Updated: Mar 31
How to groom a dog at home.
I often find that many dog owners feel unsure or even intimidated by grooming their own dog. The prospect of trimming nails or cleaning ears can be scary for pet parents but left unchecked, can lead to lasting health problems down the road. This often leads owners turning to veterinarians for help which can result in a costly bill.
Dog grooming tips for beginners
Most owners agree that they would love to be able to tackle some of these things on their own but just don’t know how. Which tools to select, which products to use and how to administer said things to Fido are questions I often get asked.
With a little bit of knowledge and practice, most pet owners can tackle basic grooming and health care at home, making life easier for both the pet parent, and the pet and saving a costly trip to the vet.
Firstly, every dog should have their ears cleaned and nails trimmed bi-weekly to monthly. Active dogs can get dirt and debris build up in their ears from running through the dust, swimming and rolling around on the floor. It’s important to recognize what healthy ears look and smell like, in order to identify when something might be wrong. Always check your dog’s ears after an adventure out and about to make sure they’re clear of debris. Fluffier breeds tend to have more protection from the elements, where as short haired breeds can be a little more exposed. Some breeds, such as Bassett hounds have ears that drag in the dirt and require weekly maintenance. Ears left unchecked can lead to infections and even hearing loss, so it is very important that regular ear checks and maintenance are performed regularly to ensure your dog is living their best life.
Use an ear cleaner that is meant solely for animals and never use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as it can dry out the ear and change the PH balance, causing discomfort and lasting issues. Apply the product to a cotton makeup up pad or ball and gently wipe the inside of the ear. Never squirt the product directly into the ear and do not use a q-tip as it can poke into the ear canal and damage the eardrum. Don’t forget to take a dry pad/ball and get all the cleaner out before releasing the pet.
If your dog is uncomfortable with this procedure, practice a little bit every day by massaging the ears, flipping them over to check inside and gently handling them. This can help teach your pet that ear cleaning actually feels great! Make sure your dog is tired out first but do not try to “sneak up on them” while sleeping. Having a friend or partner hold the dog or placing them up on a sturdy surface can also be helpful.
Nail trimming is a daunting task for many pet owners. The fear of causing pain and bleeding keeps owners from attempting to tackle this themselves. Nails that grow too long can actually affect the way the dog moves and can lead to lasting pain and arthritis in the joints and ligaments of the foot. Unless your dog is extremely active and wears the nails down themselves, this will be an ongoing task for the entirety of your pet’s life.
A plier type trimmer will be the best style to select for safe nail clipping. Avoid guillotine style clippers as they are less accurate and can actually shatter the nail, causing cracks and bleeding. Dremel nail grinders are also a fantastic product to keep nails short and they have the added bonus of getting the nail shorter and smoother for less clicking on the floors and no sharp edges! Practice makes perfect so even just doing one nail a day until your dog gets used to it, is a great way to help fearful dogs and owners tackle this task.
If you accidentally clip too short, apply a styptic powder such as “Quick stop” to the bleeding nail. Flour and baking powder will also work well but avoid baking soda, as it can sting.
All the products mentioned above can be found at most pet stores and veterinary offices so consult your vet and/or groomer to find the ones that work for your pet’s specific needs.
With a little bit of practice and perseverance, you and your dog will be well on your way to including these basic grooming tasks in your routine and will ensure that both parties are living a better, healthier and stress free life together.
About the author
Amanda Roman started her career in the dog world at 15 years old as a dog groomer and has a keen interest and respect for all animals. She has a passion for educating dogs of all sizes and breeds and their human families. Amanda has been a Certified Dog Trainer / Educator for 15 years and is teaching group Dog Training Classes in Calgary. Her outgoing personality makes for super fun dog training classes for the whole family! She is also available for one-on-one Private Dog Training in the Calgary area. Sign up for dog classes today!
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