All dogs need regular grooming to stay clean, healthy and happy. The grooming process consists of brushing the coat, cleaning the ears, bathing the dog, and trimming the nails. Extensive grooming can also include brushing the teeth and cutting the hair. Unless you are experienced with cutting dog hair, a professional groomer should do the clipping.
Basic grooming, without a haircut, will require the following tools, which you can purchase at any pet store or at larger general retailers:
- Dematting rake – for matted fur
- Stiff coarse brush – for top coat
- Slicker wire brush – for undercoat
- Ear wash
- Cotton balls
- Nail clippers and styptic powder
- Hair trap – for tub drain
- Rubber bath mat (non-slip)
- Dog shampoo – mild, tearless
- Conditioner (optional)
- Hair dryer (optional)
The first grooming step is to brush the dog’s coat. If the fur is matted, the dematting rake will cut through the larger mats with minimal pulling on the dog’s skin. Use the coarse or stiff brush to remove loose hair of the top coat. Finally, the slicker brush will remove loose undercoat. During the brushing, inspect the dog’s skin for lumps, wounds, hot spots, or fleas and ticks. Consult your veterinarian for treatment if any of these conditions are present.
The next step is to clean the ears. Follow the instructions on the ear wash to clean dirt and debris from the dog’s ears. Inspect the ears for excessive dark debris, excessive heat, or redness. Also be aware of any strong odor coming from the ear. Again, consult your dog’s veterinarian if any abnormality of the ears.
The dog is now ready to be bathed. The non-slip bath mat placed on the tub bottom will give the dog a secure footing and help him remain standing during the bath. A hair trap will prevent the excess hair from clogging the tub drain. Gently place a cotton ball into the opening of each ear to prevent water from getting into the ear canal. The temperature of the water should be lukewarm – neither too warm nor too cool. Starting with the legs and working up the body, wet the dog thoroughly all the way to the skin. Wet the face and neck last, as this is usually the least favorite parts for the dog to tolerate. Be careful not to get water into the nose or the mouth.
Once the dog is thoroughly wet, apply a small portion of the shampoo and lather the head, neck, body, and legs according to the instructions on the shampoo bottle. Do not forget the stomach, chest, genital, and anal areas. Using fingertips, massage the lather all the way to the skin. On the feet, gently work the lather in between the toes and pads on the bottom of the paws. Check these areas for hair mats or burs. Rinse thoroughly beginning with the face and working back to the tail. It is imperative to remove all traces of the shampoo, so continue to rinse until the water runs clear. If the dog is especially dirty, the shampoo can be reapplied and repeated as necessary, always making sure to rinse completely. A conditioner can be applied according to manufacturer’s instructions for longhaired dogs or dogs with a dry coat. As with the shampoo, the conditioner should be rinsed completely until the water runs clear.
Towel dry the dog and watch for shaking! Remove the cotton balls from the ears and gently dry around the ears and eyes. While the feet are still damp, trim the dog’s nails. Use extreme caution in doing this. If the nails are white, the quick can be easily seen. If the nails are dark or black, the quick is not as easily determined. However, turning the paw upside down will help. Do not trim the nail too close to the quick as this is painful and the nail will bleed. Should you accidentally clip the nail into the quick and it bleeds, apply a small amount of the styptic powder. Professional groomers and veterinarians will also trim dog nails for those who do not wish to attempt this part of the grooming process. Nails should be trimmed on a regular basis to keep the quick short.
The dog can be dried using a hairdryer, if the dog will allow it. Use low heat and low speed on the dryer to avoid frightening and overheating the dog. Be careful not to expose the dog to drafts until he is completely dry. Once the fur is completely dry, a final brush out with the slicker brush will fluff and add luster to the coat. Finishing touches such as groomer’s cologne, nail polish, or a brightly colored bandanna can be added for fun.
Brushing in between baths will remove dead hair, stimulate skin oils, and reduce shedding. Grooming can be beneficial and enjoyable for both owner and dog. Remember to be patient with your dog until he learns to tolerate the process. Regular grooming, along with a good diet, exercise, and regular check-ups by a veterinarian, can keep your dog healthy, happy, and clean!