Guide to Grooming Your Dog

Guide to Grooming Your Dog

While proper hygiene habits such as routine bathes are essential for a healthy dog, some breeds do not require frequent trips to the groomer. But, if you want your pooch to look and feel their best, a regular grooming regimen is the way to go.

If you have the time and feel comfortable doing so, in-house grooming is a great way to bond with your dog. We’ll go over all the basics of grooming your dog at home from hair and nail trimming to getting them acquainted with all the aspects of the grooming process.

Trimming Nails

Clipping a dog's nails.

Keeping your dog's nails trimmed is a must if you want your dog’s paws to remain healthy. When their nails get too long, they may adjust their walking stride to compensate for the discomfort. In the long term, this can result in joint pain, misalignment, and even arthritis. A few things to take note of when you’re cutting your dog’s nails:

  • To start, make sure you use clippers developed exclusively for clipping a dog's nails. Most dog nail clippers come with a safety guard that prevents you from cutting their nails too short.
  • Only clip the hook-like portion of the nail that curves down. You should avoid trimming your dog's nails too short since this can cut the quick (a blood vessel inside the nail that can be damaged if the nail is clipped too short), resulting in bleeding.
  • You also want to take it slow at first. Most dogs do not like to have their nails trimmed, so trying to rush through it as quickly as possible could just make things worse. They’ll recognize that you’re not trying to hurt them when you take your time and should realize that you’re actually helping them.
  • Finally, if you have any issues whatsoever, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian or local groomer. They’re professionals and will be able to help.

Brushing Hair

If your dog has a longer coat, you should brush their hair on a regular basis to ensure it stays lustrous and full of life. Regularly brushing of your dog’s hair will help to keep it from becoming matted which can not only be uncomfortable for your four-legged friend but can also lead to irritated skin and even infection. While you brush your pooch, check for any plant material or other foreign objects that can cause matting and discomfort. Regularly brushing your dog can also aid in reducing the amount of shedding that all dogs experience.

Now that you know why brushing your dog's hair is so essential, we'll go over when you should do it as well as which tools are best for your dog. First things first, you’ll need to get your hands on not just a good brush, but the right brush for the job. A high-quality brush is the foundation of a solid grooming regimen. Longer-haired dogs will require a pin brush with long stainless-steel plated pins with round ends, whereas shorter-haired dogs will require a bristle or slicker brush.

Long-haired dog breeds such as Retrievers, Collies, and Pomeranians may require more frequent brushing to prevent matting (at least once a week, if not more often). Short-haired dogs, on the other hand, don’t need nearly as much care when it comes to their coat. Breeds such as Beagles, Bloodhounds, and Boston Terriers only need their hair brushed every few weeks to ensure it stays nice and healthy.


Dog in a bathtub with a rubber ducky.

Just as with humans, some dogs will need to be bathed more often than others. It's critical that you understand the ins and outs of washing your dog since it directly reflects how healthy their hair and skin are. Instead of going into detail here, we recommend you take a look at our When to Bathe Your Dog blog post we put together that goes over everything you need to know about washing your dog.

Brushing Teeth

Small dog with a toothbrush in its mouth.

Another essential part of grooming your doggo is making sure that you brush their teeth on a regular basis. When you make brushing your dog’s teeth a priority, it can save them from any possible discomfort from dental disease as well as a visit to your vet. Some symptoms of dental issues to keep an eye out for are bleeding gums, loss of teeth, various types of infections.

Not many dogs will let you get in their mouth and start poking around. So, unless you’re one of the lucky ones whose pooch doesn’t bat an eye when you enter their mouth, you’ll need some tips to help the process go more smoothly.

Begin by massaging their teeth and gums with your finger to get them acclimated to you cleaning their teeth. If they’re OK with this, then put a dab of toothpaste on your finger allowing them to lick and smell it as well as repeating the process with the toothbrush. Another great tip is to have some of their favorite chew toys on hand that will help in the cleaning of their teeth as well as assist them in remaining calm during the entire process.

Your primary goal here is to make the experience as fun as possible for your four-legged friend. Giving them treats before and after you brush their teeth will teach them that the whole experience isn’t that bad after all. Afterward, if you make it a point to play ball or take them for a walk, this will show them that once you’re done with brushing, it’s time to go and have some fun.

Eye and Ear Cleaning

Ensuring that your dog has clean eyes and ears is one aspect of grooming that way too often gets overlooked. But, seeing as how they are both extremely prone to all types of infections, a regular eye and ear cleaning routine is crucial.

When it comes to cleaning your dog’s face, you’ll want to keep a close eye on… their eyes. This will make sure that you catch any minor problems before they become major ones. How often you need to clean is largely dependent on the breed. Since certain breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxers have flat faces, they are much more susceptible to eye discharge. It’s recommended that if you have one of these “flat-faced” breeds, you clean their eyes at least once a day. To clear out any gunk from your dog’s eyes, simply flush both of them multiple times with an eyewash that’s been specifically formulated for dogs. Regularly flushing your dog's eyes will improve their overall health along with reducing the risk of infection which is particularly important if your dog enjoys their time hanging out in the dirt.

With the ears, it’s recommended that you clean them at least once a month if not more depending on the breed. All you need is a moist cloth or cotton swab along with some mineral oil to soak it in. Very gently clean only the outer part of the ears making sure you don’t force anything into the ear canal. There's also a risk that your dog's inner ear hairs will need to be trimmed for appropriate air circulation. Only take this path if your veterinarian has given you the OK to do so.

Getting Them Used to Grooming

Getting your canine used to grooming can easily be the most difficult aspect of the entire process. But it doesn’t have to be. Your pooch should be able to tolerate, if not love the grooming process. To accomplish this, it will require you to have the right knowledge and approach to grooming. You'll want to make your dog as comfortable as possible whether you groom them yourself or take them to a professional groomer. We’ll go over the major aspects to focus on when getting them used to grooming.

Introduce Grooming as Soon as Possible

If you have a puppy, it’s smart to get them accustomed to the grooming procedure early. The ideal time to do so would be when they’re around 12 weeks old. You should be able to start with minor grooming treatments like brushing their tail or bathing their feet. Keep in mind that your puppy has a lot of energy and is unlikely to remain stationary for the thirty minutes to an hour required to groom them. So you’ll start by slowly introducing your dog to the multiple facets of grooming. A good start is to hold the grooming brush or tool in one hand while you gently pet your pooch with your other. Give them some treats and a chance to sniff the tool you’re going to use if that makes them feel more at ease. This will allow them to connect these positives with the grooming procedure. If you find your dog pulling away, don’t fight it. Allow them to take a break and relax before you go back in for another attempt. With time, you shouldn’t have any issues with getting them cleaned up.

Use Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement training consists of rewarding your pooch for specific behaviors. This can range from offering them a reward in exchange for a handshake to verbal praise for eating all of their dinner. It's these rewards that makes them more likely to repeat said behavior in the future. Since the reward is what pushes them to repeat the desired action, positive reinforcement is one of the most effective tools you can have in your dog grooming arsenal. Positive reinforcement training consists of rewarding your pooch for specific behaviors.

Woman and a dog on an outdoor trail.

You should have no trouble adopting these reward training strategies regardless of the breed of dog you own. When you base your training on methods that revolve around trust, respect, and fun times instead of fear and intimidation, you’re getting the best out of your doggy and with no negative aftereffects. Whatever your motivation for using reward training, the best possible outcome of a good grooming experience is to see your dog respond in a positive manner while also showing no fear whatsoever.

Use the Correct Tools

When grooming your dog, whether by your own hands or taking them to the professional groomer, it’s imperative that the correct tools are used. If the wrong tools are used, there’s always the chance that your pooch might even get hurt. The correct grooming tools will prevent them from going through any type of pain.

For example, if you’re taking care of the grooming yourself you’ll need to pick up some shampoo that is specifically formulated for dogs and not humans. This is on account of dogs and humans having different types of skin as well as different pH levels. So, if you were to use human shampoo on your dog, their skin might act differently than ours causing possible infection or irritation.

Another aspect to take into account is when you go to brush your dog’s coat, make sure you’re using a brush that’s specifically made for your dog’s fur type. You wouldn't brush a Golden Retriever with the same brush you'd use on a Basset Hound. And, if you use the right brush, your dog may even enjoy this facet of grooming. Also, when you have the best tools available for the job, it minimizes any discomfort your dog might endure. If you're unclear about what to use, consult your veterinarian or a local pet store.

Our SOOTHE Skin & Coat supplement is one tool you may want to use to help take your grooming to the next level. It aids with dry and itchy skin along with promoting a healthier coat of fur. This is thanks in part to certain ingredients such as rosemary extract that stimulates and encourages hair follicle growth, as well as organic kelp, which helps to stop their skin from losing any moisture. It's not intended to be used in place of grooming, but rather as a supplement to your grooming arsenal.

Wrapping Things Up

By this time, you should have all of the information you need to ensure a stress-free grooming session not just for your dog, but also for yourself. Good grooming habits will demonstrate how much you love your pup along with allowing you to spend some special time together. No matter how well you think you groom your dog, it’s still recommended that you take them in to see a professional groomer at least once a year. Additionally, you’ll need to see your vet if you happen to notice any possible infections or irritation your pooch might have.

Buy SOOTHE Skin & Coat supplement for dogs.