HEALTH & CARE

How to Groom A Dog: A Daunting Task yet A Rewarding Experience

How to Groom A Dog
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

The term “grooming” is one of the most dreadful words an inexperienced dog owner will hear. It is something that will require a lot of patience, hard work, and practice. The level of grooming a dog requires will vary depending on the breed. Some breeds have easier grooming requirements than others, and there are some that require careful consideration and a lot of time to be groomed. Please keep in mind that grooming not just refers to the fancy shaving and trimming of fur, it also covers the overall hygiene of dogs, including all body parts from the eyes to the nails.

While some dog owners prefer that experts do the grooming for their fur babies, it will be a fun learning experience and a valuable skill to at least know the basics of this activity to help you identify the needs of your dog in the aspect of promoting health through proper hygiene and cleanliness. Remember that unlike cats that prefer cleaning themselves, dogs need a little help. Grooming is a process that improves not only your dogs’ appearance, but its overall well-being as well.

Grooming: not just for fancy

Grooming is one of the most misunderstood activities for new dog owners. They perceive this as “posh” or something that should only be done with dogs that have long hair or a curly coat. Some people even think that only select breeds, like the Poodle or Shih Tzu, need it.

It is perceived as something that is not a requirement, but is rather something that we provide for our pets as an “extra.” Dedicated and advance-level dog owners should not entertain this idea.

The grooming requirements of dogs vary depending on attributes such as size, coat type, and other requirements depending on the breed. Although it is true that some breeds require a considerable amount of time and frequency of grooming, you should be well aware that all dogs need to be groomed.

Colorful dogs

In the grooming requirement chart below, you will get a good idea of which breeds require intensive grooming. If you don’t own a dog yet and are still contemplating on what breed to get, this table will be very useful for your decision making.

GROOMING REQUIREMENT CHART

Minimal grooming requirementEasy grooming requirementModerate grooming requirementDifficult grooming requirement
  • American
  • Bulldog
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Border Terrier
  • Boston Terrier
  • Bullmastiff
  • Chihuahua
  • Dachschund
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman
  • Pinscher
  • English Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Greyhound
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Boxer
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Pug
  • Pembroke
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Whippet
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Border Collie
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Schnauzer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Pomeranian
  • Saint Bernard
  • Standard Poodle
  • West Highland Terrier
  • Afghan Hound
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Bichon
  • Frise
  • Borzoi
  • Chow Chow
  • Collie
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Puli
  • Komondor
  • Pekingese
  • Shih Tzu

Grooming requirements vary depending on dog breed and are generally classified in four levels — minimal, easy, moderate, and difficult.

Minimal grooming requirement
Dogs under this category generally possess short coats, like the Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, and Beagles. They have little requirements when it comes to grooming that is not too frequent, and not too time-consuming.
Easy grooming requirement
Dogs classified under this category share the same characteristics as those under the minimal grooming requirement, with just a slight increase in terms of frequency of bathing or brushing.
Moderate grooming requirement
Dogs with moderate grooming requirement have increased needs in brushing and bathing. This group consists mostly of dogs that shed regularly, have double coats, or have both characteristics plus considerable size. They also have specified cleaning needs that are not commonly required in the first two categories, such as ear cleaning and inspection.
Difficult grooming requirement
Dogs that have difficult grooming requirement tend to have long flowy coats, or an odd hair matrix in the case of Pulis and Komondors. In general, toy dogs that are maintained with show coat are under this category, as it requires frequent brushing to maintain the shine and quality of the coat. There are large breeds that are included in this category that have flowing or profuse hair, such as the Afghan Hound and Old English Sheepdog that needs extensive grooming.

Grooming considerations for new dog owners

If you are still in the process of selecting a fur baby, please bear in mind that grooming should be included as one of the factors in selecting the breed you want to have. Exercise, space, and grooming are some of the factors that should be considered.

Most people who would like to have a dog but have no time for extensive grooming needs tend to select short-haired breeds. Grooming is one of the responsibilities of a pet parent that should be done on a regular basis, especially for long-haired breeds, to avoid matting of the fur that may lead to skin disease or sores.

It is also a focus point for potential dog owners with big lawns or farms if they can groom their dogs often because the activity of roaming around the farm will be an opportunity for parasites and dirt to accumulate and lodge on the fur, which may cause problems in the future. Space is also important in the aspect of grooming because this will be the routine location where you will groom your dog.

How to learn the ropes of grooming

There are countless grooming guides online, and some are even available in bookstores or as instructional videos. These helpful guides can teach you some of the basics of grooming.

However, if you want a real-time experience and you really want to learn it yourself, you can attend short courses, or you can just bring your dog to a professional groomer and observe him as he does the grooming process. This will give you a glimpse into the live sequence on what should be done to groom your dog properly.

Grooming your dog

That way, you can create a grooming plan and eventually do the grooming yourself. Grooming can be personalized based on dog breed, its personal needs, and the owner’s personal grooming routine preference.

Here is a list with the basic grooming equipment for general grooming needs.

  • Clipper – An electric clipper enables fast trimming of fur. It comes with various attachments that can trim a particular length and volume.
  • Scissors – they take care of the trimming and cutting needs that cannot be addressed by clippers. These include the fine hairs in the earlobes and undersides.
  • Fine-toothed comb and brush – its keeps hair in place and neat-looking. It can be used daily to remove excess hair and prevents it from matting. Brushing and combing also promotes circulation on the skin surface.
  • Dog-fur dryer – Remember that all of your equipment should be for dogs. Improvising equipment that is intended for human use may cause harm to your dog. A dog-fur dryer does not warm-up easily and allows the coat to dry without applying heat.
  • Dog towel – Like the standards or human personal hygiene, dogs should have their own towel too. This practice prevents cross-contamination of parasites, especially if you have more than one dog or if there are too many dogs in the neighborhood.
  • Nail trimmer/nail clipper – these tools can safely be used to trim dog nails to inhibit the chances of hurting themselves due to vigorous scratching. It also prevents the accumulation of dirt that lodge on the underside of the nails. If this activity makes you weary, then consider first reading this article on how to trim your dog’s nails.
  • Soft cotton swabs – used to clean the nose and ears. This is very important for dogs with breed-linked nose and ear infection.
  • Toothbrush – Dogs need to have their teeth brushed several times a week. This prevents premature tooth loss due to tooth decay. Brushing their teeth is also essential for breeds that are predisposed to tooth loss as part of the breed’s health issues.
  • Dog shampoo – There are so many available dog shampoos in the market. Depending on the breed and coat requirement, dog owners should check the labels first if the shampoo they are considering will help their dogs maintain a health coat. Also, please keep in mind that not all dogs are compatible with a certain shampoo brand. This means that there might be a chance that your dog is incompatible with a particular dog shampoo brand. To make it easier for you and your pooch, you could consider making your own homemade dog shampoos.
  • Toothpaste – Of course, dogs need toothpaste, too. This keeps their teeth clean and prevents potential buildup of bacteria that may cause mouth sores or oral infection.
  • Dog sprays and hygiene products – Other grooming products can be used on top of your usual grooming routine. Some dogs retain a hint of the “doggy odor” even if they just finished taking a bath. Dog sprays alleviate the strong doggy smell and promote a clean and fresh feel after each grooming session.

Basic grooming steps

Here are the basic and general dog grooming tips and steps on how to groom a dog. Keep in mind that these steps may vary in duration depending on the dog’s need and size.

  1. Before grooming your dog, make sure that all the necessary supplies are in place and everything you need is within reach to have an organized grooming session. Ensure that you have all the things you need to clean the ears, eyes, nails, hair, teeth, bathing materials, and fur dryer.
  2. Make sure to brush your dog first, and this should be done thoroughly. In its normal state, fur is easier to brush and can loosen the matted hair. The reason why brushing should be done before anything else in the grooming procedure is because it prepares the hair for bathing and detangles the knotted clumps of hair that will become difficult to address once the hair is wet. Always use the appropriate brush for your dog’s breed.
    Start the brushing from the neck down to its body, the underside, and end up to the tail. This pattern follows the normal hair pattern, and the strokes whisk away the hair. This can be completed after several minutes and can be repeated as necessary. In cases of severe matting, do not exert too much force because it can hurt the dog by pulling the skin from the muscle.
  3. After brushing, observe the areas that may need to be clipped. Trim out any mats or large clumps of hair because not only does it not look good, it also adds up to the shampooing and drying time.
  4. There are some breeds that require extra attention in the eyes and face. Brachiocephalic breeds, like the Pekingese and Pug, need careful attention in the face where the eyes and skin folds around the face need to be wiped clean. Some dogs, like the Basset Hound, need to have their eyes checked for the accumulation of dried tears and dirt.
    Tear stains should be removed using tear stain removers, which are available in many pet supply shops or the veterinary store. Tear stains can be unhygienic and unsightly, especially for dogs that have light-colored coats like the Maltese and the West Highland Terrier. If the hair around the eyes is already too long, you may ask tips from a professional groomer or your veterinarian to trim it and make sure that it does not interfere with your dog’s vision. It also ensures that the eyes are free from debris.
  5. Your dog’s ears should be cleaned in a regular but not too frequent schedule. Normally, ear wax does not have a pronounced smell, and any strong odor coming from the ears may be a sign of an ongoing infection. There are breeds, like the Cocker Spaniel, that need special grooming consideration for the ears because their ears are drooped and there might be poor air circulation inside. When cleaning the ears, make sure that the cleaning agents are lukewarm or at room temperature. You can even learn how to make homemade dog ear cleaners.
    Applying cold solutions are highly discouraged because this can induce a painful sensation for the dog. A few drops of alcohol allow the excess moisture in the ear canal to dry out, thus killing bacteria, mites, and yeast. Using a cotton swab, wipe the ears from the inner ear to the outer ear in a gentle, sweeping circular motion. This is important so as not to introduce foreign bodies to the dog’s ear. Cleaning the dog’s ears also allows you to observe for any discharge, swelling, irritation, or sores that may need medical attention. In this case, contact your veterinarian.
  6. More than half of the overall dog population has periodontal disease. This is because not all dog owners would like to brush their dog’s teeth due to the fear of getting bitten. Oral hygiene tends to be one of the most overlooked aspects of dog grooming, but if this is neglected, it may lead to more serious illnesses that may affect the respiratory, kidney, and liver function. Dental caries in dogs can harbor numerous pathogens that can harm them later on.
    Regular brushing can be augmented with oral sprays to keep the mouth and teeth free from harmful bacteria. Always use age-appropriate toothbrush, which may start as rolled gauze for puppies to a firm canine toothbrush for the adults. When you brush your dog’s teeth, it can be a mutually-agitating experience, but you and your dog will eventually get used to it. Do not force the brushing because it may hurt your dog and even your hand. Brushing of teeth can be done up to three times a week.
  7. Dog nails can grow to considerable lengths when not taken care of and may lead to twisting and painful breakage. There are even instances that they curl into the foot pads, thus causing pain and wounds that can harbor infection. It is highly recommended that nails should be kept short. There are two kinds of equipment that can help you trim the nails, the manual nail clipper and an automatic rotary nail trimmer.
    Keep in mind that human nail clippers can only work for puppies because the nails are a still a bit brittle and adult dog nails have a different growth matrix. For instances that you cut the nails too short and cause a wound, you can dab it with styptic powder and apply a little pressure to impede bleeding.
  8. Now for the main event, bathing. When bathing your dog, it is important to place him in a secure tub that will not move around or tumble. Given that some dogs can be scared by the sound of running water, you can desensitize him by not introducing high-pressure water, such as by hosing.
    Other dog owners tend to fill the tub with water, but this practice only reintroduces the dirt and debris you removed after the initial bath; you may also introduce pathogens that the dog may ingest or inhale. Veterinarians also recommend that dogs that have been trained to wear collars should have the collar removed and placed only later in the day or the following day. Wearing collars while the coat is not completely dry may be an inviting location for bacterial growth that can cause sores or irritation.
  9. Make sure that the dog is thoroughly wet. This is extremely important for medium or large dog breeds, or those that have a double coat. Wetting the coat thoroughly ensures that accumulated dirt and oils that are deep seated on the inner coat are also removed and cleaned. A water pressure system can help the water penetrate the inner coat for more thorough cleansing and help you bathe all the parts of your dog’s body easily.
  10. Start shampooing your dog from the neck down. Some dog owners believe that shampoos should be applied as concentrate because diluting them will cause them to lose their effectiveness. That is not always the case. There are several dog shampoos in the market that are specifically made to be diluted, as diluted shampoo can be rinsed off thoroughly and in an easier manner.
    For dogs with double coats, there are special bathing brushes available, such as the curry brush that can improve the effectiveness of the shampoo by penetrating the outer and inner coat. You may become too engrossed in shampooing your dog, so make sure that soap and shampoo will not be around the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.
  11. Rinse your dog thoroughly. Make sure that the suds are no longer present, as there are some shampoos that are too sudsy and leave residue that may be harmful if ingested. As long as you see tiny bubbles from a particular area, keep rinsing, and then proceed to the other parts. Shampoo residue that is left in your dog’s coat may irritate the skin underneath.
  12. Towel dry your dog thoroughly. For owners of short-haired breeds, this is a breeze. For owners of dogs with long hair or double coat, you may need more time to finish this. Do not rely too much on the fur-dryer. It is important to capture most of the water that is in the fur before blow drying your dog. This allows the natural absorption of moisture without the aid of blowers. There are some fur-dryers than dry the coat but might be too strong that they can dry the skin, which should be avoided.
    For dogs with particularly long hair, you may need to towel dry, then blow dry the coat while brushing it to minimize the frizz and to achieve the style that you want. Dogs with curly hair, like the poodle, may need more time for drying, whereas dogs with a wiry and twisted coat, like Pulis, can only be dried so much because the nature of its coat prevents the towel and air to dry the coat thoroughly.
    In using the fur-dryer, always check the settings first. This should always be in the cool setting, no excuses. Even the lightest warm setting can scald your dog’s skin and make the hair matrix brittle. Cool setting enables the coat to dry naturally without losing too much moisture.

Dog grooming is one of the most rewarding experiences as a dog owner, but only if you have the patience to do it.

Sounds for hounds grooming

It promotes a tighter dog-owner relationship built on trust and affection. Mastering the art of basic dog grooming may need practice and a lot of work, but what’s important is that you learn from it and use it well to promote a healthy routine for your dog.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Jemma Mayer

    We have a discount at our local dog grooming shop because of the sheer amount of dogs that we bring them to groom. It is honestly expensive at this point. I guess I was always afraid of hurting our pooches in the midst of bathing. But this makes it sound easy and doable. I guess I’ll try it out sometime!

  • CyndyPrinceton

    I don’t want to spend so much money at the groomers so I’m learning how to cut my dog’s hair. Although I’m not a dog groomer, I can cut straight and reasonably well. Does anyone here know of any low priced grooming products that excellent? Also, any techniques you can share since my dog tends to be frisky whenever I start grooming him. I don’t know if he’s bored or ticklish. :)

    • I’d like to know more about the breed because some breeds require special considerations and skill when grooming their coat. When a dog becomes frisky, it can be agitated and will take some getting used to. Some grooming salons place them on a leash, and this technique may or may not work in your situation but it is worth the try. In addition, do not rush the grooming session because this can cause injuries to you or your dog.

  • Amy Chase

    While I don’t recommend poking the ears without prior demonstration from a trainer groomer or vet, the best advice I still stick with is to groom them in an enclosed space. Not too enclosed like a cupboard (who does that?) but somewhere small, like a bathroom so that the pooch won’t run away and proceed to hurt themselves during the grooming. And as always, keep them calm and have treats at the ready! It’s also a good idea to get to know your groomers, since they’ll be able to give more detailed grooming tips for your pooch.

    • Speaking with your local groomer is a fun and learning experience. Grooming your dog takes practice, but you will master this skill eventually. Regarding the enclosed space, this is actually a good idea if your dog is accustomed to that. Always remember to be extra careful not only for the dog, but to yourself as well.

  • One of the most expensive aspects of being a pet parent (other than uneventful hospitalizations) is grooming. Your dog groomers have spent hours and days and lots of practice to become experts. You can try grooming at home from time to time, and you will be in a treat for a “crazy in a good way” type of experience. You can also talk about this with your favorite dog grooming shop.

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