Do It Yourself Dog Grooming

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for: You and your dog are getting ready for a big moment, perhaps your first day as a therapy team, or your first dog show. Of course, a groomer can help, but weekly at-home maintenance matters. A weekly brush-out with a slicker brush and an undercoat rake really helps to keep your dog’s coat under control and prevents a long session of dematting and pulling out a too-heavy undercoat. Keeping grooming sessions short and pain free with lots of positive reinforcement will give you the perfect opportunity to accustom your furry best friend to being groomed and bonding with you.

Table of Contents

What’s your dogs breed?
How much do I have to pay?
Do it yourself Dog Grooming
Hair Clipping
Coat Care Tools
Bathing Fido
Cleaning his Ears, Eyes & Anal Glands

Your dogs grooming needs depend on the breed!

Do you have a snow dog with a thick double coat? Or a breed with fine, silky hair? Every breed has specific grooming requirements. These are based, in part, on the type of coat. Nonetheless, grooming can be made fun if you have all the grooming equipment and supplies. Grooming your furry- best friend is just as much a necessity as feeding him or taking him for a walk. Maintaining your dog’s appearance is necessary not only for cosmetic and overall health, but for emotional reasons, too. Your furry best friend will feel happier after annoying hair is removed, when his paws don’t feel sore, and he smells good. Your dog will feel loved knowing that you care about him enough to make him feel special.

When considering grooming, consider the following: The shorter your dog’s coat is, the less grooming he will need. Some breeds, such as the Poodle and the Portuguese Water Dog are light shedders. Others, like the German Shepherd, Collie, Samoyed and Golden Retriever, are heavy shedders. Breeds such as the Bichons, Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels require clipping or stripping (a simple process that removes loose hair from the dog’s coat) to look their very best. The composition of a dog’s coat depends on a few things, including breed, genetics, the temperature where you’re living, and your dog’s exposure to the outside and to sunlight. Dogs have two types of coats. Most dogs have a double coat, also called a two –ply coat that has a top coat and an undercoat. Some dogs have a single coat, of which there is only a top coat that is present without the thick undercoat.

How much does dog grooming cost?

So you may be thinking about cost. Good grooming supplies may be initially expensive, but they last and once you’ve doled out the initial investment on grooming equipment, you will not encounter this expense again unless something breaks or wears out. Fortunately, it is not necessary to take your dog to a professional groomer. Home grooming is easy once you’ve done it a few times. The most important skill is patience, and of course, learning how to properly brush and bath your dog. The basics of grooming, brushing, bathing, ear care, and toenail trimming are similar for every breed.

Do It Yourself Grooming Tips

Although bathing seems to be the foundation of good grooming, most dogs don’t actually need baths all that often. They only need them when they are extremely muddy or have to go to a dog show. Brushing and combing are great for a dog’s skin to distribute natural oils from the skin throughout his coat and to also get out bits of dirt, loose hair and tangles. Always brush and comb your furry friend before you bathe him. This prevents tangles and keeps your dog much cleaner. Tackling thick coats that tend to matt or get tangles can be tricky, so it’s important to relax with your dog and brush your dog each time after he’s exercised or had a swim.

Hair Clipping

Clipping can be daunting. Several breeds need to be clipped and these are the dogs without an undercoat. Because these dogs don’t shed, they can look scraggly and messy if not clipped. There are many types of clippers. For the perfect show dog look use medium-priced clippers that have a variety of blades. In case you just want to trim and style your furry best friend, perhaps your best choice would be the professional-style clippers, that have more than one speed and many different blades. Most clippers come cordless; with Oster pretty much the favorite. Brands favored include Wahl, Andis and Conair. Oster is very much favored because their blades are universal enough that other manufacturers make their clippers so that Oster-style blades can fit them.

When buying clippers other than Oster, make sure that they are equipped to use Oster-style blades.

Clipper Blades

Most clippers come with blades, yet some don’t. Choosing your blade is like an art and always will depend on your dog’s breed and coat type. Most blades are full-tooth blades, yet some are skip-tooth blades. Skip-tooth blades are for stand –up coats like Poodle coats. Full-tooth blades are used for smooth coats or drop-coated dogs like the Spaniel-type coats. Snap-on-guide combs are plastic combs that you attach to your electric clippers to provide an even cut. This gives you a precise half-inch or one-inch cut guide.

Grooming with Scissors?

There are many reasons for using scissors, but these need to be used with extreme caution on your dog. Scissors help even out your dog’s coat. Sometimes using scissors is easier than using clippers because scissors work best for whiskers or stray hairs. They are also great for touch-ups. Thinning your dog’s coat or blending one layer of hair with another is best done with thinning scissors. These scissors have rows of skipped teeth that cut only every other hair.

Tools For Long and Short Coats

An undercoat rake or long comb removes all loose undercoat hairs. If your dog has tangles begin by using a wide-toothed comb first and then progressing to a narrower-toothed comb. Detangling solutions with a mat splitter or mat rake helps tangles and mats, nonetheless electric clippers work in extreme cases and are not difficult to use. Never hurry when using these and always be gentle and patient with your dog. The shedding tool works wonders for removing the soft undercoat when your dog is shedding profusely. Next comes the slicker brush, which is used to stimulate your dog’s skin and coat, and removes unwanted hair. The slicker comes in different sizes and shapes, but they all contain hundreds of short wires embedded in a firm rubber backing. The gentle slicker has much softer wire bristles, and is either curved or straight. This works best on small breeds or on puppies. The larger version of this has curved bristles, which are used for pulling out dead undercoat. This works on most breeds. If your furry-best friend has a short coat, use a zoom groom or short curry brush. This removes hair and polishes his coat very effectively. For short-coated breeds, a short-toothed comb makes it easier to remove hair and work through tangles. The slicker brush is used next for removing hair and stimulating his skin and coat. Even shorthaired dogs need to be combed properly. Pin brushes work in combination with the metal comb and a soft slicker for long and silky coats, such as those belonging to the Maltese, Lhasa Apso, and Afghan Hound. For a dog with a super heavy coat, the mat splitter works together with a detangler and helps work through tangles.

Breeds such as the Puli and the Komondor have corded coats, which are not for beginners. Getting help from a groomer is advised for these breeds. Corded coats are managed by hand, and first dampened with water. The cords are then separated by hand when the adult coat comes in at one year of age.

Bathing & Rinsing

Before you start bathing your dog, gather all your supplies around you. Use a pH-balanced dog shampoo or a natural botanical dog shampoo without any harsh chemicals for canines, as well as a conditioner. Cotton balls for his ears, a washcloth, blow- dryer, and towels for drying need to be placed nearby. Before the bath, brush out all the knots from his coat. When wet these tend to multiply and are harder to untangle and rinse off. Carefully place eyedrops (recommended by your veterinarian) in your dog’s eyes to protect against irritation from the shampoo. Place a cotton ball in each ear to keep the water out and protect against ear infections. Soak your dog gently with warm water (check the temperature on the inside of your arm first) and make sure that he’s soaked all the way to his skin. Next work the shampoo into his coat and lather all over. Be gentle. Some dogs may suffer from hip dysplasia or arthritis. Lather long coats with the lay of the coat so as to prevent tangles. Do the opposite on fluffy dogs, and swirl the lather against the grain to make the coat stand up during the shampooing. Dogs usually enjoy a good shampoo.

Begin the rinse by rinsing at the head, and working your way down the body. Wrap your dog up in a super soft towel and towel dry the moisture off. With curly breeds, pat dry rather than rubbing dry so as to prevent tangling. When using a pet dryer, turn the heat setting on low.

Pawdicure & Nail Clipping

It’s important to keep your dog’s nail trimmed so as to prevent splay toes, ruin his appearance or impede his ability to walk properly. Some handlers prefer using a nail clipper that operates like a Dremel tool. Try to accustom your puppy to this tool from a young age. Groomers offer nail trimming, but this is easy to do yourself at home. Begin by nipping the tip of each nail on a weekly basis to get your dog used to the nail clippers. After that, a pawdicure should only be necessary once a month.

Nail clippers vary and come in different sizes and shapes. Some look like scissors, and some like pliers. One is even known to look like a guillotine because it cuts with only a single blade. This is the easiest one to use and is available in different sizes to match the needs of every breed. Regular nail clippers become dull with time and need to be replaced. When showing in the show ring, many dog handlers prefer to use a power nail file, which resembles an electric sander and files down the nails. If your dog has a hard time keeping still while you are trimming his nails, get a friend to help hold your dog for you.

Cleaning the Ears & Anal Glands

Some of the more difficult jobs, like eleaning your dog’s ears or brushing his teeth are sometimes unpleasant to do. Dogs dislike having anything stuck in their ears, so it’s important to get your dog used to having his ears handled. Try cleaning his ears when he’s tired. Keep your dog’s ears clean by wiping them gently with a cotton ball or a soft tissue that has been moistened with and over-the counter ear cleanser made especially for dogs. The purpose of ear cleaning is to remove excess ear wax and dirt. Never use cotton-tipped swabs. You may unintentionally cause him injury. Use sterile gauze to remove the otic solution.

Occasionally these sacs fill with smelly fluid and need to be emptied. This can be done while bathing. In that way you can wash away the liquid and bad smell. Many pet parents prefer taking their dogs to their veterinarian or groomers for this procedure. Paper Towels and heavy –duty gloves are needed. Lift your dog’s tail and place the paper towels over her behind. The paper towels provide an absorbent pad to catch the liquid.

Brushing Teeth

All dogs require regular dental care. Although dogs rarely get cavities, dogs can develop gum disease, which is brought on by tartar buildup. A chronic gum infection can spread to other organs. If your dog is an adult, start with a professional cleaning and an oral checkup from your veterinarian. If you have a puppy, start off with a soft toothbrush and start brushing gently. Use both a canine toothbrush and canine toothpaste. By gently lifting your dog’s lip and gently massaging his teeth and gums, you can gradually increase the brushing time as he gets used to it. Brushing your dog’s teeth daily will prevent tartar buildup and periodontal disease in the future.

Eye Care

All dogs have sensitive eyes. When cleaning around your dog’s eyes, use a soft cloth or cotton balls that have only been moistened with water. Some tear stains show up as unsightly, especially in light-colored dogs such as Poodles. Wipe tear stains clean by wiping them or using special tear stain drops for dogs. Electric clippers with an appropriate clipper guard can be used to get rid of stained fur. This is best done by a professional groomer or veterinarian.


All dogs require a basic grooming regimen that keeps them healthy and clean. Deciding on whether to groom your dog at home or to pay for professional grooming is up to you. Do your homework. Having the right grooming tools and products and socializing your dog to being handled will make your job so much easier. Knowing what to look for when choosing a groomer will lead to a less stressful time for both you and your furry best friend.


National Dog Groomers Association of America
National Association of Professional Creative Groomers
Dog Grooming Safety Tips