Dog Grooming: A Beginner’s Guide to What to do and How Often
Introduction to Dog Grooming
Whether you currently own a dog or are thinking of adding one to your family, it’s important to understand how dogs should be groomed. In this article, you’ll learn about five grooming tasks that are essential for your dog’s health.
As a bonus, grooming your dog can be a great way to strengthen your bond – as long as you make it a positive experience. When you first start grooming, use treats to create an association between positive feelings and grooming. You can gradually use fewer treats as your dog starts to trust you more.
Please note: The timeframes for each grooming task are for a healthy dog. Dogs with health conditions may need to be bathed or cleaned more frequently.
Brush Coat (Every 2-7 Days Depending on Breed)
Brushing is one of the most important grooming tasks, as it keeps your dog’s coat healthy by spreading natural oils over hair. It can also remove dead skin and prevent mats.
The amount of brushing required varies depending on the length of your dog’s hair. Short-coated dogs, such as a bulldog or Chihuahua, don’t need to be brushed as often. For these breeds, brushing once a week is enough to get rid of dead hair and skin cells.
For long-coated dogs, you should brush more regularly to prevent matting. A brushing session every 3-4 days should be enough to maintain a healthy coat. If you notice mats starting to develop, a daily brush may be required.
Tips for Brushing:
- If your dog is scared of the brush, practice touching it to his coat and then rewarding with treats.
- A shedding blade is more effective at removing mats than a regular brush.
- Brushing also removes hair and skin cells that would otherwise end up on your sofas and carpets. For this reason, it’s best to brush on a hard floor and clean up with a pet vacuum.
- If you suffer from allergies, get someone else to brush your pet and immediately vacuum with a HEPA filter. This prevents dander spreading around your home.
Clean Teeth (1-2 Times per Week)
Brushing a dog’s teeth is a job most owners dread. Even if your dog allows their teeth to be brushed, they are unlikely to be happy about it! While brushing daily is ideal, even once or twice per week can help prevent plaque and gum disease.
It’s also important to provide objects for your dog to chew. This helps maintain the health of teeth and gums.
Tips for Teeth Cleaning:
- Make sure you use a dog toothbrush. These have softer bristles and are angled to make cleaning easier. Also avoid human toothpaste.
- If your dog won’t allow you to use a toothbrush, start by practicing running a finger along the gum followed by a reward. Once you can do this, practice short cleaning sessions with a brush and slowly build up the length of time.
- It’s normal for a small amount of blood to appear when brushing gums. If there’s a lot of blood, you’re either using too much force or your dog may have a gum disease. You should contact your vet if you notice blood when brushing.
Check and Clean Ears (Every 2-4 Weeks)
Regularly cleaning your dog’s ears can prevent painful infections. This is especially important for dogs with long ears, as these breeds are more prone to infections.
How often you clean your dog’s ears depends on the breed and how much ear wax they produce. For most dogs, cleaning once per month should be enough. Longer-haired breeds or dogs that like to swim may need to be cleaned every two weeks.
Tips for Ear Cleaning
- Prepare your dog’s ears for grooming by brushing and removing any matted or dirty hair from around the ear.
- If there is excessive hair within the canal, you should contact a professional to remove it. Trying to get rid of this hair incorrectly could damage your dog’s ear.
- The most important thing when cleaning a dog’s ears is to be gentle and cautious. Ears are delicate organs that can be easily damaged. You also shouldn’t put anything down the ear aside from specially formulated solution.
- Start by dripping a small amount of dog-friendly ear solution into the ear. Gently massage the bottom of the ear, before repeating on the other side. Then allow your dog to shake to get rid of the solution.
- After the solution has cleared, use a ball of cotton to wipe the outside of the canal to clear any wax. Do not put anything down the ear canal.
Trim Nails (Every 2-4 Weeks)
Most nails can be kept to a manageable length through exercise. If your walks are always on soft ground, however, then nails can grow to an uncomfortable length. Uncut nails can even lead to severe pain or a broken toe.
There’s no set time for nail clipping, as it depends on how quickly your dog’s nails grow. For most dogs, clipping nails that are too long every 2-4 weeks is plenty. If you hear a sharp noise when your dog is walking on hard floors, however, it’s time for a trim.
Tips for Nail Trimming
- The most important thing when trimming nails is to avoid cutting too short. Doing so risks cutting the blood vessel and causing pain. For this reason, only trim a small bit unless your dog’s nails are clear and you can see the vessel.
- Remember to trim your dog’s dew claws if they haven’t been removed.
- If your dog’s nails are sharp but not long, a file can do the job better than trimmers.
- When you first start trimming your dog’s nails, allow him to sniff the tool you’re going to be using. You can also touch it to his paw to get him used to it.
Bathing (Maximum of Once Per Month)
Bathing your dog is rarely a fun experience for either you or your pet, but it’s important to keep his coat clean. Even so, you don’t need to bathe your dog very often – once every one or two months is fine. Any more than this and you risk drying out the skin.
The exception is if your dog has rolled in something unpleasant. In this situation, you have no option but to give him a bath.
Tips for Bathing Your Dog
- Always use special dog shampoo. Shampoo made for humans can have a detrimental effect on a dog’s skin.
- Bathing can be scary for a dog, so try to make it a positive experience. Use plenty of treats and praise, and never get frustrated.
- Thoroughly wash any shampoo from your dog’s hair before you dry him. Shampoo left in his coat can cause it to look dull.