Basic Dog Grooming Tips
Grooming your dog is an important part of your dog's care. Keeping up with grooming not only keeps your dog looking nice, but it can also be a good opportunity to look him over for any signs of fleas, ticks or skin problems that you might not otherwise notice.
Basic grooming activities include caring for your dog's coat, nails and ears. While bathing doesn't need to be done daily or weekly, regular brushing, nail and ear care are important. Here are a few tips to help with your dog grooming.
Bathing your Dog
Bathing your dog can be a real chore. But, it's an important part of the grooming routine. The best way to get your dog to accept his bath time is to get him used to it from an early age. To make things easier, ensure you have all the supplies you need close at hand. You don't want a big ball of wet fur tearing out of the backyard or bathroom because you forgot to grab the shampoo first!
Bathing your dog too often will strip away his coat's protective oils which can result in itching and even skin infections. Only bathe him when he is visibly dirty or smelly.
Some tips for bathing your dog:
- Use a shampoo or conditioner specifically meant for dogs. Human products don't have the necessary pH levels that your dog needs to maintain a healthy, shiny coat.
- Be sure you have everything at hand, but out of reach of your dog. If you're using the bathtub, a falling shampoo bottle could easily startle your dog and cause a tidal wave you weren't expecting.
- Shampoo residue can be very irritating to your dog's skin, so make sure you give your dog's coat a thorough rinsing.
- Towel dry your dog before letting him out of the tub. This will help get out some of the excess water and makes drying time quicker.
- If you find you need to give your dog a bath often to reduce odor, try using dog wipes or dry dog shampoo instead. It's healthier for his coat.
Brushing Your Dog
You can get away with brushing most dogs once or twice a week. Depending on your dog's fur, you may need to brush more often. If you see mats or tangles forming, remove them immediately - it's easier when they first start to form. Mats really seem to have a life of their own and just get worse if left untouched. Using a grooming table, or other raised platform, can make brushing go much easier.
There are several types of dog brushes:
- Slicker Brushes - Great for working out tough mats and tangles. They also help to loosen up dirt and remove loose fur
- Shedding Combs - These combs have alternating long and short teeth to help remove loose fur when your dog is shedding. I recommend the Furminator comb for shedding - it really works great.
- Pin Brushes - Oval brushes with a rubber base that have pins for the bristles. Great for everyday grooming.
- Bristle Brushes - Suitable for short-haired breeds, for regular grooming and for removing the undercoat on long haired dogs
- Rakes - Rakes are also used for helping to deshed your dog. Rakes should only be used on dogs that have thick outer coats, and not on dogs with soft or medium soft fur.
Look at the various brushes in your local pet store and be sure to choose one that is made for your dog's fur length and thickness.
Clipping your Dog's Nails
In my house, we have hardwood floors and not trimming my dog's nails means hearing the click click click of happy paws until it becomes almost unbearable. From your dog's standpoint, his nails should be clipped regularly because long nails can affect how he walks and also lead to permanent skeletal damage. Also, broken nails are painful and will often lead to licking and gnawing at the affected paw.
Tips for clipping nails:
- Trim your dog's nails once a month and try walking him outside regularly - this will help to keep his nails at a good length.
- Start trimming his nails from an early age - if he gets used to it as a puppy, you'll have less trouble later on.
- Use clippers made especially for trimming dog nails - human nail clippers won't work for dogs.
- Try wetting your dog's nails first. This will help to soften the nail and make clipping easier.
- Keep some silver nitrate or styptic pencils on hand. This can stem the flow of any blood if you happen to cut the nail too close to the quick.
- Take small bits off at a time. If you're not sure how far to cut, ask your vet or groomer to show you the next time you visit.
- Just can't imagine doing this yourself? Ask your veterinarian to clip them. Most vet's offices will clip your pet's nails for a reasonable charge, cheaper than a trip to the grooming salon.
Cleaning Your Dog's Ears
Cleaning your dog's ears should also be a regular part of your grooming routine. Regular cleaning helps to reduce the chance of infection, while controlling odor and keeping your pet comfortable. You'll also be able to see if there are any rashes or skin irritations while checking his ears. Because it's a moist, dark, warm area, your dog’s ears are the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to flourish. Left unchecked, either can lead to serious infections. Take the time to check your dog’s ears and clean them regularly.
Tips for cleaning ears:
- Take your dog to the vet if you see any of the following:
- A bad odor - may be a sign of infection
- A yellowish discharge - may indicate the presence of a yeast infection
- Black debris points towards the presence of dog ear mites
- Use a cleaning solution especially made for dog's ears. Moisten a cotton pad or ball with the solution and gently swab the outside of the ear until clean.
- You can also squirt some cleaning solution right into the ear, and then massage the base of the ear between your thumb and forefinger for 20 to 25 seconds to ensure the solution gets into the ear. Your dog will likely shake his head which will clear out the excess solution. You can then use a cotton pad to remove the loose dirt and wax that was loosened by his shaking.
- Never use Q-Tips for cleaning - they can easily transfer an infection deeper into the ear canal.
Grooming your dog should be an important part of his overall health care. Not grooming your dog regularly can lead to problems with his nails, infections, rashes and even skeletal damage. With a regular routine, you can make sure your dog looks - and smells - his very best. As always, if you have specific questions or are concerned about a medical condition, it's always best to check with your vet.