How to Groom a Dog at Home

person brushing a dogs teeth

Establishing an in-house grooming routine with your dog is easy and helps maintain his best health and quality of life. It also offers your dog more physical comfort, and lets you visually detect signs of potential issues that may require your veterinarian’s attention.

Bathing Your Dog

Dogs don’t need baths as frequently as the rest of the family. Excessive bathing can dry out your dog’s coat and skin.

How often you bathe your dog depends on things such as coat type, lifestyle or specific health conditions. You can also use the smell test to determine if it’s time for another bath—just smell him to see if there’s an offensive odor. Some dogs may require more brushing or combing than others, such as double-coated (Labradors, Beagles, Huskies, etc.) and long-haired breeds.

For some dogs, getting a bath can cause anxiety or frustration. But a few tactics can help manage stress during bathing.

Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started:

  • Treats
  • Dog brush, comb, rake, etc.
  • Dog-safe shampoo (de-shedding shampoos for double coated breeds)
  • Dog-safe conditioner (for long-haired dogs and de-shedding conditioner for double coated breeds)
  • Rinsing cup (if you don’t have a removable showerhead)
  • Non-slip mat
  • Plenty of towels
  • Air force blower to blow out the double coated breeds (if accessible and if the dog is use to it)
  • Helper (if available)
  • A pair of old clothes for yourself and your helper

The key to a successful bath is preparation. After you’ve gathered supplies, you’ll want to prep the space.

Make sure all of your supplies are in the bathing area. Have the bath water ready, too, placing the non-slip mat in the tub or sink. Also, check the water to ensure it’s at a comfortable temperature.

Next, prep your dog. Brush him to help remove loose hair, debris and tangles. When done, invite your helper and your dog into the room and shut the door.

Begin by gently placing your dog in the tub or sink. Wetting his body slowly, start at his back legs to get him acclimated. Giving him a treat as things get started may be a great way to distract him. Smearing peanut butter, cheese, or another of his favorite snacks on the wall can also work as a distraction.

Wash and condition according to the instructions on the product labels. Rinse thoroughly, making sure his hair is free of all products to help prevent skin irritation.

When bathing is complete, towel dry your dog as much as possible before releasing him. If you have access to a dog air force blower, and your dog is use to them, begin to slowly blow out his fur. Start at the hind limbs and slowly move forward, paying close attention to his behavior. If he’s too stressed with the blower, then towel dry them as best you can. Brush them when they are dry.

 

Brushing Your Dog

Brushing is one of the easiest ways to bond with your dog. It helps cut down on shedding, and when you use the right brush your dog might really enjoy it. Use the proper brushes, combs or rakes, depending on your dog’s breed.

To get started, simply brush from head to toe, and get comfortable to make it a relaxing experience for the both of you.

 

Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

Ear health and cleanliness are very important for dogs. So it’s important to clean them regularly, and doing it is easy.

Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started:

  • Cotton ball
  • Vet-approved ear cleaning solution
  • Dog ear cleaning wipes
  • Treats

Use the cotton ball and solution, or the wipes, to wipe down all the visible skin that you can reach with it. Do not use the same cotton ball or wipe for both ears. This prevents spreading an infection if one ear is already infected.

If your cotton ball is excessively dirty when you’re done, then you’ll want to take your dog in to see a professional to take a closer look. Also, look out for red ears, odors or signs of inflammation.  

Your dog may not be comfortable having his ears touched. So be very gentle, and be sure to offer him a treat when the job is done.

 

Dog Dental Hygiene

Like ear cleanliness, maintaining dental hygiene is very important for your dog. It helps cut down on bacteria, preventing infections and buildup that can lead to more serious issues.

Regular brushings can help avoid or reverse dental disease. This can be a little uncomfortable for your canine, but he’ll grow used to it the more often you do it. Experts recommend brushing about two to three times a week. Providing your dog with dental chews can also help to reduce plaque or tartar build up.

Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started:

  • Dog toothbrush
  • Dog toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste)
  • Dental treats
  • Treats

Start by giving your dog a small dog taste of his toothpaste, warming him up for what’s to come. Next, brush gently, lifting your dog’s gums and softly massaging the paste on his teeth and gums.

As you’re brushing, check the gums for swelling and discoloration. Also, check his teeth for discoloration. Continue for a minute or two, and then you’re done.

Wash your hands thoroughly after brushing your dog’s teeth to avoid transferring bacteria and parasites. In addition to keeping an oral hygiene routine for your dog, give him dental dog treats and toys designed to help manage tartar accumulation.
 

Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed keeps him comfortable. It also helps protect your furniture, floors and body from scratches.

Trimming your dog’s nails at home can be intimidating for some. But we have some tips that may make it easier than you imagined.

Before you attempt to do this, you’ll want to engage in contact with his paws during a few play sessions to get him used to having them handled. Your dog should grow more comfortable with having his paws touched over time. (If not, though, it’s okay to take him to a professional for help.)

When you and your dog are ready for a nail trimming session, recruit a friend to help and get comfortable.

Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started:

  • Trimmers
  • Styptic powder or cornstarch
  • A helper
  • Treats

First, head to a comfy spot with your supplies, your helper and your dog. Next, let your dog sniff the trimmers as you and your helper get positioned for the nail trimming session.

Pet your dog and give him treats until he is relaxed. Now it’s time to gently go in with the clippers and trim only the tip of the nail.

When trimming your dog’s nails at home, be extremely careful not to cut the nail’s quick. The quick has nerve endings and blood vessels that shouldn’t be cut.

If your dog’s nails are dark, you won’t be able to identify the quick through the sides of the nail. So you’ll need to check the length of each nail by examining it head-on. If you see a small dark dot in the middle of the nail, stop trimming.

The quick may be easier to see if your dog’s nails are light. It appears red and you may be able to see it through the sides of the nail. Like with dark nails, you can check the length by looking at the nail head-on. Stop trimming if you see a red dot in the middle of his nail.

If you accidentally cut into the quick and the nail starts to bleed, immediately apply pressure. Dip the nail in styptic powder or cornstarch if the bleeding doesn’t stop.

You’ll want to only trim one to two paws at a time, keeping sessions short. And always use a gentle voice during each at-home grooming session to put him at ease.

Grooming a dog at home can be challenging at first. But it can be a positive experience once you establish a routine.

We hope these dog grooming tips help and your dog get more comfortable with doing it at home. For more advice, visit our Pet Expertise page.