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How to groom your dog at home

In partnership with Dogs for Good

  • 26, May 2022
  • Read time: 15 mins

Grooming is a basic need for every dog, and we've partnered with Dogs for Good to guide you through how to groom your furry friend.

In this useful guide, we'll give you top tips on how to clean your dog's ears, teeth and eyes, look after their nails, brush their coat, and how to bathe them.

A wet dog after being groomed wrapped in a towel

Why is it important to groom my dog?

Dog grooming plays a vital role in the general health and hygiene of your dog. What they need and how often will depend on their breed. General hygiene like teeth brushing, ear cleaning, nail trimming and coat brushing are essential for all dogs. 

While grooming your dog, it's a great time to do a 5 minute dog health check. It's an opportunity for you to check their eyes, ears, teeth, feet, body and weight, as well as checks for fleas or ticks. Our in-house vet, Martin, also suggests that you “check for lumps or bumps. If any are found, ask your vet to examine your dog.”

If you have any doubts, contact a local groomer or your vet. If you're a MORE THAN pet insurance customer, you can contact the qualified vets at vetfone for round the clock support.

Brushing your dog

Brushing your dog's coat will

  • Prevent it from becoming matted
  • Remove any dead hair
  • Remove any dirt
  • Remove any dandruff or dry skin
  • Stimulate the natural oils in their skin and fur
  • Keep their coat glossy and healthy.

Dog brushing equipment

There are plenty of brushes out there to choose from. Your dog's coat type will decide which brush they need and how many different types:

  • Bristle brushes are ok for most hair types but are preferable for shorter coats. The bristles vary in softness and size. A short, soft bristle is best for dogs with a shorter coat. Long, firm bristles are best for dogs with thicker hair.
  • Wire pin brushes are best for dogs with medium to long hair. These brushes have metal pins with rounded ends for comfort. The longer the pins, the better the brush is for dogs with thicker coats.
  • Slicker brushes are best for medium to long-haired dogs. They have short, fine hairs on a flat brush and are suitable for removing tangles.
  • Rakes, mat breakers and shedding tools work best for dogs that shed and have thick, double coats. They are great for removing larger mats and excess fur from coats and undercoats.
  • Curry brushes or combs remove dirt and debris and can be a good tool to use before you brush your dog.
  • Flea combs are always handy to have in the house in case you need to remove fleas.

Helpful tips when brushing your dog

  • Introduce your dog to a brush when they are a puppy so they get used to the sensation from a young age 
  • Stay calm and be patient, it can be a strange feeling at first 
  • Don't force your dog to stay still if they are uncomfortable. If they're wriggling away a lot, try to lure them into a settle or stay with some treats to make it a positive experience
  • Once your dog is comfortable with the brush, be sure to follow the hair rather than going against it
  • Take your time - it can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your dog.

What are the sensitive areas on a dog?

It’s important you're aware that there are sensitive areas on dogs. On these parts, shown in red and yellow, be careful and have a lighter touch when grooming. Where we have shown green, these are areas that dogs are usually fine. Your dog's sensitive spots will be unique, so always try to be careful.

A visual infographic of a dog showing its sensitive areas in green, yellow and red. Yellow are tummy and paws and red are head, tail and genitals. Yellow and red areas are sensitive. Green areas are chest and back and are less sensitive.

Bathing your dog

How often should you wash your dog?

It's important not to over bathe your dog. It can dry out their skin, which can cause itching and flaking. Much like human hair, if you shampoo your dog’s coat too often it will remove their natural oils and make it look dull.

If your dog gets muddy or dirty a lot, they may require more frequent bathing. Be mindful of your dog's coat (dependent on their breed), and if possible just use water or a wet cloth to wash the dirt off instead of using shampoo.

Our in-house vet, Martin, says “there are no rules on how often you should wash your dog. I shampoo my dog, Benson, when he’s smelly, which is usually when he’s rolled in something!”

What you need for dog bathing

  • Dog-friendly shampoo will help your dog be squeaky clean after bath time. You can find this at your local pet store or online. Be sure to look for a soap-free shampoo that has a neutral fragrance. Most importantly, it must be specifically created for dogs to make sure it doesn't harm their coat or skin.
  • Hose and outside tub for al fresco bathing. If your dog is happy to have their bath outside and they're a larger breed that is difficult to lift, this is a good option. Be sure to check the temperature of the water in the hose isn't too cold.
  • Shower head for your bathtub can make bathing your dog much easier.
  • Non-slip bathmats are great to pop on the floor of the tub to help your dog stay safe if they move around.

Do you groom a dog before or after a bath?

It's always best to brush your dog while they're dry to try and remove any knots or tangles, plus any loose fur and dirt. It may be harder to remove any tangles while their fur is wet.

It's also a good idea to trim your dog's nails before a bath, as it will help to remove any excess dirt build up.

Helpful tips when introducing your dog to bathing

It's important to get your dog used to the bath and being wet from as young as possible. 

To help reduce any stress they may have, give your dog lots of the things they love when in the bath, such as their favourite treats, so they grow to have a positive association with the tub. You can also try putting your dog in the bath while it's empty to get them used to the feel and sounds of it.

Cleaning your dog’s eyes

Why would you clean your dog's eyes?

Many dogs will only need their eyes cleaned if they develop an eye infection or they are unwell. Some breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, are more prone to eye discharge. These dogs may need regular eye cleans to keep them comfortable and reduce the risk of infection.

How to clean your dog's eyes

If your dog's eyes look like they need a wipe, make sure you have these items to hand:

  • A soft cloth or sponge made damp with room temperature water
  • Cotton balls soaked in warm water are best if your dog has sensitive eyes.

It's best to make sure you use something soft and avoid things such as paper towels, napkins, and cotton buds to avoid hurting your dog. Eye washes or flushes should only be used if they've been prescribed by your vet.

Helpful tips when cleaning your dog's eyes

Approach your dog calmly and gently wipe around their eyes to remove any dirt or mucus. Never wipe their actual eye.

Our in-house vet, Martin, says to "watch out for redness and discharge if your dog’s eye is closed or they are rubbing it. Always see a vet as soon as possible if you spot any of these signs, or if you are concerned.”

Brushing your dog’s teeth

Why do you need to clean your dog's teeth?

Keeping your dog's teeth clean is important. If you don't, their teeth can develop plaque build-up and dental disease. Dental disease is common in dogs and can be very uncomfortable for them.

How to clean your dog's teeth

You can buy dog toothpaste and a brush from your vet or local pet store. We recommend enzymatic toothpaste which breaks down plaque and reduces bad breath.

Helpful teeth cleaning tip from our in-house vet

Our in-house vet, Martin, recommends that you “begin when your dog is young, so they are used to it early on in life”.

Cleaning your dog’s ears

Why do you need to clean your dog's ears?

For many dogs, ear cleaning is an important part of their grooming routine. Some dogs experience wax and dirt build up more than others. If your dog does develop lots of build-up in their ears, it's best to keep them clean to help prevent ear infections. This is also a great opportunity for you to check for any issues or infections.

How to clean your dog's ears

You won't need to buy a lot of tools to keep your dog's ears clean at home. Many items you'll likely already have, like cotton balls or damp tissue. Your vet can help you pick the right ear cleaner for your dog depending on how much build-up they have in their ears.

Helpful ear cleaning tips

While it's important to keep an eye on your dog's ears, you should only clean them when needed. Over cleaning your dog's ears can irritate them and could lead to infections.

In most instances, our in-house vet, Martin, suggests that you “seek vets’ advice” when your dog’s ears need cleaning, or if you notice any redness or anything unusual.

Clipping your dog’s nails

Why do you need to clip your dog's nails?

Keeping your dog's nails at a comfortable length is essential to their health and hygiene. When dogs’ nails get too long, it can cause them pain across their whole body. It can lead to difficulty walking, lameness and even posture issues.

What you need for dog nail clipping

Once you're confident that you can trim your dog's nails yourself, these are the types of nail trimmers you can buy:

  • Claw-style or plier-style trimmers
  • Guillotine trimmers
  • Scissor-like trimmers
  • Filing tools.

Chat with your vet to see which style is best for your dog.

We recommend that you ask a vet or dog grooming professional to show you the correct technique first. If you cut the nails too short, you could cut the vein that runs through your dog's nail. This can cause it to bleed and can be a painful experience for your dog.

Trimming your dog's nails gives you the chance to give their paws a check too. Look at their pads, in between their toes and their dewclaw for any issues.

How often should you clip your dog's nails?

This will vary depending on what breed your dog is, some dogs will need nail clipping more than others. It also depends on how active your dog is, and what surfaces they usually walk on. Dogs who walk a lot on tarmac may naturally grind down their nails, meaning less frequent clipping is needed.

A good way to determine if your dog's nails are ready for a clip, is if you can hear them clicking when they walk on hard surfaces. As a general rule of thumb, clipping should be needed once or twice a month.

Our in-house vet, Martin, recommends that you trim your dog’s nails “when they have grown past the level of the pads. How frequently you will need to do this massively varies depending on the size of your dog, the length of their walks and the terrain walked on.”

Covering your dog should the unexpected happen

MORE THAN dog insurance has a 5 Star Defaqto Rating*, making it one of the highest quality offerings for your dog. Rest assured that your dog is in safe hands should the unexpected happen.

*Our Defaqto Rating applies to Premier £1,000, £2,000, £4,000 and £6,000, and Classic £8,000.

Take a look at our dog insurance and get a quote today

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