Why Should You Do It?
Dog grooming at home may be something you’ve thought about doing before. Keeping your dog clean and groomed is a crucial part of being a responsible dog parent. You wouldn’t let yourself go too scruffy and dirty, so why should your dog?
The biggest issue with dog grooming at home is that usually it’s not easy. Dogs are inherently unpredictable, and that is magnified when it comes to bath times or getting their hair trimmed. But don’t be afraid, it can be done. With the right approach and a few key things to remember, you can get your dog spick and span in the comfort of your own home.
You may be looking to save some money, and hey! I know how expensive a trip to groomers can be. Even a small dog can cost upwards of €80 for a full treatment. That’s not exactly a small amount of money, and certainly would be nicer in your back pocket than anyone else’s. Getting them groomed several times a year also adds up to the cost of a nice holiday, or at least a trip down the country.
Grooming your dog at home also offers an added benefit of bonding with your dog. You can encourage them and make them feel better as you go, and once you have done it once it will become easier in future. It also serves a great test of your training skills to see if you can keep your dog calm and still while you get them cleaned up. If they are nervous in the groomers or around strangers it may also be easier for your dog to be groomed in the comfort of their own home.
So now I know why I should groom my dog at home. How do I go about my dog grooming at home, you ask? Okay, let’s get to it.
The first thing you should do is gather your tools. You don’t want to have your dog standing in the bath before you realise you left something out in the shed! So, depending on what treatments you plan on giving your dog, get any clippers, shampoos, towels, brushes and combs you think you might need. It’s better to have too many tools than too few!
The next step is secure your dog; no matter how well trained Milo is he might bolt at the site or sound of a hair clipper. You can get special dog leads for bath time with a suction cup that sticks to the bathroom tiles to keep them in place. If possible, it’s always better to have a second pair of hands to hold your dog or to hand you tools while you work. A second person could also help by calming your dog and being on hand with a steady supply of treats and praise for them.
Speaking of treats, you should have quite a few around to help your dog get through this. It is quite a stressful time for a dog to be standing still for very long while you work all around their body so reward them periodically, and remember, go slow. There is no need to rush your dog and raise their stress levels any higher than they need to be, it should be a comfortable process for the both of you.
How You Can Do It
Okay so now you’re prepared, you have your dog secured in the bathtub and your friend is close-by to help you get through this, you’re doing great! So what’s next?
To make your life easier once you begin to trim hair, the first thing you should do is brush or comb your dog’s fur. Combing will help to release any hair that is matted and soften the coat to make trimming a quicker and simpler process. Use a brush that is recommended for your dog’s fur type, if it is a long-haired dog you would probably need a strong, wired brush. Shorter haired dogs need only soft bristled brushes to remove and dead hair caught up in their coat.
Any matted areas that can’t be combed out should be cut out at this stage. Don’t wait until you are halfway through trimming the hair to realise you have to stop and get the scissors out, it will slow you down at a crucial point in the grooming process and make life harder for you and your dog.
The key to dog grooming at home is to not try and get everything over and done with in a set window of time. It is best to try and work a little bit at a time, and to let your dog rest and relax when they appear to be getting worked up. Try to work in increments, go fast when your dog seems comfortable, and slow down or stop when they seem like they need a rest.
You should start to trim their hair starting at the neck and move down their body towards the tail. Move slowly and methodically, being careful to avoid any sensitive areas such as the eyes or anus as they can get injured if you’re not careful.
The tough areas to work with will be the eyes, ears and the paws. The golden rule around these areas is that if you don’t feel confident in what you are doing, just leave it. The vet or groomer can take care of those kinds of places, even though by grooming at home we want to avoid the groomer. An eye trim will be much quicker and cheaper than a full body groom and you can be sure your dog won’t get hurt.
If you are confident though, the second golden rule (silver rule?!) is to be VERY careful. Don’t make any sudden movements or go for a sensitive area while your dog is not completely calm.
Eye gunk can be cleaned off with a wet cloth, working from the corner of the eye outwards along the bottom eyelid. Any hair around the eyes should be but with a scissors being careful to always point the tip of the scissors away from the eye itself.
Around this area, in general, less is more. If you are not experienced in grooming your dog do not risk injuring their eye just to get a little bit more hair cut. A trip to the vet will cost both of you a lot more money and pain than you are saving by doing your dog grooming at home.
When cleaning the ears, the rule of thumb is you only clean what you can see. Don’t go deep into your dog’s ear canal looking for dirt you may think is there. This is a very sensitive area for your dog so monitor their comfort levels when you work in this fashion. Use ear cleaning solution you can get from any pet supply store, being sure to warm the solution up if it is particularly cold.
Get a cotton ball and apply some solution, raise your dog’s ear flap and wipe away any wax you can see at the opening of the ear. Don’t be too vigorous here and once you have gotten the majority of the wax out, use a dry cotton ball to fry out the ear. It is important not to leave the inside of the ear wet because once the flap is closed moisture can cause yeast or bacterial infections to proliferate.
I’m just going to get this out of the way, if you feel that there is ANY chance you may be bitten by your dog, do not attempt to clean their teeth. It’s just not worth the pain for either of you.
Get your dog comfortable with your hands being around its mouth by rubbing their teeth in a circular motion while their mouth is closed. It’s best to start this practice while they are a puppy or if not to begin it slowly and work your way up to more confidence. If your dog is okay with this, then you can move on to cleaning their teeth directly.
Get special doggy toothpaste, human toothpaste is like super-hot chili to your dog, and fluoride can poison them too. Apply a small amount to the teeth, and using a finger toothbrush, gently rub their teeth, starting at the canines and working your way back towards the molars. Be mindful of any growling or attempts to pull away, let your dog rest and make sure it is not too stressful for them.
Moving on to the nails now, this is another area where caution and working slowly is important. Don’t try and cut right down to the desired level in one go, as you can nick the blood vessel in their nail and cause pain and bleeding. It is better to work in increments to slowly cut the nail down to the right length.
You should know when your dog’s nails need to be cut, because you can hear them. No, sadly your dog won’t tell you in plain English! If you can hear the nails make noise when they touch the ground while your dog walks, they probably need to be trimmed.
It is not good to leave the nails long for extended periods as they can cause problems, by cutting into the paw and causing irritation, or by twisting the toe and causing injury.
There are two types of cutters, a guillotine type and a scissors type, the scissors type is easier to use and more effective. Work from the outside of the nail inwards and move slowly to get down to the desired level. If you accidentally clip the blood vessel, wash with some antiseptic solution and apply pressure with a cotton ball.
Now all of the grooming itself is done, you can go into your regular routine of bathing your dog. This can still be a difficult task and most dogs don’t take too kindly to being soaked in the bath. The key here is to avoid any areas that will cause discomfort, the eyes and ears are again the main pain points.
The best way to begin is to soak your dog with some lukewarm water from the shower head, hopefully you have one that detaches from the wall but if not, you can use a jug of warm water to help wet your dog’s fur too.
It is best to start from the neck and work your way down towards the tail. Once they are nice and wet you can get your favourite doggy shampoo and begin to lather it into their fur, again stopping short at the neck to keep the eyes and ears protected from the bubbles.
Once your dog is nice and bubbly, you can go over them again with the warm water and rinse away any excess shampoo from their fur. Repeat this process as needed, again longer haired dogs may require several cycles to get them squeaky clean.
How Often Should You Do It?
Depending on your dog, you may need to groom them every 6-8 weeks or more often for long haired dogs. Doing the work at home will save you a lot of money in the long run and the more practice you both get the easier it will be to maintain your dog in the best possible shape.
Shorter-haired breeds may just need a quick brush and maybe a nail clipping in that time but should also be bathed regularly to prevent any infections that can breed in the folds of their skin.
Teeth cleaning is recommended daily, especially early in a puppy’s life to prevent plaque or tartar build up later on. The earlier you get your dog comfortable with teeth cleaning, the easier it will be in the long run.
What You Should Remember
You should remember that this process may be totally new to your dog, and they are not used to their friend and companion working around those sensitive areas of their body for extended periods. The key to making it all work is to go slow, work in increments and monitor your dog.
Let them rest in times of high stress and go at their pace, not yours. A steady supply of treats and plenty of praise is the best way forward. Reward them for being a champion and letting you get them cleaned up yourself.
They will need time to adjust and get used to all of the things you’re trying to do and you may not get every area of their body groomed in the first, second, third or fourth time. It’s important to stay patient yourself and work your way up to level of comfort where it is a breeze for both of you. I’m not suggesting your dog will ever be excited for bath time (that’s just crazy!) but with enough practice the whole process can be smooth and relaxing for the both of you.
So there you have it, a professional-grade dog grooming done in the comfort of your own home. How will you spend your saved money? Lots of treats for your favourite pup? You should think about it!
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