Dog Grooming: a Complete Guide on What to Consider

small dog being combed

Dog grooming is the act of caring for a dog’s coat, nails, teeth, eyes, and ears. We typically think of grooming as just caring for our pups’ coat, but when dogs are getting groomed, it’s a great time to examine these other areas as well.

Many dogs don’t need daily grooming the same way humans do, and some dog breeds don’t ever visit a groomer if their owners can take care of their coats. Typically, dogs with shorter coats require less grooming, but some dogs have short wire coats that also require extra care. Depending on your dog’s size, weight, breed, and a few other factors, some owners can find at-home grooming to be the easiest way to care for their dog’s particular needs. No matter what breed, the eyes, ears, and teeth need to be cared for regularly and will benefit from weekly exams.

What Encompasses Grooming

Grooming a dog is essentially brushing a dog’s coat to make sure it is as clean and soft as possible. For breeds that don’t shed, like the Poodle, grooming is also critical in preventing skin diseases or allergy flare-ups. Sometimes, owners forget that grooming encompasses more than just coat care. Well-groomed dogs have routine nail-trimmings, regular dental cleanings, and eye and ear cleanings. The grooming process may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t. Dog fur will have different needs from breed to breed.

Every kind of dog sheds, even hypoallergenic dogs, but the amount they shed depends on the breed. Hypoallergenic dogs typically shed very infrequently and need haircuts more than other dogs. However, regularly brushing a dog’s fur, no matter their breed or hair length, can help keep shedding under control while maintaining a clean and sleek fur coat.

white dog being groomed with scissors

At Home Dog Grooming

Depending on your dog breed, you will need specific grooming equipment to take care of these needs at home. Dogs with longer hair need special pin brushes with long stainless steel pins and round ends at the bottom. Any dog with a short or medium coats will need bristle brushes. Even some long-haired dog breeds benefit from a bristle brush rather than pin brushes.

Depending on your goal, specific tools may be more helpful when grooming a dog at home. Owners will almost certainly need clippers to trim their dog’s nails, and some owners will need special tools to remove dead, matted hair.

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Dogs require baths to keep their grooming needs at bay. Regular bathing should not be very frequent as it can remove natural oils that protect the coat and cause the dog’s skin to become harsh and dry. However, bathing a dog every four to six weeks is an excellent schedule to stick to.

Owners who clean their dogs at home should use a mild shampoo specifically formulated for dogs and will have the best success by standing inside their shower or tubs with their dogs. Dogs may benefit from cotton balls being put in their ears when bathing, but more sensitive dogs may hate this idea.

When owners bathe their dogs, they need to scrub their pups from their necks to their hind legs. Many dogs hate bathing, as it gets rid of their natural odor, but as long as owners provide positive reinforcement, bathing a dog shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.

Typically, small or short-haired dogs will only need a towel to dry off after a bath. Some dogs will need owners to comb or brush their hair while drying it with a blow-dryer. Breeds like the Poodle need these extra care techniques since they have such unique fur.

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small dog being professionally groomed

Other Grooming Needs

To trim your dog’s nails at home, you have to be careful not to cut the vein in their nails. While this isn’t a serious injury, clipping the vein in their nails causes a dog pain. Dog’s that experience pain during high-stress activities, such as nail trimmings, will grow to dislike these activities more. Many dogs that get their nails trimmed frequently as puppies don’t feel so anxious getting their feet handled and nails clipped as an adult.

If you want to trim your dog’s nails at home but are scared of clipping the vein, you aren’t alone. Some owners choose to use a nail buffer rather than a clipper. The buffer has a sandpaper roll that spins, filing your dog’s nails instead of cutting them. If not done routinely, filing a dog’s nail down can take a very long time, and it often smells very bad.

To groom a dog at home, owners must also provide ear cleanings and eye cleanings. A dog should have its ears cleaned once a month. Typically, a good time to clean their ears is during or right after their bath.

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Owners can clean their dog’s ears by using a cotton swab or cotton ball soaked in mineral oil and wiping the outer part of the ear only. Owners should never force anything into their dog’s ear as this can cause many issues. If you have a dog that suffers from ear problems, they will need their ears cleaned more often, but other than that, ear cleaning is quite simple.

Some pups have eye boogers, and some have constant eye discharge. While neither of these things is alarming, they do need to be wiped away to keep your dog’s face fresh. When eye stains appear on your dog’s face, they can be cleaned away with a cotton ball and a little bit of water. Some owners choose to mix water with other liquids, such as hydrogen peroxide, to make cleaning easier, but this can be dangerous and irritate your dog’s eyes.

Dental care is one of the most lacking health care qualities in most dogs. Almost every dog has a slight case of gingivitis, where the gums may be red or pink and bleed after brushing.

Gingivitis is caused by a build-up of plaque and tatar on your dog’s gums. This bacteria hardens and makes it more difficult to remove the longer it sits on your dog’s teeth. Dog’s may dislike having their teeth brushed because if they have gingivitis, it can be slightly painful; however, the only way to rid them of gingivitis is by cleaning their teeth.

Owners can work with their dogs to brush their teeth by purchasing a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Allow a dog to sniff the toothpaste themselves, and wet the toothbrush to make the bristles softer before using them. Many owners don’t clean their dog’s teeth, which can lead to dogs losing their teeth once they reach their twilight years.

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dog being shampooed in a bathtub

Professional Dog Grooming Tips

Professional dog groomers have plenty of tips for owners so they can take better care of their dog’s grooming needs.

Some groomers express that the most important part of grooming is teaching your dog to love grooming. Some dogs cannot be placed on a royal pedestal while being groomed, but that doesn’t mean grooming can’t make them feel like royalty.

If you get your dog used to grooming by brushing their coats often, they’ll learn to enjoy being pampered. The key to getting your dog to enjoy nail trimmings, bathing, and dental cleanings is repeating them a lot and always providing positive reinforcement.

Another important tip professional groomers stress is never passing up dental hygiene. Many large dogs hate dental hygiene and won’t become used to it until it is repeated regularly. Owners should start to lift their dog’s lips with their hands, massage their dog’s gums and clean their teeth. Using a finger brush or a very soft toothbrush can be an excellent way to care for your dog’s dental hygiene.

Different Types of Dog Coats

One of the most variable parts of grooming is that so many dog breeds have different types of coats. While there are many different types of coats, five types are the most common. These five coat types include silky coats, curly/wool coats, wire coats, smooth or short coats, and double-coated coats.

Silky Coats

Dog breeds that have silky coats are typically the Yorkshire Terrier, Shih Tzu Terrier, and the Tibetan Terrier, to name just a few. Silk coats are soft and shiny coats of fur that can easily tangle themselves up. Because of this, dogs with silk coats benefit from the soft and slickest brushes to remove dead hair or dirt from their fur. Short silky coats will still benefit from bristle brushes, but many silky coats are found on long-haired dogs.

When bathing a silk fur dog, owners should look for a dog shampoo that is de-greasing or shine-enhancing. Both types would be great for silky fur types, and silky coats require special drying techniques after bathing to keep their hair as silky smooth as possible.

dog being professionally shampooed

Double Coats

Double-coated fur types will appear on Retrievers, German Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, and Shiba Inu dogs, as well as many other breeds. These dogs have two coats of fur; a thick protective layer, and a warm insulating layer. Because these dogs have two coats, they should never be shaved, but they need regular grooming to keep up with their coat routine.

Double coat dogs would benefit from being brushed two or three times a week minimum. These dogs also benefit from grooming rakes and wide-tooth combs so they can relax both layers of these dogs’ coats.

Double coated dogs typically need to be bathed around every five to six weeks. Since so many breeds have this coat type, finding the right shampoo for specific dogs can be hard. With this coat, deep cleaning shampoos and 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioners are typically the best picks for dogs. These dogs must get dried off with a towel and then finish the process with a dog hairdryer.

Wool Coats

Dogs with curly or wool coats are dogs like the Poodle, Bichon Frise, or Maltese. These dog breeds often have curly, wavy, or straight coats, but their coat is made up of hair instead of fur. This hair is why these dogs are typically hypoallergenic. Even though they shed much less than many other breeds, they absolutely need regular grooming to keep their hair from matting or tangling.

Owners can brush dogs with wool coats with a detangling comb to rid the fur of any snags. Then a soft and slick brush can give the hair a healthy shine.

When owners wash their hypoallergenic dogs, they need to use the shampoo and conditioners meant specifically for those types of dogs. Specialty conditioners make it easier to care for animals with this type of fur. Dogs with this fur need to be towel dried after a bath and then dried with a handheld dryer. Slick brushes can be used to keep a hypoallergenic dog’s coat as healthy as possible.

Wire Coats

Dogs with wire coats may have more difficult coats to groom, but these dogs also don’t shed very much and tend to have clean coats for long periods after grooming sessions. Breeds like the Wire Fox Terrier, Jack Russel Terrier, or the Scottish Terrier have wire fur coats. To maintain these types of coats, dogs would benefit from hand stripping rather than clipping. If owners clip a dog’s wiry coat, it will ruin the texture of the coat and often make the color of the fur lighten.

Stripping can be done by hand or with the aid of a special stripping stone or blade. These tools make removing old and loose hairs from the dog’s fur easier. Owners can brush these coats with slick brushes and brush the dogs in the direction the fur grows to remove any tangles. Owners should strip wire coat dogs every three to four months.

When owners bathe dogs with wire coats, they should ensure they don’t bathe them too frequently. Overwashing these dogs can cause their coats to dry out. However, owners can clean these coats with de-grease or shine-on shampoo if you have a dog that tends to roll around in the mud. Wire coat dogs need a towel dry and an electric dryer until they are completely dry.

dog wrapped up in a towel

Smooth Coats

Smooth or short coats are the easiest coats to care for, and they don’t tangle and have naturally sleek finishes. Many breeds have short coats, but the Beagle, Greyhound, and Bulldog are a few popular breeds. These dogs can be brushed with bristle brushes or grooming mitts, and they benefit from weekly brushing sessions. Brushing in the direction the hair grows can help remove any unwanted dead hair.

When owners wash their dogs with smooth coats, they should use strengthening shampoos or 2 in 1 shampoo. These dogs can be towel dried and lest to air dry or be dried with a handheld dryer.

Final Thoughts

Grooming dogs is an important part of caring for their overall health. Owners who want to make sure they take excellent care of their dog’s grooming needs must first have the right tools. Different dog breeds will need different types of brushes, shampoos, and conditioners. When owners provide these things, the dog’s fur is left clean and shiny.

Owners should remember that brushing their dogs regularly also contributes to their coat maintenance. Dogs that are brushed more often will not only enjoy their brushing session, but they will have cleaner fur.

Owners should always check their dogs for fleas or ticks during brushing sessions just in case. To maintain a healthy schedule, it would be a good idea to brush your dog’s coat and teeth on the same day. This way, you’re sure to do both twice a week minimum, and your dog can better adapt to these situations. Now and then, trimming your dog’s nails after a brushing session will help keep their paws in check. Nails that don’t file down from exercise will become overgrown and injure your dog when they scratch their ears or face.

It doesn’t have to be hard or expensive as far as pet grooming goes. If owners are willing to learn how to groom their dogs and do so regularly, their dogs will be calmer with every session. People should never use any human products on dogs, whether it’s scissors to trim their hair, nail clippers, or human soaps. These products are meant for humans and, as such, can be quite dangerous for dogs or even lethal. Many human toothbrushes are too stiff for dogs, and human toothpaste can contain an ingredient that is toxic to dogs when ingested. Never bathe your dog outside in cold weather, and never scold your dog for fighting a grooming session. Animals are uncomfortable with these practices because they don’t feel natural, but dogs can grow to love baths and grooming sessions with repetition and positive reinforcement. If an owner doesn’t know if they can keep track of all this on their own, they can easily hire a dog groomer who will take excellent care of their dog. A professional groomer can be found in most pet stores.

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