Having a dog is all fun and games until you see how expensive professional grooming and salon visits can be. Sooner or later, you may even have to cut down on other household expenses just so your dog’s fur can be shampooed, dried, and cut along with their nails filed down and teeth brushed. An easy solution to avoid spending so much money on getting your pet professionally groomed is do it yourself dog grooming!
Below, we’ll give you plenty of tips on how to take care of your dog in the comfort of your own home while putting less of a strain on your wallet.
Dog Grooming Tools You’ll Need
Before you start grooming your dog, you’re going to need the proper equipment. Make sure that you have the following items:
- Dog nail clippers
- Tub big enough for your dog to fit in
- Fur cutting shears or clippers
- Dog shampoo and conditioner (optional)
- Towel and apron (for yourself)
Before you place your dog in the bath, it’s recommended that you brush him or her beforehand to thoroughly get out any tangles, mats, and loose dirt. Try using a brush or comb that’s best suited for your dog’s type of coat.
Slicker brushes have a flat or curved head with rows of thin wire pins and work with all coat types. They’re good for removing loose fur and can help detangle which is ideal for long-haired dogs. The pin brush is similar to the slicker brush except its wire pins are plastic or rubber-tipped. They’re better for longer and silkier coat types.
If your dog’s coat is short and wiry, bristle brushes remove dirt while leaving a nice shine. The shedding blade is a horseshoe-shaped comb that’s especially helpful in getting rid of loose fur on flat, short, or combination coats. Lastly, an undercoat rake is designed to get deeper into heavier coats but has fewer and longer pins than a slicker brush does.
If your dog’s coat is matted, and you need to brush it out, hold the dog’s fur as close to the skin as you can and carefully work out the mat instead of pulling on it. If you can’t manage to do this, then it’s best to cut it out. Brushing long-haired dogs daily can help prevent matting but short-haired dogs should be fine being brushed once a week.
While you’re brushing your dog’s fur, it’s also a good time to check for fleas and flea dirt which look like tiny black specks. If you find these, that means your dog is a host to a flea family in which you’ll need to apply flea medication immediately. Before you apply flea medication, make sure you wash your hands and put on gloves. Proceed to follow the instructions on the medication bottle and make sure the solution dries before letting your dog near other pets or outside.
After using the flea medication, vacuum your carpets, couches, bare floors, or anywhere else that dander can collect and either throw out or wash the vacuum canister before using it again. Also, be sure to wash both human and pet bedding at least every couple of weeks to avoid having fleas all over the house.
Dogs aren’t like humans where they need to bath almost every day, This can actually dry out their skin and fur, making them itchy and uncomfortable. Most dogs only need a bath once every two weeks or so depending on their coat type.
Dogs with an oily coat may need bathing once a week while a lot of short-hair breeds do fine and only need a bath around once or twice a month. Dogs with water-repellant coats or thick, double coats require less bathing but could do with a lot of extra brushing to preserve their natural oils for healthy skin and a shiny coat. If your pet has particularly sensitive skin, use a shampoo that either prescribed by a veterinarian or designed for sensitive skin and let your dog soak in the soap for 15 minutes to half an hour before rinsing.
Before you start, place a rubber mat in the bathtub (or kiddy pool) so that your pet won’t slip and hurt itself, then fill the tub with around 3 to 4 inches of warm water. As you bathe your dog, you can use a spray hose, shower head, or large plastic bucket to thoroughly wet your pet. Be careful not to spray or drop water directly into their eyes, nose, or ears for this may irritate them when they’re dry.
Afterwards, carefully work the dog shampoo into its coat starting from the top and working your way down. It’s best to use a shampoo that suds up well so that you don’t need to use a lot. Pay extra attention to its neck since this is where the collar is. Take care that you also check your dog’s skin for ticks, cuts, or irritation in case it may be sensitive to some shampoos.
You can cover your dog’s eyes with your hand to keep soap out and place a cotton ball in each ear to avoid water from getting inside them. After shampooing and rinsing well, you can add conditioner which is often a leave-in spray or meant to be rinsed out. After letting your dog drip dry in the tub, you can then towel dry them, or if you’d like, you can also use a regular hair dryer or doggy dryer while minding the level of heat. It’s best to brush them at the same time to dry them faster, with attention to the feet so that they don’t get sick from wet paws.
Tip: If you’re trying to wash younger puppies, which can be extra playful, they’ll tend to try to climb out of the tub or not stay still long enough for you to thoroughly wash them. To deal with this, put a toy that they can chew on in the tub with them so that they’re focused more on the toy and less on playing with you or trying to run away.
After your dog’s coat is nice and clean from bathing, it’s now time for basic fur trimming. You can either cut your dog’s hair so that it’s the same length all over or you can trim certain parts like the tail or near the feet. If your dog seems nervous and starts to squirm around as you’re trying to cut its hair, it’s helpful to either have someone keep them calm or have treats and toys nearby so that they focus on something else.
Both clippers and short trimming scissors are useful grooming tools to have. Clippers can give a more even haircut and often have different blade lengths depending on how short you want your dog’s fur to be. Scissors can be used for the feet, beard, or face and can be better to use if your dog doesn’t like the sound of loud clippers. Although, be careful when using scissors for it’s easier to accidentally cut the skin.
Cutting the fur near the feet will prevent it from picking up a lot of dirt, which can prove to be difficult to wash out the next time your dog needs a bath. It’s recommended that you use clippers to make it easier to cut all of your dog’s fur at an equal length and you don’t have to worry about accidentally nicking their skin. When you’re near the beard or face, use small trimming scissors to avoid scaring or hurting your dog.
Cutting your dog’s nails is very important since they can often cause injury and discomfort if they’re too long and warped. It’s also safer to keep the nails short and blunt to prevent other people from getting scratched or your furniture and floor from getting ruined. You don’t really need to clip the nails as often as you think since dogs do enough running around or walking that the nails will naturally wear down. Some dogs don’t even grow long nails so you don’t need to clip them.
Some dogs tend to get nervous at the sight of nail clippers while others don’t mind it as much, so if you have a rather calm dog then your job should be easy. On the other hand, if they’re giving you a hard time, it’s best to train them from the beginning to sit down long enough for at least one paw at a time.
In one hand, hold the dog’s paw steady as you prepare to cut a nail. Some dogs have clear nails where you can see a pink vein running through the center, in which case, you just trim right below the vein. Generally, the nails should be level with the underpad of the paw. Some dogs have black nails which make it harder to see the veins, but you can usually tell where to trim by looking underneath the nail and seeing the excess that pokes out from the thicker bit. If you’re still wary, you can cut your dog’s nails little by little until you see the live vein in the center.
Be very mindful of dewclaws which are often missed or ignored. These nails are further up the side of the front legs or even back legs on some dogs. Hold the paw so that you get a good angle to cut the dewnail and clip it as you would the others. If your dog had their dewnails removed as a puppy, then they shouldn’t pose a problem.
Cutting the nail too short can happen sometimes, and if it does, use either styptic powder or cornstarch to stop the bleeding and leave the nail to heal completely before cutting again.
Tip: Some dogs can get rather upset at the weird feeling of someone cutting their nails, so to combat this, make sure you have plenty of treats on hand to calm them down. Praising your pet after each cut nail goes a long way as well and can result in your dog being able to tolerate a trim more often.
Cleaning your dog’s ears is essential in order to prevent any ear infections which can lead to them going deaf. Floppy ears provide less airflow into the ear canal which can make some dogs more prone to ear infections than others. To tell if your dog has an ear infection, they usually have symptoms such as violent head shaking, odor from the ears, red and irritated skin inside the ears, scratching at the ears, and excessive ear discharge. Using a safe and gentle dog ear cleaning solution every week or so should keep your dog safe from infection, but be careful not to over-clean for this may cause irritation.
The external canal, which is just inside the visible ear opening, is covered in skin and has cartilage that creates ridges and creases. It also has glands that secrete waxes and oils into the ear. Further beyond the external canal is the eardrum followed by the middle ear and inner ear. It’s important that these delicate areas are not damaged since they control hearing and balance.
When you’re cleaning your dog’s ear, you mostly have to focus on the external ear canal since ear wax and other debris can often collect inside the ridges. Infection can occur if the canal becomes irritated or inflamed, which is why dogs with floppy ears need more attention. Squeeze some gentle ear cleaning solution on the inside of the ear flap near the opening and then massage the base of the ear. By doing so, you’re letting the solution fill the ridges in the canal and loosen up debris.
After this, use a cotton swab or cotton ball and apply some more solution. Gently wipe out the ear canal to thoroughly get rid of dirt, and for stubborn debris, use a cotton swab for the ridges. Be careful not to stick the swab too far into the canal since you might damage the eardrum. As soon as you’ve done the same steps to the other ear, you can finish up by wiping away any moisture.
While dogs are not as likely to get cavities as much humans do, they can still suffer from tartar and plaque buildup which can ultimately lead to infections leading to heart or kidney disease. Luckily, you can prevent such issues if you brush your dog’s teeth regularly (at least 2 or 3 times) throughout the week.
To brush your dog’s teeth, a regular toothbrush like the ones we use is not going to cut it. It’s better to use a canine toothbrush with dual heads positioned at a 45-degree angle which is useful for cleaning below the gumline. Also, don’t use human toothpaste since this contains fluoride which is as poisonous as chocolate to dogs. There should be many kinds of toothpaste made specifically for dogs in your local pet store.
For an easier time, it may be ideal to brush your dog’s teeth after it’s gone through some play time or a long walk so that has less energy and is more likely to sit still. Try not to brush aggressively since this may agitate your dog, and if they won’t let you continue, it’s okay to stop completely. You can increase the amount of time you spend brushing its teeth every day as your dog builds more tolerance to it.
To strengthen your dog’s teeth, synthetic bones or chew toys can help get rid of buildup and keep teeth healthy and strong. You can also give your dog dental chews to help prevent tartar buildup and yellow teeth, but that doesn’t mean you should omit brushing your dog’s teeth. Dental chews for dogs is like gum for humans, and obviously, our teeth don’t get clean by solely chewing gum.
Tip: Although you can clean your dog’s teeth right at home, you shouldn’t try to fix your dog’s serious dental problems by yourself. If you notice that your pet has bad breath, changes their eating habits, paws at their mouth, has missing or crooked teeth, bumps in the mouth, or tartar along the gum line, then it’s best to see a veterinarian so that you don’t take a risk in these problems getting worse. In general, your dog’s teeth should be examined professionally every six to twelve months, even if they’re healthy.
Keeping your dog healthy and happy isn’t just about giving it treats, taking it for walks in the park, or giving it a good belly rub. It also includes grooming your dog from washing its coat, clipping its nails, and brushing its teeth. Because not everyone can afford to get their dog professionally groomed a couple of times a month, we gave some tips above for do it yourself dog grooming so that’ll hopefully help you give your pet a longer and healthier life.