How to Groom a Dog at Home – The Best Way To Cut & Trim

If you would like to groom a dog at home but don’t know if you have the right equipment or how to begin, this article is for you; it contains;

  • A step by step guide on how to groom a dog
  • Why looking after your dog’s coat is an essential part of being a responsible dog owner.
  • What equipment you will need to groom your dog
  • A short history of grooming
  • How to care for your dog’s paws
  • Mastering nail clippers
  • What breeds have high maintenance coats

Grooming is an important part of owning a healthy dog. Many dogs and their owners enjoy the time spent together during a session. Read below for all the information you need on dog grooming at home.

It also is the ideal opportunity to check your dog’s fur for fleas and parasites, which can cause skin irritation, trim your dog’s nails and give them a once over for any injuries or lumps and bumps.

Dog owners don’t need to be nervous; you can groom your dog at home easily and you don’t need to be John Frieda either; perhaps if you have a particular dog that has become matted or a show dog, you may need the services of a professional, but generally, most pet parents can manage the basics.

So if you want to become Fido’s personal hairdresser, read on for tips on things like nail trimming, bathing your dog at home and brushing your dog’s teeth!

Why Grooming a Dog’s Coat is Important

Whether you have a Jack Russell or a Poodle, grooming is an important part of your dog’s routine; not only does it remove dead hair, prevent matted hair and skin problems, grooming sessions are also a fantastic way to improve the bond between dog and owner.

Brushing your pup helps distribute their natural oils, making the coat shiny and lush and the skin in good condition; it also stops grease building up and clogging pores which can cause all kinds of skin issues.

Health

Grooming also allows you to do an overall basic health check, examine between their toes where grass seeds, debris and mud may cause discomfort.

Stop an ear infection in its tracks with regular cleaning and trim nails to prevent them from breaking or being torn off if they get too long.

You can also check your dog’s eyes and run your hands over the body to feel for general lumps and bumps, which can be the difference between life and death in some cases.

Step by Step Guide – How to Groom Your Dog Correctly at Home

1. Brushing

It’s a good idea to start every grooming session with a good brush to remove loose hair and debris and tackle any tangles which may have formed; these will be made worse if you bathe your pooch without brushing them out.

A standard slicker brush is ideal for this or for a smooth-coated pup; a bristle brush will do the job. Check out our article to see what’s the best dog grooming brush.

For Double coated dogs, you may need a de-shedding tool to eliminate excess hair.

2. Splish Splash

Once your dog’s coat is free from dirt and mats, you can then bathe them. Ensure the warm water is at the right temperature as you would for a baby’s bath, then lather up. Cold water can cause your dog’s body temperature to fall and if the water is too warm, it may burn them.

Shampoo

There are hundreds of different dog shampoos, and here is what we think is the best. Choose one that contains natural ingredients, no harsh chemicals and suits your requirements.

For example, you may need a whitening shampoo if you own a Westie. You may need one that soothes skin irritations if Fido has allergies or even a medicated shampoo prescribed by a vet for certain skin conditions.

Can You Use Human Shampoo?

Using the shampoo we use once or twice if it’s all that’s available shouldn’t cause a problem, but it shouldn’t be used regularly as it has a lower PH balance than shampoos designed specifically for dogs. Also, a dog only has 3-5 layers of skin, whereas we have 10-15, so it is much more sensitive.

Always make sure you rinse thoroughly so as not to cause skin irritations.

3. Cleaning a Dog’s Ears

It’s important to your dog’s ears stay clean to prevent a build-up of wax and dirt, leading to infections; while you are bathing your dog, use a clean cloth or cotton balls to wipe the flaps and inside of the ears.

Ensure water doesn’t get inside the ear canal as this can also cause issues and never use cotton buds as these can damage your pup’s ears.

4. Watch those Eyes

Wipe around the eye areas with a damp cloth; this is crucial if you have a wrinkly-faced pooch as tears and dirt can form a crust, leading to soreness. You can also use a tear stain remover if you have a light coloured dog; this is a good time to check for any issues around the eye like redness or swelling.

5. Eew – Anal Glands

Sometimes during the grooming process, you may need to empty your dog’s anal sacs. Most dogs do this when they go to the toilet, but some, especially small dogs, may need help expressing the fluid that builds up there, they show this by scooting their butts on the floor and there may also be a not so nice odour.

This isn’t a pleasant job, and if you are unsure, it’s always best to consult your vet. This video shows how to express the glands

6. Dry without Disaster

Once you have your pup rinsed, it’s time to start drying them; first, absorb as much water as you can with an absorbent towel and spray with a dog conditioner if required.

This may be enough if you have a short-coated breed that doesn’t need to be clipped, but you may need to use a blow dryer if you have a longer-haired dog.

Please don’t use a human hair dryer as these can be too hot for your canine companion’s sensitive skin and destroy their natural oils; there are plenty of doggie dryers available that don’t cost the earth and dry using a cool airflow. We have a handy guide showing how to blowdry your dog.

7. Charge up the Clippers

Once Fido is completely dry, you can start to trim your dog’s coat, this may just require a good pair of dog grooming scissors, or for long-haired breeds, you may need to get the clippers out.

Not everyone is comfortable shearing their dog at home, especially if you have a breed that has a specific style; in this case, you may prefer to visit a professional groomer.

If you do want to have a go, work from the neck backwards following the hair growth, holding the hair clippers flat so they don’t nick your dog’s skin. Finally, move onto the head, tail and legs. These can be tricky areas and your pup may fidget, so it’s a good tip to have someone to hold them still.

8. Caring for Your Dog’s Nails and Paws

Lastly, trim any excess hair between the paw pads as this is full of bacteria and massage balm into the paw pads if they are dry and cracked.

You can now get out the nail trimmers and cut your pup’s nails. Overgrown nails can be painful and nail trimming is easy to do at home.

It is important that you don’t cut too far as you will damage the quick – a blood vessel in the nail which bleeds profusely if caught; it’s easily seen on light nails, it’s much harder to detect on dark nails.

The good news is most doggy nail clippers come with a guard to protect the quick and many professional groomers keep styptic powder on hand just in case.

9. Keeping Breath Fresh and Minty

Your pooch is pawfectly presented, so now is as good as time as any to brush their teeth; choose one of the many dog toothpaste available or make a homemade option with some baking soda, broth and mint.

Below is a fantastic video showing how to brush your dog’s teeth

A Brief History of Dog Grooming

Grooming is an ancient profession and has been mentioned as far back as Roman Times, although it was usually reserved for aristocrats or valuable hunting dogs. During the 16th-century, curly water dogs began to be trimmed, making it easier for them to get in and out of the water.

For example, the fancy poodle cut we are familiar with does actually have a reason, the balls of fur keep the dog’s joints protected from cold water.

The first professionals began trading in the early 17th century. There are mentions of parlours during Louis XV, not surprising since his court was full of poodles; a well-groomed pooch was a sign of prosperity.

During the 20th-century, blowdryers were invented and in 1965, Wahl developed the first clippers, which had a vacuum attachment to suck the hair as it was cut. Equipment became more advanced and nowadays, there are as many dog salons as human hairdressers.

What Grooming Tools Do You Need?

You don’t need to fork out lots of money for dog grooming equipment if you have short-haired dogs- a good shampoo, some absorbent towels or a drying coat plus a soft brush and some decent dog nail clippers should be sufficient to keep on top of Fido’s grooming routine.

If you have a dog that sheds a lot, it could be worth buying a pet grooming vacuum attachment that sucks up loose dog hair and dander as you brush.

However, if you a long-haired or wiry breed, you may need to invest in hairdryers, scissors and some clippers to keep your dog’s coat in prime condition.

Whilst the initial outlay may be considerable, think of all the money you will save by grooming your dog regularly at home – Check out our article on how much will dog grooming cost.

When Should you Start Grooming Your Dog?

Grooming is a fantastic way to get a dog used to being handled, so even if you have a short-haired hound, you should still get them used to be groomed from a young puppy.

Start with a few strokes of the brush and reward with treats or praise if they stay still.

Handle their paws, hold their face gently to check your dog’s nose is not dry and their eyes are free from discharge. Also, check inside their ears with lots of praise and rewards for them accepting the examination.

Once they have got used to being held and examined, you can introduce them to the dog grooming equipment, let them sniff the dog clippers, scissors brush etc., don’t switch anything on at this point as the noise can scare a nervous pup and this will set them back.

Once they have accepted this part of the routine, you can switch on dryers or clippers away from them and gradually bring them closer; once again, use lots of praise and treats if necessary.

If you intend to use a professional groomer, try to arrange a visit as soon as possible to get them used to the person and the process; even if they don’t need a haircut, it will benefit you in the future.

10 Breeds that May Benefit from a Professional Dog Groomer

  1. Poodle – A poodle doesn’t shed hair and therefore, their coat needs a lot of attention to prevent matting; even if you visit the groomer every few weeks, you will still have to brush daily. Unless you are showing, you can keep your pooch in the puppy cut, which can be done at home, but a groomer is the best option if you prefer a fancier style.
  2. Afghan Hound – These dogs need considerable time spent on grooming especially if you intend to show them a weekly bath and groom are essential. Even with visits to the groomer, they will still require daily brushing to prevent them from becoming matted.
  3. Puli – I love these dogs, but can you imagine the smell when they get wet? Taking care of a Puli coat is no easy task; they can’t be blow-dried and each individual cord needs to be separated and massaged gently. Definitely not for novice groomers.
  1. Portuguese Water Dog – Non-shedding and hypoallergenic; these dogs have a coat that grows constantly and needs regular trimming. You can, of course, trim them yourself at home, but they also need daily brushing to keep them looking in tip-top condition.
  2. Kerry Blue Terrier – This breed needs a lot of attention to keep it looking smart. Some pet owners clip their Kerry Blue at home, but for the show ring, he really needs to be scissored by a professional, especially those expressive eyebrows and beards.
  3. Komondor – So if a Puli is a dog grooming nightmare, imagine their bigger cousins, the Komondor. Not only do these gorgeous dogs weigh upwards of 100lbs, but they also have a matted corded coat that, to top it off, is white. Even with regular salon visits, dog owners of this breed will need to dedicate a lot of time to their pup’s grooming needs.
  4. Yorkshire Terrier – The long silky coat of a Yorkshire Terrier can become extremely matted if left, so like all the dogs on this list need daily brushing to stop the dog’s hair from becoming tangled, pets can be clipped at home, but once again, if you want the fancy hair-do’s of the show ring or like to keep the hair long a dog groomer may be the best option.
  5. Bichon Frise – This glamourous breed needs trimming every 4-6 weeks and daily brushing to keep the sparkling white coat looking its best. Once again, you can keep Fido trimmed neatly at home, but the distinctive head shape and breed cut are usually best achieved by a professional.
  1. Maltese – Another white dog that needs more than many home grooming novices can provide. The silky coat mats easily and needs regular brushing. Once again, the coat can be kept short for pets, but the long silky coats require a great deal of attention.
  2. Cocker Spaniel -Cocker’s have a high maintenance coat that requires a trip to the groomers every 4-8 weeks. You can keep them clipped short if they are just pets, but there are quite a few haircuts (probably best not attempted at home) that they can show off in the ring.

Hand Stripping

The most popular method of grooming is, without doubt, clipping; however, some dogs have coats that benefit from hand stripping. What is this? I hear you say, quite simply, it is removing the dead hair from the root by hand. Clipping a coat removes the top layer of fur, but it can eventually make the coat dull; removing the hair by hand ensures a shiny coat. Breeds that should be hand stripped have a soft undercoat and wiry topcoat such as;

  • Affenpinscher
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Border Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Wire-haired Dachshund
  • German Wirehaired Pointer
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Schnauzer
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Wire Fox Terrier

FAQ’s

How do I get my dog to sit still for grooming?

It’s a good idea to get your dog used to being groomed from an early age, so they get used to the process and find it a relaxing experience. You can also buy restraints for a grooming table, such as a noose and /or haunch holder to keep your furry friend secure.

Alternatively, get a family member or friend to hold them if you are nervous around sensitive areas like the face and legs.

How do I stop my dog’s coat from getting matted?

The easiest way is to buy a detangling spray and groom regularly, there’s no getting away from it if you own a thick-furred or long-coated breed, brushing needs to be a daily occurrence.

Can I clip my dog’s head?

Most groomers use scissors around the face, especially around the dog’s eyes, as clippers can be a frightening experience. Make sure always to use blunt-ended scissors to avoid injury and make sure Fido keeps still.

How do I cut my dog’s nails?

Cutting your dog’s nails is fairly simple many dog nail clippers have a guard to prevent you from cutting the quick, so I would always recommend using nail clippers designed for the purpose. You can also buy doggie nail files that grind the nails instead of cutting them if your pup objects to nail clippers.

Final Thoughts

Home grooming is not for everyone; trimming nails, clipping your dog’s fur and brushing your dog’s teeth can be done at home, but some owners prefer to visit the local pet store for Fido’s short back and sides or have a regular groomer.

If you have long-haired dogs, you will still need to keep the slicker brushes on hand as these pooches need daily brushing. Thick coated breeds like the Akita and Saint Bernard also need to be groomed every day unless you want your house covered in loose hair.

Grooming your furry friend at home will save money and as long as you don’t need their hair trimmed in a specific style, a short cut all over will be perfectly acceptable at the local dog park. You just need to make sure you have the correct tools for your dog’s hair and take your time.

We have lots of reviews of grooming products and grooming tips for those who want to give it a try!

Donna Hepburn

Published author, content writer and qualified dog behaviourist I have owned dogs all my life from Boxers, Rottweilers and Akitas, to Staffies and currently a very demanding Frenchie who is harder work than all the others put together.

I had a collar making business for over 10 years and am involved with several doggy charities. I currently live in the northeast and when I am not writing about dogs I enjoy, travelling, cooking and reading.

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