog: bathing
Before you begin the grooming process, we’d recommend giving your pooch a good bath to remove dirt and debris. Give them a quick brush beforehand. Make sure you use a pH balanced, hypoallergenic, gentle shampoo which has been produced specifically for dogs. Don’t risk using human shampoo - it could really irritate your pup’s skin.
Place a rubber mat or other non-slip surface on the bottom of your bathtub or sink, lather your pooch up with shampoo and rinse them thoroughly. Remember to protect your dog’s ears, eyes and mouth when washing the head and face and check the water temperature before putting them in the tub - aim for luke-warm.
Make sure all the shampoo is completely rinsed, before drying your pup with towels or a hair dryer. When they’re completely dry, it’s time to get brushing!
How to groom a dog: brushing
If you’ve never brushed your dog before, they might be a little nervous. It’s best to start slow and get them used to the feel of touch on different parts of their body - even if this takes a few days or weeks. It’s best to pick an area of the house to do your brushing in every time, so your pooch gets used to a routine.
Start by patting different parts of their body, rewarding them for remaining calm and relaxed. Gently pat the chest, shoulders, back, ears and legs, before attempting to lift a paw up and touch the nails. Do this over the course of a few days if necessary, continuously rewarding your pooch.
Start by brushing very lightly, giving them a treat when they stay calm. Build up the amount of brushing over a few days until your pooch completely accepts (and possibly enjoys) the brushing process.
Keep a close eye out for areas with tangles or matted patches of fur. If you do find any stubborn mats or tangles, you might need to apply a detangling solution - or if they’re impossible, trim them out completely (more on that later!).
Once they’re completely chilled out, you can begin to do an occasional brush in the opposite direction to hair growth. This will allow you to check for fleas, lumps, sore or bumps.
Always reward your pooch after brushing - this positively reinforces the process and makes future sessions a breeze!
How to groom a dog - fur trimming
So now, your pooch is washed, brushed and looking lovely! Now, you might want to continue the dog grooming process and trim your dog’s hair - though this is totally optional. You’ll need to purchase professional dog grooming scissors and be extremely careful with them.
Donna Jackle, an animal welfare journalist, spoke to Animal Wellness Magazine about dog fur trimming “First and foremost, use scissors that are specially designed for dog grooming. Kitchen scissors are a no-no.”
Use safety scissors to trim around sensitive areas. This could be around the eye area when hair is obscuring vision, if hair is growing around the anus and trapping faeces, or when hair mats and tangles are refusing to budge.
Be extra careful when trimming around the eyes. If you don’t feel confident with this step, or your pooch isn’t able to stay fairly calm and still, it’s probably best to leave it to a professional groomer to avoid potential accidents.
How to groom a dog - nails
Just as it was important to get your pooch used to the idea of having their coat brushed, it’s essential to give them time to get used to the sound of nail clippers or grinders before using them. Simply introduce them to the tool and its sound over several days, rewarding them when they stay calm.
Then, you can get clipping. Be careful not to trim too far when cutting your dog’s nails. If you clip the quick (the pink section just under the nail), it’s likely to cause pain and bleeding. Only cut the nails if it's clear they're too long - and even then, only trim them slightly.
How to groom a dog - ears
Now, it’s time to clean those ears! Most dogs need their ears cleaned from time to time, which will help prevent wax build-up and ear infections. Place the tip of a bottle of dog ear cleaner into your dog’s ear (ask your vet for their recommended brand) and give the bottle a gentle squeeze. Focus on the ‘gentle’ part here - too much pressure means too much cleanser!
Your pooch will immediately try to shake his head, but if you can, focus on gently massaging the base of the ears to help the cleanser loosen ear debris. Have a towel ready at this stage and loosely hold it over your dog’s ears. Ear debris is likely to burst out as soon as they go in for the shake! Next, use a cotton bud to lightly clean out any excess debris in the ear canal. Don’t go any deeper than what you can see, as this could damage your dog’s eardrum. When you're done, ensure your dog's ear is thoroughly dry.
Now you know how to groom a dog! You'll have a shiny, sparkling, clean, happy and healthy pooch in no time! If you're unsure about any of these dog grooming steps, we'd recommend asking your vet or a dog grooming professionally for advice.