While your dog might be thinking of that next treat or game of fetch, they’re likely not thinking about their appearance – or smell. Keeping up your dog’s hygiene is important from more than an appearance standpoint. It’s key to a healthy pup, serving as an opportunity to identify health issues, ensure they are free of parasites or skin conditions, as well as keeping that doggy odor at bay. Fortunately, grooming your dog yourself can be done at home safely and properly with a little bit of preparation and patience. Here are some tips for grooming your dog at home.
Should I Groom my Dog at Home?
Dog grooming at home has benefits besides being economical. First, your pet will always be more comfortable with family members, particularly if your dog does not like to be groomed. Grooming at home allows for a more flexible grooming schedule. Grooming needs can be broken up over a period of time. Doing too much at once can be overwhelming to humans and dogs. Second, the whole family can get involved and share an in-home spa day where pampering the pooch is the top priority. Of course, you may feel a bit anxious about the task, particularly at first, but there’s no reason that you cannot learn how to groom a dog properly and safely.
Preparing to Groom Your Dog at Home
Since every dog is unique, identify what type of grooming your dog needs and how frequently. Generally speaking, dog grooming includes bathing, brushing your dog’s coat, trimming nails, cleaning the ears and brushing the teeth. Dogs with thick fur or long and curly coats, will need regular trims, which may be best done by a professional groomer. However, there are many grooming tasks you can do safely at home. Once you know what services your “doggy spa” will be offering, make sure to have the proper grooming instruments.
A good rule of thumb is that your dog’s coat should be smooth and shiny. If your dog’s coat is dull or brittle, then you need to groom your dog more frequently.
Brushing your dog’s coat does a few important things:
- prevents tangles and matting
- removes loose hair and dead skin
- distributes the natural oils of the dog’s fur
- provides an opportunity to look for unusual bumps, injuries and fleas.
Perhaps the best reason to regularly brush your dog is that your dog will enjoy it and you can bond.
Choosing the Right Tools for Grooming Your Dog
In order to properly brush your dog’s coat, you need the proper brush for the length and texture of your dog’s coat. The following is a list of the types of brushes to help you groom your own dog, but you should consult a pet specialist to make sure you have the best brush for your dog:
- Short coats and smooth coats: use a bristle brush which will also massage the skin
- Medium-length coats: use a bristle brush with long bristles or a slicker brush (particularly good to remove knots and tangles)
- Longer coats: use a wire pin brush in addition to a shedding blade, rake or de-shedding brush. Dogs with longer coats definitely need more attention to grooming.
Generally, dogs with curly or wiry fur are particularly susceptible to tangles and matting and require more frequent grooming. Many dogs also have a double coat, which consists of an outer coat and an undercoat. The undercoat is usually dense and more wool-like, leading to the fur becoming matted, so it’s important to groom both the undercoat and outer coat. You can also find grooming tools designed for the undercoat, but for the most part, regular grooming will not only keep the fur free from tangles, but make each future grooming session easier.
For other grooming needs such as trimming nails and bathing, make sure to have sharp nail clippers that are appropriate for your dog’s size. There are different styles of clippers, so find one that you are comfortable with. For bath time, make sure to find the right shampoo for your dog based on various factors such as texture and length of fur, potential allergies or skin irritation, and any need for medicinal shampoo to protect from fleas and ticks.
Additionally, there are many products available to ensure your dog has healthy teeth, eyes and ears. Do not use toothpaste intended for human use as it can contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs. Remember to always consult a pet care professional before using any product that could have side effects or cause illness. You should also have a pet first aid kit in the home, and if you are clipping your dog’s nails, make sure it includes some styptic powder which is used to stop bleeding if you cut the dog’s quick accidentally (this happens quite commonly, particularly with dogs with dark nails, and is not usually a cause for concern).
Ready, Set, Brush
Brushing your dog’s coat is like painting a masterpiece. Each dog is different, and each artist (you) may have different brush strokes, but there are some general tips to ensure proper and safe grooming:
- Follow the natural direction: as you brush, follow the natural growth of the fur. In most cases, that means starting at the dog’s skin, and brushing outward
- Gentle brush strokes: use gentle, but firm brush strokes to avoid damaging or tearing the fur. If you feel a snag, stop brushing immediately. Use a coat conditioner and wait a few minutes before trying to untangle the fur with a comb. If the hair is matted, and cannot be untangled, you may have to cut the matted fur, but be extremely careful not to irritate the skin or cause an injury. In case of any emergency, seek medical attention immediately.
- Take your time and be attentive: try not to rush and pay attention to any signs of discomfort. You know your dog better than anyone, so use that knowledge to make sure your dog is comfortable. The more enjoyable the grooming is for your dog, the more likely you will earn a tip.
To Trim or Not to Trim Your Dog’s Fur
Certain dogs will require trims due to the length or texture of hair. With that said, for most dogs, trims are not necessary. Similarly, shaving a dog is not recommended except in rare circumstances. A dog’s fur naturally insolates the dog from cold and heat. So, even though it’s summer, the dog’s coat is very important to maintain body temperature and keep your dog comfortable. So, unless a pet care specialist has given a specific reason why your dog needs to be shaved, you should not shave your dog, no matter how cute a summer cut would look.
Some dogs, however, will require trims. For example, some dogs have hair that does not shed, and therefore will need regular trimming. Generally, trims are best left to professional groomers because there is always a risk of injury.
Spa days are fun, and there’s no reason that you cannot create an in-home spa to pamper your pooch. A shiny and smooth coat is very important to a dog’s health, and regular grooming promotes good health. Consider in-home grooming as a chance to bond and get the entire family involved. Lastly, consider a dog insurance plan from Pets Best to help you afford the best veterinary treatment for your four-legged friend.