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Tips for grooming your dog at home

In partnership with Dogs for Good

  • 17, May 2021
  • Read time: 15 mins

While grooming your dog may feel like a daunting task to tackle at home, we've partnered with Dogs for Good to help.

This guide will teach you how to groom your dog comfortably at home, as well as the equipment you'll need to get it done. It covers a variety of options to give you an insight into what grooming involves and what your dog may need.

No matter what breed your dog is, they will need some form of regular grooming. Some dogs may need more grooming than others, but grooming is a basic need for every breed.

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. Regular grooms are important to give your dog good hygiene and keep them comfortable day to day.

Not only is dog grooming important for your dog's hygiene, it's a great time to do a 5 minute 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 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 support.

Where should I groom my dog at home?

When it comes to choosing a space to groom your dog at home, consider the following:

  • Where will your dog feel most comfortable?
  • Will they slip on the floor?
  • If they want to move away for a break from grooming, will they be safe to do so?
  • Is it a well-lit space?
  • How easy will it be to clean the area after?

What equipment will I need?

What equipment you need will vary depending on what type of grooming you need to do. Having these pieces of equipment close by, clean and ready to use will help:

  • Dog brushes and combs
  • Nail trimmers
  • Dog toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Dog shampoo
  • Ear care
  • A towel.

Head to a pet store or online to buy your dog grooming equipment and stay clear of human hygiene products. Let's go through the steps and what you'll need in more detail.

Key steps to grooming your dog at home

Time to get stuck in to the why, what and how of the dog grooming world.

Before you start, 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 with red, yellow and green circles to indicate the sensitive areas on a dog when grooming at home

Brushing your dog’s coat

Why

Brushing your dog's coat will:

  • Prevent it from becoming matted
  • Remove any dead hair
  • Remove any dirt
  • Remove any dandruff or dry skin
  • The motion of the brush will stimulate the natural oils in their skin and fur
  • Keeps their coats glossy and healthy.

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

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 they're comfortable with the brush, be sure to follow the hair rather than going against it. Take your time with it, it can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your dog.

Giving your dog a bath

Why

Bath time is essential to the health and hygiene of your dog's coat and skin. Giving your dog a bath will also help to clean your dog of dirt, some parasites and any loose fur.

Equipment

  • 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.


Helpful tips

Bath time can be a stressful time for both you and your dog. It is important to get them used to the bath and being wet from as young as possible. To help reduce their stress, give them lots of the things they love, such as their favourite treats, so they grow to have a positive association with the tub.

Our internal 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!”

As important as baths are, be careful 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.

Cleaning your dog’s eyes

Why

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.

Equipment

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.

There are a few things we recommend you avoid using when wiping your dog's eyes:

  • Paper towels
  • Napkins
  • Cotton buds
  • Shampoos
  • Soaps
  • Eyewashes and drops unless you have a prescription from your vet.


Helpful tips

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

Our internal vet Martin says that you should 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.”

Cleaning your dog’s teeth

Why

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 is very uncomfortable for them.

Equipment

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 tips

Our internal 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

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.

Equipment

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 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 internal vet Martin suggests that you “seek vets’ advice” when your dog’s ears need cleaning.

Clipping your dog’s nails

Why

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 bodies. It can lead to difficulty walking, lameness and even posture issues.

Equipment

Once you're confident that you can trim your dog's nails, 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.

Helpful tips

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.

Our internal 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.”

Be generous with rewards and be patient

Grooming is often a strange experience for puppies and dogs that haven’t experienced it before. The best way to get your dog comfortable with all kinds of grooming is to be patient and give lots of rewards. Introduce new aspects of grooming slowly and using positive reinforcement techniques. By giving your dog their favourite treat or toy when grooming, they will start to see grooming as a good, fun thing to do.

What should I do if my dog is afraid of grooming?

If your dog is afraid of grooming, take it back to basics. Without using any equipment, teach your dog that hands mean good things. Start to touch your dog in the places you need to groom them, like their paws and ears. If they let you, reward them with their favourite treats.

Once your dog is comfortable with you touching them, you can start to introduce grooming. Start slow and reward often so they start to build a positive association with grooming. The younger you start, the quicker your dog can get used to grooming.

Remember that every dog is different. Some may love to have their coat brushed and others may take longer to adjust to the feeling. It's important to stay calm and take it slow.

Should I shave or cut my dog’s coat at home?

For general health, hygiene and wellbeing, you should do the above grooming on a regular basis. For trimming and shaving your dog, their breed will determine whether they need it.

Generally, it's not advised to clip or shave your dog's coat without training. Groomers have the correct tools and knowledge to groom your dog's sensitive areas.

If your dog needs a trim or you want to make their coat thinner due to hot weather, you can do some basic clipping. You’ll need a clipper, comb, and slicker brush. You can buy clipper blades, combs, and brushes at any pet store. When purchasing, do your research. Talk to your vet or a groomer about which types of tools are best suited for your dog's coat. 

Our internal vet Martin suggests that “you should never use scissors in case you accidentally cut your pet and create a wound.”

How to find a good groomer

You may prefer to take your dog to a groomer, rather than do it all yourself. It's important to find a reputable, trained groomer that knows your dog's breed. There a few ways to help you choose the right groomer:

  • Ask your vet for recommendations on good local groomers.
  • Ask your friends or family members who they go to with their dogs.
  • Look for groomers who are members of trade bodies - this is a good sign that they have the right qualifications.

When you have found a groomer, you can ask:

  • About qualifications - the most recognised qualification in the UK is the City and Guilds.
  • For a tour of the premises – a good, reputable groomer would be happy to show you around.
  • If they groom your dog's breed often - this can be reassuring as they will know your dog's specific grooming needs.

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 £4,000 or £12,000 and Classic £8,000.

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