The Ultimate Dog Grooming Guide for 2022

 As a dog owner, you likely take pride in the things you do for the canine in your care.

The walks, the games, the cuddles, and training. You do things yourself because nothing builds a bond with your dog better than doing stuff together. And we all that the bond between you and your dog is priceless.

But you may choose to leave grooming to the professionals.

I can understand that.

The idea of trimming your pet’s fur or clipping nails can be daunting. But it’s actually not as tough to do your own grooming as it seems. You just need a little guidance and know where to start.

[And if we are talking haircuts, it’s very important to know where to stop. Trust me.]

And even if you still choose to outsource the lion’s share of your dog’s beauty needs, it can help to know how to do some of your dog’s grooming so you can keep an eye on things in between professional grooming visits.

This updated guide is designed to help you make sure your pet’s coat and skin stay looking and feeling healthy.

Assess Your Dog’s Needs

Most professional groomers will tell you that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pet grooming. Some dogs have fur that needs a regular trim, while others have fur that always stays the same length. If you have a beagle or a boxer, for instance, there’s no need to schedule haircuts. But if your pet is a poodle or a Pekingese, you’d better have some clippers handy.

But just because your dog doesn’t need a haircut very often, don’t assume that no care is necessary. These smooth or short-haired pets still need some car, including baths, nail clipping, and regular brushing.

Breed Coat Breakdown

  • Smooth coat – short and sleek. Requires regular brushing to keep it shiny. Ex: Basset Hound, Dalmation, Boston Terrier, etc.
  • Wiry coat – rough and coarse. Should be washed and brushed frequently. Ex: Irish Terrier, Wire-haired Dachshund, Jack Russell, etc.
  • Curly coat – curly hairs that are prone to getting tangled and matted. Low shed but tend to collecting debris making the coat difficult to maintain. Ex: Poodle, Irish Water Spaniel, Bichon Frise, etc.
  • Medium coat – the Goldilocks “just right” coat is about an inch thick and is not prone to matting or tangling. Easily maintained with weekly brushing and monthly bathing. Ex: Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, Akita, etc.
  • Long coat – anything longer than one inch which can encompass a good range of single- and double-coat lengths. Ex: Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Havanese, etc.

Invest in the Right Equipment

Once you have determined what you plan to do yourself, make sure you have the right materials handy to make it happen.

First, you’ll need a safe, well-lit place to do the work. Doors that close can help prevent run-offs.

If your pet tends to fight baths, you may even need help making sure he doesn’t try to escape while covered in pet shampoo.

Here are the supplies you might need, depending on your dog’s grooming needs and how much you plan to do yourself.

  • Hair Clipper ­– A clipper is a useful way to quickly shorten your pet’s coat. You’ll need to make sure your clipper stays sharp to avoid pulling your pet’s hair while you’re clipping.
  • Scissors – Professional dog groomers, like hairstylists, use professional-grade scissors to get the right cut. Dull scissors can lead to uneven results. Watch out though,  professional-grade scissors can be surprisingly sharp, so take extreme care while you’re using them.
  • Nail Clippers ­– You should purchase special nail clippers to trim your pet’s nails. You can also use a nail grinder for the task. Make sure you have a way to keep your dog still while you’re clipping to avoid injury to your dog or yourself. For best results, purchase a snap-on guide comb to get the length you want. Personally, I go with the grinder. I find it leaves a smoother, less jagged edge. But this is really about your comfort level.
  • Brushes – The big challenge with choosing a brush is that the best dog brush varies by breed. If your pet has short hair, you’ll need a brush that’s more like a comb, while long-haired dogs need a brush with rounded tips to reduce pain while detangling. You can also find brushes that minimize shedding.

Daily Grooming Tasks

Whether you’re doing your own grooming or taking your pet to a professional groomer, there are some things you should do on a regular basis.

One of the best things you can do is brush your pet with the type of bristles that are best for your dog breed. If you aren’t sure, ask a professional groomer or do some breed-specific online research.

Brushing helps remove excess dirt and prevents matting. You’ll also find that even with short-haired breeds, daily brushing helps keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy looking.

Brushing is also great bonding time. Don’t rush it.

You should also make a light cleaning a regular thing.

A damp towel or grooming mitt can help you remove excess mud and dirt after your pet comes in from outside. You can easily wipe your dog’s paws and, while you’re doing so, check them for injury.

If needed, dry shampoo can be a great refresher but check the ingredients carefully to make sure they’re safe. You’ll also want one that includes a bacteriostatic that kills and inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause odor rather than merely covering it up.

Bathing Your Dog

You likely know that you don’t need a professional to bathe your dog.

In fact, there are even self-serve dog wash locations all over the U.S.

There’s a reason these facilities have become so popular. Washing your dog at home can be challenging, especially if you don’t have a shower head that you can use as a sprayer. A self-serve place will let you do the work without having to clean up the mess afterward. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Here are some steps to help your dog wash go smoothly.

  • Gather the right products. You’ll need a shampoo and conditioner set made specifically for dogs. Pets have a different pH than humans, so human shampoo can irritate their skin and eyes.
  • Find a good spot. You can go with a self-serve place or use a bathtub in your house. Some people even set up a dog-washing area outside during the warmer months. You can use a bathtub or, if your dog is small, a kitchen or bathroom sink. Some houses even have a utility sink in the laundry room that’s ideal for bathing smaller dogs.
  • Have all your products within easy reach at the station you’ve set up. That includes shampoo, conditioner, brushes, a washcloth for cleaning your dog’s face, and sponges. Don’t forget to have a drying shammy or towels close by for drying your pet off. Once your dog is wet, you won’t be able to walk away to gather anything.
  • Coax your pet into the dog-washing station. Use toys to distract your dog while you’re working and issue plenty of praise if he stays on command.
  • Warm the water to a comfortable temperature before wetting your dog.
  • Do two rounds of shampoo, rinsing thoroughly after each one. With the first round, you’ll loosen up dirt, but the second round removes any dirt that stubbornly sticks to fur and skin. A sponge can help spread the shampoo. Make sure you get every area, including his belly and paws, but skip the face for now.
  • Once the second dose of shampoo has been completely rinsed, apply conditioner and let it soak in for a few minutes. Make sure you rinse thoroughly.
  • As a final step, dip a washcloth in soapy water and carefully wash around the pet’s face. Avoid getting the shampoo in the pet’s eyes.
  • If you’ve managed to keep your dog from shaking off, tossing water everywhere, it’s time to dry him off. First use the shammy or towels to soak up as much water as possible. Then you can use a hair dryer on warm mode to dry off the rest. Some dogs are fine with air drying, but if your dog is easily chilled, drying him can help keep him comfortable.

Trimming Your Dog’s Coat

The best time to give your dog a haircut is right after a bath. Not only will the hair be free of mattes and tangles, but damp hair is easier to manage.

Either dry your pet with a hair dryer or towel him off and let him air dry before getting started.

You have options when it comes to trimming your pet’s coat. You can use clippers, scissors, or a combination of both.

It’s important to have high-quality, sharpened tools and to use those tools with care.

Before you start clipping or cutting, take the time to brush your dog’s hair, which will get out any mattes and make it easier to see what you’re doing while you’re working.

If you opt for clippers, run the clipper in the direction in which your pet’s hair grows. Avoid getting too close to the dog’s skin to avoid cutting him. For longer hair, a clip-on guide comb can help with this.

It’s best to pay close attention to how your breed is typically cut, which may mean keeping the fur a little longer in areas around the head or under the arms.

With scissors, your fingers become the guide. Once you’ve decided how long you want the hair to be, you’ll measure out each section you cut with your fingers. This will provide a more even look.

The length doesn’t have to be identical everywhere. Some owners prefer to have the belly shorter than the hair on the back, for instance.

The length isn’t the only thing to consider when you’re cutting. Thinning shears can help make a dog’s coat more manageable between cuts.

A pair of curved scissors can also be a good addition to your grooming toolkit. Curved scissors help you create more of an angle to make the haircut look more natural.

Final Checks

Always finish any grooming session with an inspection of your dog’s ears and teeth.

Wipe ears out with a cotton ball moistened with rubbing alcohol or mineral oil. If you haven’t been doing this since your dog was a pup, it may take some getting used to. Ears can very sensitive.

Look inside the ear. Wax buildup and overgrown hairs can cause hearing issues. Cleaning this out is a job for a professional groomer or vet.

Dogs can develop tarter and gum disease just like you or me. Make teeth brushing a regular routine. It will save you and your dog from a lot of costly issues down the road.

Use a toothbrush and toothpaste made especially for dogs. Dogs don’t spit, so it needs to be safe to swallow. Use a gentle, circular motion and give equal attention to the teeth and the gumline.

Check your dog’s nails. If you can hear the clicking of the nails on the floor, then they are too long. Long nails cause discomfort, can cause the puppy to walk irregularly and, if left unattended, can deform the paws.

We prefer to use a nail grinder rather than a clipper on our puppies and dogs. The clipper can create a jagged edge, which can catch and tear the nail. You’re also more likely to cut the quick of the nail with the clippers. The grinder gives a smoother edge. The nails should be done about once a week.

Seasonal Checks

In the winter, be sure to wipe your dog’s feet clean after she is out in the snow. Make sure to remove any snow or ice that collects in the pads of the paws. Salt used to melt snow can burn the pads, so be sure to wipe off her feet.

In the Spring and Summer, be sure to regularly examine your pup for fleas and ticks.

If you use a preventive product, make sure to use the ones that are specifically for puppies. To remove a tick, first put some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and hold it on the tick for several seconds. This makes the tick loosen its grip. Then use tweezers to firmly grasp and remove the tick. Be sure to get the head out completely. Put a little more alcohol on the spot where the tick was. This sometimes will scab over - this is normal. The best way to dispose of the tick is to flush it down the toilet. (Don’t forget to examine yourself for ticks, too!)

When to Hire a Professional

There are some things that merit hiring a professional for the job. A professional groomer does more than clean up your pet. Groomers often discover things you wouldn’t notice every day. They’ll see rashes, cysts, and bleeding that you might not notice without their years of experience.

If you get your dog groomed every six weeks, but you only visit your veterinarian once or twice a year, it’s easy to see how your groomer might spot things before your vet would.

There’s also the issue of the anal glands.

These glands secrete a liquid that is normally passed during defecation. Sometimes, though, the glands don’t empty as they’re supposed to, requiring your groomer to manually express the liquid inside. Your vet can also provide this service, but it’s something a groomer can check with every visit.

And, again, trust me, it’s not something you will not want to do on your own.

Lastly, there’s the simple fact that a professional groomer is skilled at bathing and trimming a pet. Chances are you’ll develop an appreciation for the service provided if you try to do it yourself.

Groomers also know how to make specialized styles like the poodle and teddy bear cuts.

Of course, the most challenging part of grooming your own dog is getting him to stay still throughout the process. My blog has plenty of tips to help you with training your pet for any situation. The right approach can ensure your dog stays still solely for the praise he’ll get. That will make the bath and trim easier for everyone involved.

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