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Some at-home pet grooming tips

Updated: May 15, 2019



Brushing your dog will remove dirt, debris, dead hair and unpleasant odors from the coat and the skin. It distributes the natural oils, making your dog’s coat shiny and healthy. Proper brushing will eliminate matting and tangling, which will make your next grooming appointment go more smoothly (and your Groomer very happy!).

You will need the proper brush for your dog’s coat, so ask your Groomer which would be best. Be careful using metal brushes as they can cause scratches an irritation to the skin. Short-haired pups would benefit more from rubber or metal brushes that have protected bristles.

Your longer-haired pooch needs more than just a brushing to keep his coat mat-free. Follow-up the brushing by using a metal comb to get down to the skin and locate any mats that may be starting to form. Proceed gently with a metal comb, especially if your pup’s skin is particularly sensitive.


Some pets only get their teeth ‘brushed’ when getting groomed but ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily, but even 2 – 3 times a week makes a big difference. Use only toothpaste made especially for dogs. Dogs can’t spit, and human toothpaste contains unsafe ingredients which could make him sick if he were to swallow it. Using a child’s toothbrush, as it’s softer on the dog’s gums, or a rubber finger brush would work, but I’ve found using a good tooth gel works the best because they are used to hands near their faces vs. foreign objects like a toothbrush coming at them. If you still find it difficult to brush your dog’s teeth, dental sprays and specially designed chew treats can be helpful.


Just like humans, some dog’s nails grow more quickly than others. Some may require trimming every 2 weeks, and some can wait a full 6 weeks. Nail trimming is everyone’s least favorite task. Since you are diligent about your 6 – 8 week grooming visits, you can most-likely get by with just “tipping” the end of the nail to avoiding the doggie drama that often accompanies at-home nail trims. Using a Dremel on the nails can sometimes be safer and get the nails shorter and relieve the fear of sharp edges. And some dogs do better with the noise and process as they don’t like the feel or sound of nail trimming.


All dogs need their ears cleaned at least monthly. But if you have a dog with longer or heavier ears that flop over the ear canal, more frequent ear cleaning is a must. A buildup of bacteria or wax in the ears can lead to infection. If you don’t have doggie ear cleaner at home, there are plenty of ear cleaner “recipes” online… with ingredients generally on-hand like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, etc. Wet a cotton ball with your cleansing solution and clean the outside area first, gradually working your way towards the inner area. It is not recommended to use cotton swabs deep inside the ear canal, but you can use them to gently clean inside the ear folds on the outer ear flaps. If your dog is a frequent swimmer, it is advisable to clean and dry their ears each time after swimming.

Also, some breeds have hair that grows inside the canal. Frequent ear infections or yeast issues can build up on the hair as well. Check with your Vet and Groomer about removing this hair for easier treatment and hopefully reducing future ones from occurring.


Flat-faced dogs - aka brachycephalic dogs, like bulldogs, shar peis, even shih tzus, have wrinkles or skin folds on their face. Moisture can accumulate within those folds to set-up the perfect environment for yucky bacteria. Bacteria can then lead to dermatitis or worse, infection. It is important to keep these folds clean and dry. A warm washcloth or even doggie face wipes will do the trick. If redness, bumps or odor becomes a problem, see your vet. A more stringent cleaning schedule or solution may be in-order.


Some dogs are prone to accumulating excessive eye “goop” or “crusting” caused by excessive tearing or discharge collecting in the corners of the eyes. Loosen the goop with a warm wash cloth first, or approved dog eye wipe, and then use the flea comb to remove it. Light colored dogs may have the accompanying red stain that comes with excess tearing to which you can use a dog Tear Stain removal from your local pet supply store. Keep an eye on this area. Excess discharge can be a symptom of a more serious conjunctivitis. If you see signs of irritation, redness, or a funky smell, have your vet take a look at it.


If your pup looks great, but she doesn’t smell all that great, there are a number of doggie towelettes and dry shampoos on the market. Some even contain moisturizers and conditioners to further enhance the health and appearance of your dog’s coat. These used after outdoor activity help remove outside allergens, dirt, and pee and poop residue. They may be very helpful in-between Grooming appointments.

But if you and your pet feel comfortable with a bath in between grooming, here are some tips for your At-home, personal bathing process. These tips are taken from Taste of the Wild at

Remeber, your Groomer can show you some great techniques to help reduce the stress of the grooming process.

1. Stay calm and bring on the treats. The goal is to make grooming a positive, stress-free experience for both you and your pet. Start with short sessions and reward your pet for staying calm with praise or high-value treats. To help your dog or cat feel relaxed, try to restrain them as little as possible. You may have to stop and try again the next day if your pet shows signs of discomfort or stress.

2. Brush your pet regularly. Just a few minutes of brushing helps remove dirt, excess hair, tangles and mats while distributing oils that help keep the skin and coat healthy. Some pets may need more brushing than others, especially those with long hair and double-coated pets that “blow coat,” or shed their undercoats seasonally. Regular brushing means there’s less hair to vacuum, fewer lint rollers needed for your wardrobe and less chance of stepping on a soggy hairball in your bare feet.

3. Stay on top of hair mats. Matted hair can pull at the skin, causing pain and irritation. Mats can occur more often in older, arthritic pets who can no longer stretch to groom hard-to-reach places. Matted hair also provides less insulation, making it harder for pets to stay warm in the colder months. When removing mats, avoid using scissors because it can be easy to accidentally cut your pet’s skin. If the mats are small, hold the hair between the skin and mat to prevent pulling at the skin. With a metal comb, start on the outside of the mat and gently pick it apart, working your way to the center. For larger mats, leave it to your groomer or veterinarian (if your pet needs sedation).

4. Schedule regular baths. Some pets need baths more often than others. Cats, for the most part, are usually pretty good at preening themselves. But other pets, especially those with skin problems, may benefit from regular baths.

5. Choose a shampoo made for pets. Human shampoo has a different pH than dog and cat skin requires, but pet shampoos are designed to be a perfect match. If your pet has a greasy coat, is extremely itchy or has other skin conditions, your veterinarian may recommend a therapeutic shampoo that can help.

NOTE: Unless directed by a Vet, try not to bath more than every 2 weeks. This gives the dog's skin time to regain the necessary oils it needs to stay healthy. Also, alternating shampoo one week with conditioner for the next one.

6. Don’t go for the tomato juice when skunked. A more effective alternative for that skunk-scented pet is to bathe him in a mixture of 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon mild dishwashing soap.

*NOTE: Nature's Miracle makes a great skunk shampoo that works really well. Also be very careful around eyes and face. I have found that using a washcloth with the mixture, or even some ear washes, works best on faces. PSbN

7. Trim nails regularly. Regular walks on cement roads and sidewalks can help wear down your dog’s nails. And scratching posts can help your cat remove the dead outer sheath on her claws. But most pets will need your help with their nails at some point. Without regular trimming, nails can curl back and pierce the paw pads, which can be painful and lead to infection. And when you can hear your dog’s nail clicking on the hardwood floor, it’s time for a trim. Start by handling each paw and rewarding your pet with treats or praise when she remains calm. Then begin to touch the paw with the nail trimmer and follow with a reward. Work you way up to trimming a single nail. Then gradually trim more nails as your pet allows. Although you can trim nails with a Dremel, a clipper makes less noise and is usually faster.

NOTE: NEVER use a Dremel on cat nails, they are too thin and brittle for this. Also if nails get too long the toes can start crossing over on each other, causing issues with walking. Nail trimming or "buffing" is especially important for the elderly and dogs with health issues.

8. Avoid the quick. You’ll want to avoid cutting the quick, the pink area visible in the middle of white nails that contains nerves and blood vessels. If your pet has dark nails, trim the very tip of each nail and continue making small cuts until you see a black dot in the center of the nail. That’s your cue that you’re nearing the quick. If you accidentally cut the quick and the nail starts bleeding, pat the area with styptic powder or cornstarch. Your veterinarian will be happy to demonstrate proper nail trimming technique for you. Of course, if your pet needs a special cut or is stressed by at-home grooming, it may be better to leave it to a professional groomer.

NOTE: Holding the dog's foot so you can see the pad helps sometimes with seeing how far you can go as well. Cats are easier because you just trim the part to the curve where it meets the fat, pink part. Also, using a Dermel, sometimes works better with minimizing the chance of "quicking" a nail. If this does happen, you can use Baking Soda or flour, if yo don't have a store bought quick stop on hand. But if you feel it's less stress for everyone, all around, contact your Groomer or Vet for nail maintenance in between appointments.

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