Pampered Paws: Mastering the Art of DIY at Home Dog Grooming
Discover the secrets to stress-free at-home dog grooming! From choosing the right tools to tackling nail trimming, our article has you covered. Make your furry friend feel and look their best with expert tips and techniques.
The vet, the groomer (we could throw the mailman in there, too, for good measure) — they’re often labeled as dogs’ not-so-favorite people, and if the shakies they get in the car on the way to an appointment are any indication of their feelings, the label tends to hold pretty true.
And while us pet parent’s can’t qualify as vets, we can try our hand at some at-home grooming to help keep our pups looking great, and feeling great, too.
How often is grooming necessary?
It’s important to remember that beyond helping your dog’s coat look good and stay healthy, grooming helps to keep other potential ailments at bay — with grooming comes regular ear cleanings (to help stave off the rise of ear infections), nail clipping (to prevent painful breakage), and shampooing/brushing (to help prevent skin ailments, and uncomfortable matting).
Different breeds will require different frequencies when it comes to grooming, and dogs with certain health conditions (like a propensity for ear infections, or skin ailments), may require more frequent upkeep. If your dog has thick or curly hair (or both!) that is prone to tangles and matting, you may want to keep to a more frequent schedule every 4-6 weeks, but if your dog's hair is short, straight/fine, and generally more manageable, you may be able to go a longer time between grooming sessions, possibly up to every 10-12 weeks.
What tools will I need?
To create your own at home grooming kit, you’ll need a few key grooming tools to help get the job done. From scissors with specific safety elements (like a blunted end), and a variety of brushes, investing in these tools will mean you’ll be one step closer to being your dog’s favorite groomer (although, let’s be fair, it probably wasn’t very hard to grab that top spot, but either way — you’ve earned it!).
What you’ll need:
- Different dog hair will, of course, require different types of brushes, below we’re sharing some helpful insight from Hartz.com in terms of what brushes you’ll need, and what they’re best used for:
- Slicker brushes: Slicker brushes have fine, short wires close together on a flat surface. They are used on medium to long haired or curly-haired dogs to remove mats
- Rakes: Rakes are brushes designed to penetrate into a dog’s thick coat and remove tangles and dead undercoat near the dog’s skin
- Bristle Brushes: Bristle brushes are used on short-haired, smooth-coated dogs that shed frequently
- Pin Brushes: Pin brushes look similar to brushes commonly used by people — they are best used to finish off the grooming process.
- Make sure you choose the right size to accommodate your pet’s nails (smaller pups have smaller nails, of course, so using a small clipper on a big dog with thick nails - like a St. Bernard, won’t be very effective)
- If your pup hates a nail clipper, consider trying a nail grinder instead
- Using a buzzer will help make the grooming process faster (your pup will surely thank you for that)! Buzzers are great for removing excessive hair from the body
- Opt for scissors with a rounded or blunted tip for safety’s sake
Clipper with guide combs
- Many brands make disposable wipes that are great for cleaning spots like your pups ears, or face for managing tear stains
- In terms of ear cleaning, the general rule of thumb is once per month — that should be enough to keep your pup’s ears clean and healthy., If your dog has chronic ear issues, you may want to increase the cadence, but best to check with your vet for their recommendation!
Shampoo and conditioner
- If your pup has sensitive skin, or any particular skin conditions, you can chat with your vet about the possible need for prescription shampoo
*Note: Bath time, and grooming time in general, is a great time to get a good look at your pup’s skin to make sure everything is looking healthy. During the grooming process you should keep an eye out for any hot spots that may not have been noticeable under dry fur, and any cysts/lumps/bumps they may not have been noticeable, either. Be sure to bring these things to your vet’s attention! (Take photos if you can, especially if you know the spot will be harder to see when your dog’s hair is dry)
Dental cleaning supplies (if this is a part of your grooming practice)
*Note: if your dog hates getting their teeth brushed, try Shameless Pets dental sticks! Our dental sticks are a great option to keep your dog busy and happy during their grooming experience, and it’s cleaning their teeth at the same time! That’s a win-win.
There are some “tools” you might already have at home that you can use when grooming your dog, like your blow dryer (if they’ll tolerate it!), and towels for helping to dry them off after their bath is complete.
And, we suppose it’s worth mentioning that you’ll need a vacuum or broom post-grooming, too, to clean up hair. Unless, of course, you choose to repurpose your dog's hair (we love upcycling, afterall!) and put it in your garden to keep critters from getting to your harvest before you do, or leaving it in clumps for birds to take for nesting (though, as Rover mentions, if your pet’s hair has been treated for fleas or ticks, it’s best not to leave it for the birds).
What if my dog won’t let me do certain grooming things?
If you feel like you’re pushing the limits of what you can do safely at home, it may be best to leave some elements of grooming to the professionals.
If your dog hates getting their nails trimmed or if trimming their nails makes you nervous, head to a groomer or take your pet to the vet to have this done. Many veterinary offices will let you make an appointment with a vet tech for this quick procedure.
Similarly, if your dog’s ears need more of a cleaning than you’re capable of doing, i.e. they need their inner ear hair plucked, head to the groomer or vet (or vet tech!).
Really, if anything makes you or your dog uncomfortable, let the professionals handle it!
How can I help my dog overcome their grooming anxiety?
First and foremost — know you’re not alone in managing a dog’s not-so-positive emotions with the grooming experience! No one can know for certain what it is that sets of dogs when the buzzer or scissor comes out, but it’s helpful to know things that you can do to help quell their anxieties and make the experience less stress-inducing for them (and you!).
Take note of the things that seem to trigger your dog most — do they hate the sound of a buzzer, dislike having their nails trimmed, or have extreme disdain for the blow dryer? Find workarounds where you can remove those anxiety-inducing elements of the grooming process. Stick to scissors if the buzzer bothers your dog to keep the sound stimulation to a minimum. If they hate having their nails trimmed, try a drill (though, if they dislike loud noises, they might not be fond of this option, either), if they can’t stand the blow dryer? Skip it! Use towels, or keep it simple and let them air dry.
Helping to identify some of the key elements of grooming that give your dog anxiety can help you find ways to keep them calm and help build trust in the activity.
Don’t forget the treats!
Whether your pup has grooming anxiety or not, treats are a fantastic way to help your dog enjoy the grooming experience and help build their trust in you, their new groomer, throughout the process.
Small little bites may be easier when you’re managing through tricky parts, like clipping their face — our brand new Bone Broth Chews are a great option here!
Want to keep them busy while you’re buzzing their back and belly? Try our Dental Sticks to keep them entertained — and as we mentioned early, this will help tick the ‘clean teeth’ box for the grooming process!
Simply rewarding them for their tolerant and good behavior is key, too. Let them know how well they’re doing and that you’re appreciative of their behavior!
The bottom line…
While it may be helpful, you don’t need special training to groom your pup. You will need some key tools to get the job done, and some patience to get you through the first few rounds as you and your dog learn to navigate this new process. Keeping safety top of mind is key — don’t hesitate to leave things to the professionals, and/or as your vet for advice in terms of products (like shampoos or ear wipes) and tools (like safety scissors, or nail clippers). And, of course, don’t forget the Shameless Pets treats to keep your pup happy the whole way through!