How to Groom a Dog at Home (Everything You Need, Moral Support Included)

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how to groom a dog at home
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Dogs need regular grooming to stay healthy and happy. Yes, it’s preferable to visit a licensed groomer, but sometimes, we have to take that knotted fur into our own hands. But before you open your at-home salon for business (we kid), here are two things you have to do first:

Research your dog’s style

Every breed has different standards when it comes to appearance. The American Kennel Club is a great place to start if you’re curious what your dog is “supposed” to look like. Now, these are guidelines, but it just helps to see what a long coat on a chihuahua or a collie looks like before you even consider trimming.

Get in the habit of brushing—and treating—your dog regularly

If your dog isn’t used to regular grooming, start by introducing him to routine brush sessions using something like the FURminator to detangle knots without hurting your pup. You'll want to try to get as many tangles out before you start the grooming process since too much pulling and prodding may cause your dog to act up and even run away from the groomer (aka you).

If his fur is extra matted, you may want to try using a special de-matting comb. The more comfortable Petey is around grooming tools, the easier it’ll be to bathe and trim him. Treating your dog during this time is also a great way to create positive associations, "I hate bath time, but I get treats, so I'll be a good boy!"

In the habit of bathing and brushing? Great job. Here’s how to groom a dog at home, and all the tools you need to do it. You got this, pawtner.

1. Bathe Your Dog

Bath time might be a nightmare, but if you can swing it, do it. Place Petey in the tub and use lukewarm water—not too cold, not too hot. A washcloth should be used to keep water out of his face, ears and eyes. Get him wet all over; lather with shampoo; rinse thoroughly; use conditioner if you're concerned about tangles or if you're feeling fancy. Work your way from his neck, down his back, to his hind legs and ring out as much of the water and shampoo as possible.

2. Dry Your Dog Completely And Brush Out His Hair

Start by towel drying your pup. You may have to let him shake it out at some point—it’s the best way they know how to get dry, and it’s actually very effective. Just be prepared if you’re still in the room or if Petey makes it to the kitchen to shake. If he’s not afraid of the blow dryer, you can use one on cool to warm (not hot) to speed up the drying process. Hold the dryer a safe distance away to avoid burning his skin, and brush through as you go to avoid creating more knots. If you've been brushing on the regular, your pup should be in good shape. But if you're noticing nasty knots, it may be easier to cut them off entirely instead of irritating your poor dog more.

Pro tip: If bath time isn’t possible, either due to your schedule or Petey’s demeanor, simply scrub him down with a damp towel to remove excess dirt, dust and stray hairs.

3. Clean Your Dog’s Ears

The AKC recommends cleaning your dog’s ears at least once per week. This can be pretty quick. Simply wipe them down with a moist washcloth or cotton ball. You can even buy special wipes. Be sure to really dry those ears after a bath; too much water can cause infections.

4. Minimize Loud Noises Or Distractions

When prepping for a cut or trim, it’s imperative you and your dog are relaxed. Turn off anything distracting; silence your phone; close the windows; create a peaceful space. If Petey is not having the noise from the blow dryer, don't use it.

5. Pick A Non-slip Surface

PETA recommends placing your pup on a safe, solid surface. Avoid slippery spots like tile floors. If you’re standing up, wear shoes that grip the floor (as opposed to socks or bare feet).

6. Set Up Good Lighting

It’s hard to trim fur if you can’t see what you’re doing. Open the shades, turn on your lights, and hell, why not employ that ring light for maximum exposure if you have it?

7. Do Not Use Tethers

While some professional groomers use tethers to leash dogs to grooming stations, it’s not wise to do this unless you have a grooming station in your own house. PETA also advises against gripping fur to hold your pup in place. This kind of restriction causes stress and won’t make subsequent grooming sessions very successful.

8. Decide On Your Dog’s Hair Length

Dog clippers make grooming super easy, but you’ll have to choose the right blade or comb so that you can get the right length. We suggest buying a grooming kit, which typically include electric clippers, scissors and different guard combs. We also recommend going for a little longer than you ask your groomer, just to be safe.

9. Start (slowly) Clipping Your Dog’s Back

Once your dog is completely dry, you can start the fun part. It’s typically easier if your pup is standing, but it’s OK if he’s sitting down, too. While using clippers, move the device in the same direction Petey’s hair grows, from his neck down his back, to the tops of his legs. Don’t go against the grain! Heads up: if your dog’s fur is extra thick, long and matted, you may want to use a scissors to get some of that bulk out first and then move onto clippers.

10. Then Move To The Butt And Belly

Once you’ve done the torso, move to your dog’s tush. Same thing: go in the direction of the hair. Then, while your dog is standing, slowly do the same on his belly. Be as gentle as possible—this is a vulnerable area for him.

11. Trim Legs And Feet With Scissors

Using a pair of blunt-tip scissors, snip evenly away at overgrown hair down your dog's legs. (Note: legs often have the most knots in long-haired dogs!) To trim foot fur, follow the arc around the toes. Placing the paw on the ground and simply trim around it. Be gentle. We recommend curved scissors for trimming around the body and thinning shears to soften any edges.

12. Trim Your Dog’s Face And Ears With Blunt-nose Scissors And Thinning Shears

Face hair can cause infections and irritations, so trimming your dog’s hair so it doesn’t cover his eyes is important. Depending on your dog’s fur growth, you may want to cut regularly or use thinning shears for a softer look. If your dog is being fidgety, putting sharp objects near his face is definitely not the best idea. So make sure he’s cool and calm before you start.

13. Trim Paw Pads With Blunt-nosed Trimming Scissors

Dogs, especially ones with long hair, get dirt lodged in between their paw pads. Use blunt-nosed trimming scissors to cut the fur between pads. Make sure your dog is relaxed, and lift one paw at a time to cut. This hair should be level with or shorter than the pad.

A Little Moral Support

Grooming is literally a job that requires hours of rigorous training and a license before you can practice it professionally. Give yourself—and your dog—a break if it feels hard. It is! Just remember, you’re doing it for your pup so he stays healthy and happy. When in doubt:

  • Be patient and allow it to take longer than you expected.
  • Go slowly. Do one thing at a time. Try brushing this week, and save the bath and trim for next week.
  • You can never praise your pup too much during the process (or yourself). That includes vocal affirmations and yummy treats, of course.
  • Ask your vet for advice on techniques, supplies and supplements that will keep your dog calm as you groom.
  • Enlist someone else in your household who the dog trusts to help out.

And always remember to treat yourself after all is said and done. Might we recommend your own specialty hairbrush?

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Sarah Ashley

Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...
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