DIY Dog Grooming Guide

dog in a bath

We all know the feeling: You walk out of a beauty salon or barber shop fresh as a daisy. Your stylist clipped away all the hairs that needed to go, your nails reflect the sun, and you feel like Dorothy out of the Emerald City Beauty Parlor.

Guess what? Dogs feel the same after a visit to the groomer. But, you may not always have the budget to take your fluffy Dorothy to the salon. The good news is you can DIY a dog grooming service that’s practical, affordable, and enjoyable.

You’ll recognize the benefits of regularly grooming your pet by having a cleaner dog, a cleaner house (less shedding), and early illness and tick detection. You’ll also deepen your bond with them by making them feel loved and important. This greatly improves their well-being, producing a positive effect on their behavior.

So, how do you set up an at-home pet beauty parlor? What are the essential pet hygiene tasks every pet parent should know? How do you keep your pet calm?

In this article, we’ll cover step-by-step all you need to know to safely and efficiently groom your pet at home.

Dog Grooming Breakdown and Essential Dog Hygiene Care

Let’s start by breaking down pet grooming into three basic task areas that can be easily and quickly incorporated into your routine. These are brushing, bathing, and nail trimming. Further essential dog hygiene care to keep in mind is eye goop removal, teeth brushing, and face washing

All of these tasks may require patience depending on your dog’s character. Never force your dog and remember to keep calm, your dog will easily pick up on your frustration. 

A DIY approach to grooming should be easy for you and your pet. Short sessions spread routinely throughout the week are better than long sessions spread further apart. 

Alternate tasks: Brush one day, bathe another. 

Getting Started: Setting up the “Salon”

It’s likely your sweet Vito will feel pesky about grooming time. Make sure you find a quiet place, without distractions: put the phone on “airplane mode” (or “dog salon mode”) and enjoy this bonding time with your pet!  

Find a table or a surface that will fit your dog. Make sure it’s at a height where you feel safe and comfortable handling them. There are pet grooming tables on the market, but any table that is firm and sturdy will do. 

It’s wise to cover the table with an old mat, or one specially purchased for the occasion. Just make sure your pet doesn’t slip on it. Keep them calm to avoid unnecessary fidgeting. 

Professional pet grooming tables have a grooming arm to secure the dog in. If your table doesn’t have this, make sure you never leave your pet unattended while grooming. 

Keeping Your Dog Calm

Dogs unused to grooming will likely reject it at first. Prepare them by getting them used to having sensitive areas touched. If you’ve got a puppy, it’s recommended that you get them used to getting their ears and nails touched early on. This will make nail trimmings much easier.

Go slowly, especially around areas such as the eyes, belly, muzzle, tail, and groin. Focus on building trust and staying calm. They’ll pick up on your fear and nervousness. Have treats ready and provide them with lots of positive reassurance. 

Make this a fun ritual! Give them your undivided attention. Dogs study their tutor’s behavior and they greatly appreciate the predictability of grooming time once they understand it. They feel safe with repetition and as soon as they recognize the activity they’ll likely follow along. Patience and perseverance will pay off. 

Grooming Equipment: The At-Home Pet Stylist Toolbox

There’s a big Pet Grooming market and you’ll find a variety of products for all tails and sizes. Inside an at-home personal pet stylist’s toolbox you’ll find the following items:

  • Slicker brush
  • Comb
  • De-shedder 
  • Spray 
  • Grooming clippers (Number 10 to avoid cuts)
  • Clipper and blade coolant
  • Nail Clipper or grinder
  • Styptic powder (in case of nail bleed)

Begin with Brushing

Once you’ve set up the grooming space the session can begin. Start by slightly damping your pet’s hair, this will keep the dirt and fallen hair from flying around while you brush. 

Use a pin or slicker brush, brushing from the skin with a soft massaging action. This stimulates blood circulation and helps loosen and remove dandruff flakes. Brush all over the body, mindfully brushing the creases and folds of skin. Go soft on sensitive areas.

It’s wise to check for ticks as you brush. You’ll easily catch the presence of this menace if you see small black flecks on the hair or skin.

Brushing Frequency

The breed and characteristics of your dog’s coat will determine how many brushing sessions a week are sufficient to keep your fluffy pooch fabulous. Is your dog long or short-haired? Does your dog have straight, curly, or thick bristly fur? 

On average, several brushing sessions a week is a good parameter. Daily brushing sessions may be necessary if you have long haired breeds such as the Afghan Hound, Havanese, Shih-Tzu, or curly-haired breeds such as Bichon Frise

Making it a habit will make the grooming sessions much easier for both of you. 

Note: Some dogs tend to shed more during the changes of seasons. Frequent brushing sessions at this time will help control excess shedding. 

Guide to Bathing

Once your dog is brushed, you can proceed to bathing. You don’t always have to follow brushing with bathing. However, brushing your pet before bathing will help remove a considerable amount of dirt and fallen hairs, which will make bathing much easier.

The frequency of bathing depends on the breed, age, and lifestyle. Puppies, for instance, shouldn’t be bathed too regularly. Check with your vet for a bathing frequency that is right for your dog. 

Washing dogs: Avoiding a Mess

Bathing involves washing, shampooing, lathering, and blow-drying your bundle of unapologetic energy. This could get messy if you’re not prepared. Think about setting up a “washing station” anywhere that will fit your dog. Smaller dogs may fit in a sink, larger dogs might require a bathtub.

Have plenty of extra towels at hand to keep the washing station as dry as possible. Don’t forget to dress accordingly, you might also get wet.

Bathing Equipment

Wherever you set up your washing station, make sure you have all of the necessary tools at hand.  

  • A few towels
  • Dog-friendly shampoo
  • Dog-friendly conditioner (for long-haired breeds)
  • A non-slip bath mat 
  • Dog-friendly cleansing wipes
  • Pet-friendly blow dryers 
  • Treats
  • Leash 

Bathing Step by Step

In addition to keeping your dog healthy and clean, bathing a pet is an act of love. Enjoy this bonding time and don’t rush it.

  • Step 1: Brush your dog thoroughly.
  • Step 2: Make sure the water is lukewarm. 
  • Step 3: Put your dog in the tub and fill it to about the height of your dog’s knee.
  • Step 4: Wet your dog and lather them with shampoo. Work from the rear towards the top, washing the head last. 
  • Step 5: Rinse gently with warm water starting at the head, and working downwards. Take your time and remove all traces of shampoo.
  • Step 6: Stand back and let your dog shake rigorously. 
  • Step 7: Rub your dog with a dry towel, replacing it if it gets wet. You might need a few towels.
  • Optional step 8: If needed, you can blow-dry your dog. Make sure the blow dryer isn’t in the hottest setting, and hold it at least one foot away from your dog’s skin.

Brushing and Bathing By Coat Type

Dog breed, size, hair, and nail characteristics are all things to consider when brushing and bathing your dog. 

We’ve provided a “cheat sheet” where you can check for some practical guidelines for different coat types.

  • Soft short-haired breeds: (Boxers, Beagle, Bulldog, Greyhound) Brush at least once a week, but ideally twice to remove dander and spread natural oils. Regular bathing is not required. If they’re dirty, bathe them with a soft shampoo.
  • Short wire-haired breeds: (Terriers, Schnauzers, Wirehaired Daschunds) Brush at least twice a week. Use a slicker brush to remove loosened hair. The use of a stripping comb may be used to keep the fur neat. Bathing frequency can be every 4-6 weeks. A leave-in conditioner can help make brushing easier.
  • Medium-haired breeds: (Cocker Spaniel, Huskies) Brush twice a week with a pin brush to remove tangles and avoid matting. Use a slicker brush to remove old hair and smoothen the coat. Bathing frequency can be every 4-6 weeks. Use a mild dog shampoo. A conditioner will help detangle hair. Brush before and after bathing.
  • Long-Haired Breeds: (Shih-Tzu, Maltese, Afghan Hound) Brush daily. Use a slicker brush and a comb to untangle hair. You can use a dematting brush to untangle, if necessary. Bathing frequency can be every 3-4 weeks. Use a gentle shampoo and conditioner to detangle. A leave-in conditioner will help maintain hair silky smooth. When applying shampoo, lather in the same direction as the hair to avoid tangles. Pay attention to the eyes, some trimming may be required to open your dog’s gaze. 
  • Curly Haired Breeds: (Poodle, Bichon Frise) Brush daily. Use a slicker brush to avoid knots and matting. Bathe every 2-3 weeks. Use shampoo for curly hair. A leave-in conditioner will keep curls moisturized and well-defined.

Nail Clipping Guide

Nail clipping is one of the most delicate parts of pet grooming. If you don’t feel confident, it’s best to leave this task to a professional groomer.

The frequency of nail clipping can be done every few weeks, depending on your dog. Keep in mind that it’s best to cut nails gradually. If your dog’s nail is long, cut it weekly until it reaches the desired length. Never attempt to cut a large portion of your dog’s nail in one cut. 

Before trimming your pet, make sure they’re familiar with having their paws touched. Show them the tools as you would show it to a child.

Purchasing a nail clipper, or grinder, designed for the size of your dog’s nail size is the best idea. If you use a nail clipper, close the clipper quickly (doing it slowly may cause the nail to split).

Beware of the quick!

Dogs and cats have a “quick” inside their nails. This is a soft cuticle that contains a blood vessel and nerves. You can identify the quick as a white line in the middle of the nail. Make sure you don’t cut this part. If you do, Styptic Powder will stop the bleeding.

If your dog has black nails, gradually chip small portions from the tip. As you do this, check for a black dot on the tip of the nail: This is the quick, do not cut further. 

Finishing touches: Other Essential Hygiene Care

Once you’ve incorporated bathing, brushing, and nail clipping into your dog wellness routine these are additional essential hygiene care tasks for you to consider

  • Eye goop removal: Check the area around the eyes for eye goop. Wipe away this discharge with a soft cotton or moistened washcloth.
  • Teeth brushing: Brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week to prevent tartar accumulation. You can purchase a dental paste specially formulated for dogs
  • Trimming: Long-haired breeds may require trimming. Keep the areas around the eyes, ears, and groin trimmed.
  • Face washing: Wrinkled breeds, such as the Shar-pei, French Bulldog, and Pug may need their face washed and their wrinkles wiped. Use warm water and dog soap. 

Conclusion: A Fluffy Dog is a Happy Dog

For some, grooming their pet at home may seem like a daunting task. But when done regularly as a weekly routine, this wellness habit deepens your bond with your pet. This in turns contributes to your own personal wellbeing as you take a time-out to engage with your best friend in a mindful activity. In return for this service you’ll receive their unconditional love, and infinitely fluffy cuddles. 

  1. You can manage certain breeds (short hair) by yourself; long hair is extremely difficult also the risk of injuries. We use the Groomit App for our Labradoodles, they come to my home, and it’s very convenient.

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