Do it yourself Dog Grooming at Home
Dog owners often confuse the process of clipping with dog grooming but dog haircuts are just one part of dog grooming. DIY dog grooming can include bathing, brushing, cleaning ears and clipping nails, parasite control, and dental care. Grooming is not just about appearance. It is crucial to health and hygiene. You can pay a professional dog groomer to do the work or you can do some or all yourself.
The advantages of paying a dog groomer are that it saves you having to do the work and clean up the mess. But it can be expensive and going to a dog groomer can be a stressful experience for your dog. It can also be difficult to find a dog groomer your dog and yourself are comfortable with.
The advantages of doing some or all the dog grooming tasks yourself are it will save you money. It will strengthen your dog’s bond with you and you can notice any changes or health concerns. It will require some investment in grooming equipment, shampoos, etc. Some dogs may play up more for their owner yet be more co-operative for an experienced dog groomer.
Here are some of the dog grooming tasks you can undertake yourself if you chose to do some or all of your dog’s grooming requirements.
How to brush a dog
Even if you do use the services of a dog groomer you do need to brush your dog between appointments. This is to prevent matting and tangles which can be uncomfortable for your dog and cause problems like skin infections and sores to form. The key here is regularly. It is better to brush them every day or every few days than to do a big session once in a while. This depends on the breed and coat type. Over-brushing your dog can cause brush burn to their skin and damage the coat if done in one big session.
Read “How to brush a dog” to learn more
Other benefits of regular brushing include:
- Removes excess fur and significantly reduces the amount of fur you have to deal with on your furniture, car or clothing. Who wants to do more housework than necessary?
- Brushing removes dirt and any items such as leaves and twigs caught up in their coat keeping them cleaner and smelling nicer longer between bathing.
- It helps distribute the natural oils in your dog’s skin and coat keeping their coat healthy, shiny and looking it’s best.
- It is a great way to monitor your dog’s health as you may discover any lumps and warts, fleas and ticks, cuts, grass seeds, skin irritations and anything that looks unusual.
- Removes tangles and matts which can be uncomfortable for your dog and may cause broken blood vessels, skin infections and may cause sores to form.
- Brushing aerates and hydrates your dog’s skin and fur and stimulates circulation which enables to coat to perform its natural function of regulating body temperature.
- Promotes bonding between you and your dog and builds trust as they get used to being touched in various places and being handled without feeling anxious about it.
- If you want to keep your dog’s coat longer it avoids disappointment when being told by the groomer that it needs to be clipped off as it has become too matted.
- Saves money on dog grooming as the groom will last longer and avoids being charged more for any extra work the groomer may need to do on a dog that has not been maintained.
How to bathe a dog
Bath time may not be fun for your dog, but it’s extremely important to keep your pooch clean! How often your dog needs to take the plunge depends on the hair/fur type, lifestyle, and shampoo.
As a dog groomer, I recommend bathing every 3-4 weeks. Make sure you use a special dog-approved shampoo. Human shampoo has a different pH level and chemicals that dogs may be sensitive too. This can dry your dog’s skin and coat and lead to skin issues particularly if they have a sensitive skin. I would recommend using a gentle or soap-free shampoo as it doesn’t matter how often you bath your dog.
Another hack I use is to use tearless baby shampoo to wash the face This way it is not so important to prevent shampoo going in the eyes and allows you to give the head and face a really good clean. This area can often be the most smelly part of your dog.
It is also important to brush your dog before bathing as once knots and tangles become wet they tighten and become worse. Read “How to bathe a dog” to learn more
Cleaning Ears (go to Ears/Nails/Teeth for more …)
You can give your dog’s ears a regular wipe around the visible area to prevent ear infections and smell. If you want to put ear drops in your dog’s ears I would recommend checking with your vet as you can’t see what is going on inside and if there is an infection or damage to the eardrum you may make things worse. You may also be interested in “How to pluck dog ear hair”
Nail clipping and filing (go to Ears/Nails/Teeth for more …)
Unless your dog is regularly walking on concrete their nails will need regular trimming. Filing your dog’s nails will remove the sharp edge preventing them scratching you. If you hear your dog’s nails tapping on the floor when he/she walks then it’s definitely time to grab the clippers and trim those nails. When a dog’s nails tap on hard surfaces, it pushes their nails back up into their nail beds, which can be extremely painful. Not only can it put pressure on the toe joints, it could also force the toe to twist to the side, resulting in soreness or even arthritis. Most dogs can go about a month in between nail trims (this will vary depending on your dog’s lifestyle).
Teeth Cleaning (Go to Ears/Nails/Teeth for more…)
Brushing your dog’s teeth should become part of your daily routine. Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of dogs and cats will suffer from periodontal disease (AKA gum disease) by the time they’re just two years old. Unless you take action early on, your dog’s teeth will just worsen with age. Dog toothpaste is available. Obviously never use human toothpaste as your dog can’t rinse and it is toxic to your dog.
Chewing also helps with dental health so provide your dog with dental chew toys and treats.
Trim, Tidy, and Full Grooms
There are other simple things you can do to keep your dog looking their best between full grooms whether you do the grooming yourself or go to a professional dog grooming service.
This may include trimming between the eyes, clipping under the paws and scissoring the feet, trimming the fringe and doing a tidy of the head and face or doing a sanitary clip to keep their rear end clean.
Full grooms include clipping and scissoring your dog in the style you require from a basic all over clip to more styled or breed specific grooms.
You can give your dog a full haircut instead of using a dog grooming service but there will be some investment required for equipment. Also will require a bit of gaining the knowledge to do the job.
Human clippers are not suitable for cutting dog fur as human hair is much finer and you will just be hacking at the coat causing discomfort for your dog and making a real mess of things.
You will also need a good pair of dog grooming scissors. For more on what you may need to go to DIY Dog Grooming Tools list.
One of the best ways to learn to do it yourself dog groom at home is to watch videos and read books. However, I have watched hundreds of dog grooming videos on Utube and have found that the many give poor advise and some are downright wrong. Some give the occasional piece of good information. Many others are are highly skilled professional groomers using scissoring techniques that the novice do it yourself home groomer wouldn’t be able to do.
For someone who is new to grooming, this can be very confusing. I would recommend getting some professional dog grooming DVDs either on your particular breed or dog grooming basics. The fact that they have gone to the effort of making a DVD means they probably know what they are doing and will have good advise. Click to view dog grooming DVDs on Amazon
How to use dog grooming clippers.
To hold your clippers comfortably don’t grip the clipper but rather hold like a pencil in a relaxed manner. This will give you more control of the clipper and not place a strain on your wrist and tendons.
Starting at the base of your dog’s skull if doing a short head or about an inch further back if doing a more styled head, clip down to the base of the tail. Repeat the next line following the lay of the coat (the direction the pattern in the coat grows.) You can use a blade or a guide comb attachment which fits over a #10, #15 or #30 blade for this.
The main difference between using a blade and a comb attachment is that a blade clips the coat flat giving a smoother finish while a comb attachment lifts the coat to cut giving a fluffy finish. If you are new to using clippers it may be a good idea to use a guide comb. The coat will need to be reasonably brushed and combed out. This will prevent you accidentally nicking the skin as the comb provides a guard between the blade and your dog’s skin. Comb attachments will go through tangles but will not be able to clip a matted coat. Use your other hand to stretch any rolls in the skin so you are clipping a flat area.
This short video gives a good demonstration of good clipping technique and also goes into the use of guide comb attachments. For more information on types of clippers, the various blades and guide combs go to tools and equipment.
How to hold dog grooming scissors (shears)
Dog grooming scissors come in three main types: straight, curved and thinning.
If you only want to buy one pair of scissors it is possible to groom a dog using a straight scissor only. Having a full set will give you more versatility and a better finish overall. As with anything the better the quality of scissor you have the better they will cut. This will give a nicer finish with less or no scissor marks and ease of use. For more information on scissors refer tools and equipment.
A good exercise to improve your scissoring ability is to get a piece of a sheepskin rug. Fully brush and comb out the fleece so it stands straight. Practice scissoring a few millimeters off making the finish as clean and smooth as possible.
To hold the scissor for maximum control and minimum strain on your thumb and wrist tendons place your thumb through the top hole. With your ring finger through the bottom hole only as far as the first joint. Your index and middle finger will support the scissor as you open and close. Have your little finger resting on the curved bar at the bottom of the handle. Keep the scissor as steady as possible with only your thumb moving up and down. Be consistent with your practice even just practicing the movement in the air and you will soon become proficient.
How to trim your dog’s feet
Start by clipping the hair from the pads of your dog’s feet by holding up the paw so you are looking at it with the toes closest to you. Using a #30 blade carefully trim the hair away from around the pads.
You can use a #10 blade for this if you don’t have a #30 but it will not be as clean and not last as long. If you don’t have clippers this can be done with scissors. You don’t need to scoop out the hair between the pads unless it is matted. This hair between the pads protects the foot from sharp stones or other items on the ground. If there is a matt between the pads gently and carefully scoop it out.
Once you have cleaned up around the pads, brush and comb the fur on top of the foot forward towards the toes. With the foot still held up scissor away any fur around the heel.
Place the foot flat on the grooming table or surface you are working on and scissor clockwise around the foot holding your scissors at a 35% angle.
Curved scissors will give a nicer round foot, but if you only have straight scissor that is fine. Some dogs will lift their foot while you are doing this so you can use your opposite hand to lift their opposite foot up. Otherwise, simply lift the foot up as you did to clip under the paw and trim any fur sticking out over the edge of the foot away.
With a double coated dog that just has fluffy feet that you want to tidy clip under paws as before. Then using a slicker brush, brush the fur back so it is standing up and scissor away. You don’t need to trim the fur between the toes unless then is a matt. If you are cutting a matt out between the toes be very careful as it is easy to cut the dog with the scissors.
How to do a sanitary clip
Standing behind your dog lift up their tail. With a #10 blade clip upwards carefully skimming away any fur without touching the blade to the skin or rectum. With breeds that have “pants” such as a golden retriever, you can clip a channel by clipping down and then clip up around the rectum as above.
To clip the groin area there are a number of ways you can position the dog.
- Lift up the back leg and then clipping forward, skim away any hair in the area again not touching the blade directly on the skin.
- With a small breed dog, you can hold the dog up gently by the front legs so they are standing up on their rear legs
- Or you do while your dog is laying on their back.
With a male dog, you can skim around the tip of the penis and slightly in front of the area if they tend to pee here. With a female dog, you can lightly skim around the vulva.
Ensure when you are doing a sanitary clip that your blade is not getting warm. You can use scissors to clean around the rectum but very careful.
How to Groom a dog face
How to trim the fur along the front of the eyes (fringe)
Many home groomers make the mistake of holding up the fur at the head and cutting anything that sticks out above the fingers. Unfortunately, this looks horrible as the fur at the front of the head is shorter than the rest of the head.
Comb forward the fur so it is overhanging the eyes. It is crucial to be able to hold your dog’s head still from trimming. The best way to do this is to hold your dog by the fur under the chin firmly but gently. Some dogs will resist this at first but they soon get to it.
With the straight scissors pointing from the outside of the eye towards the bridge of the nose (called the stop on a dog) cut the fur overhanding the eyes to the length you require to the middle. This way the point of the scissors is pointing away from the dog if they suddenly move. Repeat on the opposite side. You can do this with thinning scissors also which will give a more natural look and be safer if you are not confident.
How to trim between your dog’s eyes.
Using the same technique as for trimming the fringe hold your dog by the fur under the chin. Bring your scissors from the outside corner of the eye use the tip of the scissor to carefully clean away on that side. Repeat of the other side.
You can also use thinning scissors instead of straight scissor for this or this can be done with clippers. Clippers are a good option for breeds that are quite squashed in around that area such as some Shitzus. With your clipper pointing away from your dog’s eyes towards the nose lightly scoop out the fur.
How to groom your dog’s head and face
There are many ways and styles to groom a dog’s head and face depending on the breed and style you want. Some require a high skill level that most home groomers probably haven’t acquired. I would recommend watching DVDs or having a professional groomer show you how to do your particular breed if you are wanting to learn this.
The simplest way is to use a guide comb attachment on your clippers clipping in the direction of the coat following the contours of the head and straight down the side of the face. Don’t clip down the side of the muzzle as it will probably leave holes.
You can then shape the jawline with scissors and tidy up around the jaw with scissors or thinning scissors. Ensure that your dog’s head and face are fully brushed and combed before clipping.
There are also many styles for trimming dogs ears. For dogs with ears that hang down and are long comb the hair straight and trim the length off the bottom that you want. Always be aware of where the ear leather is.
With breeds with ears that stand up trim around the ear again being very aware of where the ear leather is.
When should you use a professional dog groomer rather than do it yourself?
There are some circumstances where it is probably better to take your dog to a professional groomer. This may be better than trying to do it yourself. If you are experiencing any of the following issues then just pay money and take your dog to a groomer. It is better that they are clean and healthy.
- Your dog continues to be stressed, agitated, or plays up so there is a potential danger to them or you being injured.
- Your dog is fearful or aggressive when you try to groom him. Grooming an aggressive dog can be dangerous for you. A professional may be able to calm them and get them used to regular grooming.
- You, or any other family member, just do not have the time to spend on grooming your dog. If this is the case, maybe you could do some of the smaller jobs, like brushing their coat or teeth and leave the bigger jobs to a professional.
Whether you have decided to do some or all of your dog’s grooming tasks check out the page that is relevant to you.
Happy grooming and have fun.
Other DIY Dog Grooming articles you may be interested in;
How to keep a dog calm while grooming
How to groom a dog with scissors