Should you take your dog to a professional dog groomer, or should you groom your dog yourself?
Depending on your dog’s needs, the answer might be to do both. If you take your dog to a professional dog groomer, you can groom him yourself between appointments. And if your dog’s coat doesn’t require the care of a professional dog groomer, you may be able to be his sole groomer.
Benefits of grooming your dog yourself
Your dog benefits physically. Dog grooming distributes skin oils throughout the dog’s coat, removes loose hair and irritants, and keeps hair free of dirt and tangles. While you’re grooming your dog, you can look for any changes to his body and spot possible health concerns, including the presence of fleas.
And, of course, a dog that’s groomed regularly looks healthier and more cared for.
Your dog benefits emotionally. Dogs that have learned not to trust humans or that aren’t accustomed to being handled can overcome their fears with repeated gentle handling. Grooming your dog provides him with regular sessions in which to experience pleasure at the hands of humans.
You and your dog have more bonding time. One-on-one time with your dog is when the greatest bonding occurs. While grooming him, you’ll be able to observe how he reacts to and communicates with you.
You benefit emotionally. Studies have shown that spending time with pets can improve psychological well-being and lower blood pressure, among other benefits.
You save money. Do-it-yourself dog grooming costs only the equipment needed for grooming. If your dog has a high-maintenance coat, however, or if you don’t have the patience or time to groom your dog regularly, it may be better to take your dog to a professional dog groomer.
How to start grooming your dog
The younger you start grooming your dog, the easier it will be for him to become accustomed to being groomed. Be gentle and praise your dog often to make the grooming sessions positive experiences.
If your dog isn’t comfortable with being groomed, grooming sessions should be short at first and increased when the dog has become accustomed to the experience. You may want to groom just one part of his body one day and another part another day.
Dog grooming tools
These are some tools to choose from, depending on your dog’s coat:
Dog brushes come in plastic or metal and can be soft or hard. Brush types:
- Wire pin brushes (with straight metal pins, sometimes with rubber tips on the bristles) for dogs with short or wooly coats, or for the first brushing
- Slicker brushes (with more and shorter pins than wire pin brushes) for more thorough brushings, mostly for dogs with thicker coats
- Bristle brushes for general brushing
- Curry combs are good at getting out tangles and lots of loose hair.
- Fine-tooth combs are for soft coats.
- Medium-tooth combs can be used on most dogs.
- Wide-tooth combs are suitable for heavy coats.
Dog clippers and blades
A wide range of blades is available. Their suggested use is for people who have had professional training in their use.
Dog nail clippers
Dog nail clippers are available in three main types and in different sizes:
- Pliers-style clippers work like pruning shears. They work well with thick nails.
- Guillotine-style clippers have a hole at the top to insert the dog’s nail into and replaceable blades. They may be more difficult to use with larger breeds or dogs with thicker nails.
- Scissors-style nail clippers work like scissors. They’re mainly for cats and birds, but they’re sometimes used on smaller dogs.
If you aren’t sure what type of nail clippers to use on your dog, ask your dog groomer or veterinarian. Use only nail clippers that are sharp.
It’s a good idea to have styptic powder or Kwik-Stop on-hand to stop the bleeding in case you accidentally trim too much.
Ideally, you’ll be able to groom your dog several times a week. Once a week may be often enough for short-haired dogs
Run a hand along the dog’s body to feel for lumps, injuries, or other changes as you groom. Check the dog’s feet for any sores. Praise your dog to help him feel comfortable with the procedure.
Start grooming at the dog’s head, grooming in the direction of the dog’s hair. Use a comb to remove dead hair and go over the dog’s body, legs, and tail. Be sure to groom behind the ears, at the base of the tail, and on the dog’s chest and flanks. Be especially gentle in areas where the bones protrude. Then, brush the dog with a brush to remove further loose hair.
Matted hair causes discomfort in dogs. You may be able to remove small mats by gently separating the mats into sections with your fingers. Be careful not to pull on the dog’s coat. If you cut off the edge of the mat with scissors (being careful to point the scissors away from the dog), the rest of the mat may be easier to work through. Larger or thicker mats are best left to a professional dog groomer.
Dog nails should be just long enough to touch the ground when the dog is walking. When they’re longer, it’s time to trim them. Some dogs need their nails trimmed once or twice a month, while other dogs wear down their nails naturally. If the nails are left too long without being trimmed, the quick (the vein inside the nails) may extend further than normal. When the nails are trimmed regularly, however, it will retreat.
Get your dog in a comfortable position on your lap or on the floor. Extend each nail before trimming it, look for the quick inside the nail, and be careful not to trim close to the quick. With darker nails, the quick is more difficult to see, so take extra care. The quick starts where the nail gets darker.
Cut from underneath the nail. When you have the clippers in place and have located the quick, cut hard to get through the nail. Trim just a little bit at a time from the tip of each nail.
Keep the experience a pleasant one for your dog. Do only a few nails at a time if necessary, and praise your dog often. A treat afterwards makes the experience more pleasurable.
You may find it easier to trim your dog’s nails after a long walk or run, when he’s tired and wants to lie down. Or if one person trims the nails while another person distracts the dog with attention, the dog will be focused on the positive attention rather than the nail trimming.