Grooming your dog doesn’t always mean a pretty hair cut nor does it always require a professional groomer. In fact a lot of it can be done and home with a few simple pieces of equipment. Not only is regular grooming important to help maintain your dog’s coat and nails but it can be an excellent bonding activity for you and your dog.
Another benefit of grooming is that it gives you the opportunity to keep on top of any issues your dog might be having, allowing you to flag any skin issues, ear issues or dental issues before they get serious. No matter which breed of dog you have it's a good idea to establish a regular grooming routine with your dog.
Here’s our favourite grooming tips to help you get started:
1. Get your dog to enjoy being groomed
It’s easy to forget that not every dog might enjoy a brush initially. Some dogs might tolerate being brushed on their body but are uncomfortable with anything around their feet. Before you start raking your dog or clipping their nails, make sure you also have a bag of their favourite treats on hand to reward them with. Choose a time when your dog is calm and relaxed already. Approach your dog slowly and let them smell the object you will be using on them and then let the object touch different parts of their body without necessarily using it so that they are familiar with it being around them.
Learn to read your dog’s body language for signs of stress and be sure to reward and praise them for good behaviour. It’s important to take things one step at a time to avoid a bad experience which could result in your dog being fearful of being groomed in the future.
2. Brush your dog regularly to prevent matts in their fur.
Depending on the type of dog you have, the amount of brushing you need to do will obviously be different. However, whether you have a Labrador or Shihtzu, a good brushing can go a long way to help keep their coat shiny and knot free.
Different coat types will require different brushes in order to get the best result. It’s important to choose the right brush in this instance. For thick curly fur like a poodles or long fur like a Maltese Terrier, a comb is useful to tease out any initial knots and ensure you are brushing closer to the skin which is often where matting starts. For long haired dogs like a golden retriever a shedding brush might be more appropriate to strip out loose hairs in their coat. Lastly for dogs with a thinner straight coat, a brush like the Furminator can be an excellent choice, especially during sheds.
The brushing schedule you choose will also depend on your dog’s breed and the season. For dogs that are known shedders, naturally more frequent brushing will be needed whereas other dogs might only need a brush every other week.
3. Trim your dog’s nails so it’s more comfortable for them to walk
Long nails can be very uncomfortable for a dog to walk and puts them at risk of having them snagged and broken on walks or around the house. Cutting your dogs nails however can be a very daunting task and should only be attempted if you are confident it can be done safely.
Start by holding your dog’s paw firmly in one hand and try to use your fingers to support the toe while the other hand positions the clippers around the nail.
When trimming your dog's nails you do not want to cut past the quick, which is the little pink part that can be seen on light coloured nails. Doing so can be painful and cause your dog’s toe to bleed.
For dogs with dark coloured nails, don’t be too ambitious with the length you take off. Squeeze the nail between the clippers first without cutting to see if your dog reacts and take off small sections at a time.
4. Check your dog’s teeth and ears for bad smells or build up
Many of us are too familiar with the good old ‘dog breath’. While dogs will probably have some odor in their mouths, the smell should not be overly offensive. Likewise your dog’s ears should very much smell like the rest of them.
To check your dog’s teeth, lift up their lips to expose their gums and teeth. Look for any obvious redness or plaque and take note of their doggy breath. If it smells putrid and you can see some clear buildup on their teeth, it might be worth booking your pup in for a vet check. Bad dental hygiene can be painful for your pooch and also cause other health issues such as kidney and heart problems due to the bacteria that might be festering in their mouths.
Just like people, teeth brushing is an excellent way to keep your dogs teeth clean.
Similar to checking their teeth, be sure to have a look into your dog’s ears. Ideally the skin should look smooth and healthy and free of any excess waxy build up. To clean your dog’s ears you can use a damp wash cloth to wipe around their pinna. Never stick anything like a cotton bud down their ears. If you want to clean deeper in their canal, you can purchase a special ear flush to do so.
If your dogs ears appear red, smell odd or they seem to be uncomfortable or yelp when you touch them, it is best to take your dog to the vet for a check up.
5. Bath your dog but not too often
Bathing your dog is great for reducing unpleasant odors and washing away old dirt and dead skin that might have settled deep in your dogs coat. While we all love the smell of a clean dog, it’s important to not bath your dog too often as this can strip the natural oil from their coat and cause their skin to become dry. Not only can this cause skin issues but may also cause your dog to smell worse between baths as their body tries to replenish the oil on the coat that was washed off. For most dogs, a bath once a month or every couple of months is sufficient unless they are heavily soiled.
When bathing your dog, it’s important to use soap-free shampoo that has been specially formulated for dog coats. A dog’s skin has a different pH to human skin, therefore it’s not appropriate to use human shampoos on their coat. After bathing, try to towel dry your dog as thoroughly as possible and then air dry. If you are to use a hair dryer, be sure to have something to cover your dog's ears as the noise can be very loud and have the hair dryer on the coolest setting to prevent burning them or over drying their coat.