You might be feeling both excited and anxious about grooming your puppy for the first time — either at home or at a professional groomer's. Here, our Baltimore vets explain the importance of puppy grooming and offer tips on how to make the experience as stress-free as possible for both of you.
Grooming Your Puppy for the First Time
Since puppies have excellent memories, they easily recall their first experiences — including grooming. That's why it's essential to ensure their first grooming session for your puppy goes as smoothly and as stress-free as possible.
Begin by getting your puppy comfortable with you touching their fur, ears, teeth, paws and nails as early on in their lives as possible. Do this all the time before introducing a brush. You'll also want to get them accustomed to water by dipping their paws into a warm tub of water just above their paws. Gradually make the water deeper each time you try dipping them.
If you already know which type of puppy shampoo you or the professional groomer will use, allow your puppy to get used to its smell by letting them sniff it from your fingers. You might even try putting a small amount on their paws.
When your puppy has become used to being handled, you can start brushing and combing their fur at home. This will help them get used to the tools a professional groomer might use (a comb and brush).
Many pet parents ask us, "When can I take my puppy to the groomer's?" Once your puppy is roughly 16 weeks old, this is the time to try a full grooming session or book a visit with a professional groomer. This will also fall roughly on the same schedule that they should be done with their first round of puppy vaccinations.
How to Groom Your Puppy at Home
As mentioned earlier, grooming basics involve a lot of touching and being around water, so start getting your puppy used to these as early as possible. That way, they won't be as nervous or anxious when it's time for their first grooming session. Here are some tips on how to groom a puppy.
Brushing Your Puppy
Here we have listed the steps for how you can brush your puppy at home:
- When your puppy is used to being held, touched, and exposed to water introduce the actual grooming process easily (not yanking and going immediately for the Knotts) start by letting them sniff the brush and comb then gently touch the brush to their fur so they can get adjusted to the feeling of the brush. Do this for about two minutes at a time several times a day.
- After about 5 days of getting your young canine friend used to the brush and comb, slowly begin grooming them.
- Implement a grooming routine and be consistent, puppies respond well to routines. Before grooming them, play with them first for a few minutes to associate the start of this routine with fun (it also makes them tired and calmer for grooming). And select one quiet and calm location where you will groom them such as a matt in the bathroom.
- When you start brushing begin with larger body parts such as the back and sides and gradually work your way to harder to reach and more sensitive parts such as their belly, head, and legs. If you come across a knot don't yank, place your hand on the skin (to prevent the tugging feeling), and comb the knot with firm, quick strokes.
Every puppy is different in terms of how often they have to be brushed and combed. If they have longer fur that gets tangled easily you should brush them daily to avoid knots and matts, otherwise, you can brush them once a week or so.
Bathing Your Puppy
Here is how you can give your puppy a bath:
- Fill a tub, sink, or basin with a few inches of warm water
- Thoroughly wet their fur all over (you can use a jug, hose, or pitcher) and apply a shampoo specially formulated for puppies and lather it all over their back, legs, armpits, belly, and groin, but do not put water or shampoo on their head or face because it can irritate places such as their eyes, mouth, and ears. Never use human shampoo on your dog because it is not good for your pup's skin.
- Thoroughly rinse off the shampoo, until the water starts running clear using a jug, hose, or pitcher.
- Gently pat your puppy down with a warm, dry towel and keep your puppy warm until they are completely dry. You can do this by keeping them in a warm room and providing them with a warm bed or blanket to lay on.
Ideally, you should give your puppy a bath once a month unless your puppy gets dirty and covered in mud, then you might have to bathe them more frequently. If your pup has sensitive skin you can wait a bit longer in between bathing sessions, you can also ask your veterinarian how often they recommend giving your puppy a bath.
Hair Cuts and Nail Clippings
Some people are nervous when it comes to clipping their puppy's nails or cutting their fur, if this is you, you can always take your puppy to a professional groomer for this task because it is essential for your furry companion's health that it is done right.
There are specific puppy haircuts for each breed and you can ask your veterinarian about the cut you should give your pooch and which scissors you should use.
When you are clipping your puppy nails use specific dog nail clippers and only cut little bits at a time leaving them a bit longer because if you accidentally cut them too short your puppy will bleed and it will make them very uncomfortable. So if you do not think you are able to perform this task have it done professionally. Puppies require more frequent nail trims than adult dogs, and the rate at which they grow depends on their breed so ask your vet how often your pup's nails should be clipped.
How to Keep Your Puppy Calm During Grooming
Grooming puppies is no small feat. This task requires both groomer and puppy to remain calm for the duration of the session. Here are some tips on how to achieve that:
- Start getting your puppy used to being touched, brushed, and wet as early as possible
- Stay calm and talk in a relaxing voice
- Provide your puppy with treats and reward good behavior
- Establish a set grooming routine and schedule for your puppy
- Play with them beforehand to calm them down and to associate the start of a grooming session with playtime
- Take breaks when needed and move at your puppy's pace
Benefits of Grooming Your Dog
There are many benefits of regularly grooming your dog here are just a few:
- Your puppy will smell better
- You can clear away dead skin and shedding fur
- It provides you or a professional with the opportunity to find fleas, mites, or other skin conditions
- Regular nail trims keep their claws from getting too long which could cause pain, bad posture, and bone deformations
- Getting rid of mats that can cause your puppy pain and discomfort
- Your pooch looks and feels better in general
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.