If you’re like me, you probably think of your dog as an integral member of your family and want your pet to live a long and healthy life. Properly grooming your pet helps to keep your dog healthier, giving you more time together. If you’re unsure of how to care for your pet, I’ve compiled information to give you this ultimate guide to dog grooming.
What are the benefits of grooming?
When your dog is properly groomed, he or she will look and smell good. However, regular grooming provides many more benefits than improving your pet’s appearance and scent.
When you do not regularly groom your dog, your friend can become uncomfortable because of mats, infections, fleas, ticks, and other problems. Good dog hygiene practices also help to reduce your pet’s risk of developing infections of the skin, eyes, ears, nails, and teeth.
Regularly grooming your dog also provides benefits to you. When you routinely bathe your dog, brush his or her coat, and clip nails and hair, your dog will grow accustomed to being handled. This can make visits to the veterinarian easier since your dog will be accustomed to you handling him or her around the feet, ears, and face. Regular grooming also helps to cement the bond you have with your dog and increase his or her sociability.
A final benefit of proper and regular grooming is lower vet bills. When you regularly care for your pet’s hygiene needs, you can spot problems before they become emergencies.
What are the risks of failing to groom your dog?
Neglecting your dog’s grooming places your pet at risk of multiple problems that can be detrimental to his or her health. Failing to groom your dog regularly can also lead to expensive vet bills, behavior problems, and the following types of issues.
Matted hair causes several problems. If your dog’s hair becomes matted, the mat can pull on the skin and cause your dog pain. Matting also leads to skin problems and reduced blood flow. In severe cases, matting can restrict your dog’s mobility and could result in a physical deformity.
Long hair around your dog’s face might restrict his or her vision when it hangs in his or her eyes. If you fail to regularly brush and wash your dog’s long hair, it can also result in matting.
Developing a double coat
Brushing and bathing your dog helps to avoid double coating. This happens when your dog does not completely shed its old coat when a new one grows in. If your dog develops a double coat, it will make him or her more susceptible to heat stress.
Flea and tick infestations
Failing to groom your dog can lead to flea and tick infestations. These pests can quickly invade your home. They also can cause your dog to suffer serious illnesses or death.
You should not overlook your dog’s teeth. Failing to provide dental care can cause tooth loss, bad breath, and problems eating. Dogs can develop tooth infections that could also lead to heart disease and other medical problems.
Abscesses and infections from grass seeds
If you do not regularly bathe and brush your dog, grass seeds in the hair can become embedded and cause skin infections and abscesses.
Pain from overgrown nails
Failing to trim your dog’s nails might cause your dog pain. The nails could grow into your dog’s paw pads and might make it more difficult for your dog to walk normally.
What does proper grooming include?
Proper grooming requires you to do several things for your dog. Your grooming routine should include all of the following steps:
- Ear care
- Nail clipping
- Hair trimming
- Eye care
- Dental care
We’ll take a look at what each of these steps entails below:
Bathing and shampooing your dog
While your dog might try to avoid a bath, you still need to bathe it regularly. Bathing your dog helps to keep your dog healthy and prevent problems with its skin and coat.
Figure out where to bathe your dog. If you have a small breed, you can bathe it in a sink. A larger dog can be bathed in the bathtub, shower, or in a sturdy dog tub outdoors. However, you should only bathe your dog outside when the weather is warm to make your dog more comfortable.
How often do you need to bathe your dog?
Dogs do not need to bathe as often as we do. The frequency of your dog’s baths will depend on its breed and environment. Ask your vet for a recommendation about bathing frequency.
In general, most dogs do fine with monthly bathing. However, dogs that have oily coats may need a bath every week. Short-haired dogs with smooth coats can bathe less frequently than long-haired dogs. Dogs with thick coats, including Malamutes and Samoyeds, do better with fewer baths and more brushing.
How to bathe your dog
When you bathe your dog, use lukewarm water. You don’t want to bathe your dog in cold water since dogs do not like it any more than people do. You also do not want to use hot water because it can burn your dog’s skin. Before you bathe your dog, give its coat a thorough brushing to remove loosened hair. If there are mats, cut them out.
Choose a good dog shampoo. Human shampoo is too drying for dogs’ skin and should not be used. While you are washing your dog, talk to it in a reassuring, calm voice. Once your dog is thoroughly clean, make sure to rinse well. Leaving soap residue behind can irritate your dog’s skin. Towel-dry your dog and let its coat air-dry.
Brushing and hair clipping
Brushing your dog several times each week can keep it neat. If you can, brushing your dog every day is better. When you brush your dog’s coat, make sure to get down to the skin so that dandruff flakes will be loosened and removed and to stimulate your dog’s blood circulation.
Your dog’s coat length and texture will determine the equipment that you need. For a longhaired dog, use a pin brush. Use a bristle brush for dogs with short or medium hair. You can also use a rubber curry comb to remove dead hair for a dog with a smooth coat.
As you brush, look for seeds, burrs, and other types of plant material. Check for mats under your dog’s legs and behind its ears, and look for any scrapes or cuts. Regular brushing sessions can help to keep your dog’s shedding under control and can help to prevent the formation of mats.
If your dog’s breed is one that causes hair to grow into its visual field, you will want to keep the hair trimmed. Use a pair of hair shears to trim its facial hair, and make sure to keep its hair clean. If you want to trim your dog’s hair all over to give it a professional look, consider taking it to a dog groomer for better results.
Caring for your dog’s ears
Your dog’s inner ear is curvy, which makes it a great place for yeast, bacteria, and mites to hide. Debris from your dog’s ear canal also works its way up and out through the ears, potentially causing infections.
You should check your dog’s ears during every grooming session. If the ears appear dirty, use a cotton swab or cotton ball dipped in hydrogen peroxide or mineral oil to wipe away dirt. Do not insert anything inside of your dog’s ear canals, and be gentle when you clean to protect the delicate skin.
Avoid washing your dog’s ears too frequently. If you do, it can damage the skin. If hair starts growing out of your dog’s ear canals, it may need to be tweezed. Talk to your vet before you do this, however.
If you notice any of the following symptoms when you check your dog’s ears, you should schedule a visit to the veterinarian:
- Bad odors
- Crusty skin
- Loss of hair
Checking and caring for your dog’s ears can help to protect his or her hearing.
Nail trimming and paw care
Your dog’s nails should be trimmed so that they do not quite reach the floor when your dog walks. If you hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor, it is time to trim them.
You have a few choices for nail trimmers. You can choose a guillotine-style nail clipper or nail scissors. If both types make you or your dog fearful, you can instead choose a nail grinder to sand down your dog’s nails. Talk to your vet about the proper way to trim your dog’s nails.
How to trim your dog’s nails
Before you trim your dog’s nails, hold his or her toes apart to check for debris between them. While holding the toe firmly, cut the nail at an angle from the top. Do not cut straight across, and make sure to only cut a little at a time. Cut until you can see an oval forming on the surface of the nail. When you see this, it means that you are getting close to the quick. Stop cutting at this point. After cutting, you can use a nail file to smooth the edges.
What if your dog is fearful?
Many dogs do not like people touching their feet. Watch for signs that your dog is distressed. If he or she is, don’t force your dog to allow you to cut your nails. Instead, take your dog to the vet or a professional groomer.
In addition to checking and trimming your dog’s nails, you should also check his or her paws during each grooming session. You will want to look for wounds and signs of infection. Check for debris and remove pebbles, glass, or other things that may have become lodged. Trim and brush hair between your dog’s paws to keep it from becoming matted.
If you notice cracks in your dog’s paws, ask your veterinarian to recommend a good paw moisturizer. You do not want to use human moisturizer because it can soften the skin too much and make it more prone to injury. Clean any small wounds with an antibacterial wash and loosely wrap them with a gauze bandage. See your vet for help with larger cuts.
Caring for your dog’s eyes
Just like people, dogs can develop eye irritations, infections, and diseases. When you groom your dog, you should take the time to check his or her eyes. Look for signs of infection, including redness, swelling, crustiness, or discharge. Check for cloudiness and make sure that the area around the eye is white. If you see these types of problems, you will want to schedule a visit to your veterinarian for proper care.
Cleaning away normal discharge or eye crusties when you groom your dog is simple. Dampen a cotton ball and wipe away crustiness or discharge by gently wiping from the corner of your dog’s eyes outward. Be careful not to press too hard to avoid scratching your dog’s eyes with the cotton ball. If you see redness around your dog’s eyes, consider using dog eyewash. Redness can be common during the drier conditions of the winter months.
Teeth brushing and general dental care
Dogs need proper dental care to prevent periodontal disease. While it might sound silly, brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is a good way to prevent the buildup of plaque and tooth decay. You should not use human toothpaste because it can be toxic to dogs. You might purchase dog toothpaste and use a dog toothbrush or a fingertip brush.
If you cannot brush your dog’s teeth, you might try dog dental wipes. These are designed to wipe away plaque. Dental treats for dogs also help to remove plaque, and they taste great to most dogs. Consider purchasing dog chew toys because the chewing action helps to keep your dog’s teeth clean. Finally, you can schedule a professional cleaning with your dog’s veterinarian.
Regular dog grooming can become a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. By choosing a consistent schedule for grooming activities, you can help to protect your dog’s health and enjoy more time together.