Grooming can be a great opportunity to get some bonding time in with your dog, and can help keep him or her looking and feeling their best. Our Baltimore vets offer some advice on at-home dog grooming.
Grooming for Dogs
Your dog’s grooming needs will be largely dependent on her breed and lifestyle. Typically, longer haired will need more grooming than shorthair breeds. Dogs who spend lots of time outdoors will require more grooming than couch potato pooches.
However, all dogs can benefit from grooming basics: bathing, brushing, nail trimming and (depending on the breed) haircuts.
Before bringing your dog into the room, have all your grooming tools ready. Preparing well will help you both remain calm throughout the grooming process.
Speak to your dog in warm, calm tones and allow him or her to safely sniff and explore clippers, brushes and other tools. Wait until your dog is calm to begin grooming, and have treats handy to reward good behavior. The key to a successful grooming session is staying positive, calm and patient.
Remove dirt and debris from your dog’s coat and keep their skin healthy by giving him a nice, soapy bath. This aspect of grooming comes with the caveat that bathing your dog too frequently can damage hair follicles, increase risk of fungal or bacterial infections and cause skin irritation.
Your dog’s specific bathing schedule will be determined by how dirty he gets, and which type of fur he has. That said, bathing him one to three times a month with warm water and a shampoo specially formulated for dogs should be sufficient (your own shampoo may cause skin irritation).
If your dog’s fur is very long or curly, conditioners and detanglers formulated for dogs work well. Use as directed.
If you find your dog is nervous around water, start slowly. Try standing him in a dry bathtub and offering a treat for good behavior. From here, gradually progress to having him stand in a dry bath as you clean him with a wet sponge. Incrementally move towards giving your dog a full bath as he stands in water.
You may find that your dog loves being brushed. If so, one of the hardest parts of your work is done. For most breeds, a regular weekly brushing will help remove dead hair from your dog’s coat, preventing skin irritation and matting. Bonus: This will also help to reduce the amount of fur your dog sheds around the house.
If your dog has an active lifestyle or spends a significant amount of time outdoors, she may need to be brushed more frequently. You may only need to brush your short-haired pup once a month.
Did you know that there are nail clippers specially designed for dogs? Along with shampoo and conditioner, pick up one of these and start to trim your dog’s nails when he’s young - this will help you learn to be more confident and your dog will probably tolerate having his nails clipped as he ages.
If your dog doesn’t like having his paws touched, work up to nail trimming by gently stroking his feet while he gets used to the feeling. Once you find your dog tolerates having his feet touched, start by trimming a single nail. As he becomes less anxious and learns good grooming manners, reward good behavior by offering treats and praise.
Take nail trimming slow to start, even if this means only clipping one nail during each attempt. If you’re not comfortable trimming your dog’s nails yourself (or if your dog isn’t able to tolerate it), consider hiring a qualified professional to do it.
Different breeds will have different needs regarding haircuts. Talk to your Baltimore vet or a professional groomer to learn exactly how often your dog should get a haircut - or if at all - and how best to do it.
Begin at-home haircuts by using good quality dog shampoo to bathe your dog, then towel dry and brush her. With sharp scissors, trim the fur around her face and feet. Use electric clippers on the rest of her body.
If your dog is fidgety or anxious, or if you’d prefer to avoid the mess of cutting your dog’s hair yourself, you may want to take your dog to a professional groomer.
At Falls Road Animal Hospital, we love helping to keep your pets looking and feeling clean, healthy and neat - whether you need a mid-winter pampering session or a trim to help him or her stay cool and comfortable in the summer heat.
Plus, we have all the tools necessary and are trained to keep even anxious dogs relaxed throughout the grooming process.
Grooming Nervous or Anxious Dogs
Grooming is a vital aspect of your dog’s well-being. Excessively long nails, matted fur and goopy ears can lead to serious health issues if left unattended.
From bathing, brushing and ear cleaning to nail trimming, you may quickly start to dread grooming if your dog is nervous or anxious about the grooming process.
Here are just a few tips that may help your dog relax and enjoy the grooming process:
- Ensure your dog gets lots of exercise before you start to groom him or her.
- Positive reinforcement works wonders. Offer treats for good behavior.
- Dog parents know their dogs love to be pet, so keep this in mind when you bathe your pup. Dole out the pats and hugs throughout the grooming session to let your pup know that everything is okay and that they don’t need to be afraid.
- Is your dog very nervous? You may want to think about using a calming dog pheromone diffuser to bathe your room in a non-sedative, odorless and synthetic hormone to help your dog relax. Speak to your vet to learn more.
- Dab a calming aromatherapy oil (such as lavender oil) on your fingers as your pet your dog and run your hands through their fur while you bathe them.
When combined with regular exercise and annual examinations including vaccines and parasite prevention, basic grooming will help you keep your dog looking and feeling their very best.