Dog Grooming Guide
Authored by Tractor Supply Company
Authored by Tractor Supply Company
Grooming your dog is about more than the occasional bath and brush — it’s a vital part of their physical and mental well-being. Working dogs especially need regular upkeep to help keep their coats, skin and nails in tip-top shape.
“There are numerous health benefits to grooming a dog, especially a working dog,” says Rachael L. Currao, DVM. “Matted fur can be very uncomfortable, and, in some cases, limit range of motion, depending on the location.”
Do-it-yourself dog grooming is easily accomplished at home. An established routine helps keep your hound healthy and builds a strong human-dog bond.
“Bonding time between the owner and dog is a very important part of grooming, as long as both the owner and dog enjoy the process,” adds Dr. Currao.
Dog grooming goes beyond adding extra swag in your dog’s wag — it’s also a significant factor in their health and happiness. Reasons to establish a grooming routine include:
Some dogs love grooming, while others don’t. These dog grooming tips can help make cautious dogs more comfortable.
Regular brushing is one of the best things you can do for your dog’s hygiene and happiness. It gives you a chance to spend one-on-one time together, and it also benefits their health by:
Different dogs have different brushing requirements. After all, the needs of an active, working dog are different than the needs of a lap dog. No matter what kind of coat and lifestyle they have, brushing your dog a few times a week is good practice. If your pup has tangles, mats and a dull-looking coat, they need some TLC. You can’t over-brush a dog, and many canines find it a soothing part of their routine.
The wrong brush can land you in the doghouse. To ensure effectiveness (and your dog’s enjoyment), use a brush matched to your dog’s fur type. Common dog brushes include:
For the most effective brushing, work from top to tail and move in the direction of their coat and away from their skin. Use a light touch on sensitive areas, like the ears and belly. Your dog should find brushing pleasant and soothing; pay attention to their reaction and adjust accordingly.
Matted fur can pull at a dog’s skin, causing pain and irritation. Preventing and removing mats is essential, especially in working dogs where debris can build up in their fur after a day outside or on the farm.
“Mud, dirt or other debris caked on their fur can traumatize the underlying skin and cause ulcers or wounds. The mat also doesn't allow air flow to the skin and can lead to moisture retention against the skin and wounds,” says Dr. Currao.
Mats also give your dog less insulation in cold weather and can hide parasites, like fleas. Follow these tips to remove mats from your working dog’s fur:
Mats occur close to the skin. It’s very easy to accidentally cut your dog when using scissors to remove a knot, which can lead to stitches or an infection. Try dog clippers, or, for the toughest tangles, go to a professional groomer.
“Mats can be challenging and painful to remove, and many owners inadvertently cut their dogs skin when trying to remove them. The best treatment is to prevent mats with frequent brushing,” says Dr. Currao.
Baths help remove loose hair and dirt from your dog’s coat, improve its shine and eliminate funky odors. How often you should bathe your dog depends on its breed and lifestyle. For example, breeds with water-repellent coats, like Golden Retrievers, or thick double-coated dogs, like Malamutes, require minimal bathing. Working dogs may require more tub time, depending on how much dirt and debris they pick up while in the field.
Remember, overbathing a dog can strip their skin and fur of essential natural oils. A good rule of thumb is to only give your dog a bath when they need one, like when they are visibly dirty, their coat has lost its luster or they smell bad.
Most pooches don’t mind a little funk and filth, so it can be a dogfight to get them into the tub. As with all aspects of dog grooming, make the experience positive by incorporating plenty of treats, toys and affection. Keep these additional tips in mind when bath time rolls around.
A dog’s skin only has three to five layers of skin cells (compared to our 10 to 15 layers), so you need a dog-specific shampoo that is right for their sensitive skin. Human shampoo, even those formulated for babies, strips their natural oils and disrupts the pH balance of their coats. “Wrong” shampoos can also lead to itchy skin and leave dogs vulnerable to parasites and illness.
There is no one-size-fits-all dog shampoo, but safe choices include mild shampoos made with natural ingredients and free from artificial colors and fragrances. Some dogs need stronger stuff, like medicated shampoos to treat fleas, ticks or specific skin problems.
Don’t forget to dry your dog off after bath time. A good toweling keeps a dripping wet dog from running around your house and helps prevent matting in dogs with long or thick coats.
It can be tempting to use a hairdryer to speed up the process, but it’s easy to burn a dog’s skin and many pups find the noise frightening. Instead, use a towel to press and squeeze their fur (don’t rub) to remove excess water.
Some pups may never need a doggy hairstylist, while others require one as a regular part of their dog grooming routine. Basic dog hair cuts are a practical way to remove fur from around their eyes, mouth and rears. Some breeds — like Poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs — require more intensive trims.
Understanding your breed’s needs is important, and a little research before you begin snipping or clipping goes a long way. For example, you might think shaving double-coated dogs will keep them cooler in the summer. It actually has the opposite effect—their fur already helps keeps them cool, and shaving it can lead to a variety of other health issues.
The American Kennel Club or Continental Kennel Club can offer insight into your dog’s standard appearance, or you can work with a professional groomer to learn how to maintain your dog’s coat at home.
The decision to use clippers, scissors or shears is determined by your dog’s coat, the trimming that’s needed and your level of confidence.
Keeping your dog's paws in good working order is more than a puppy pedicure—it's an integral part of a good dog grooming at-home routine. Paws protect your furry friend’s joints and bones from shock and insulate against weather, and properly treated paws drag in less dirt and debris. To keep them in tip-top shape:
Furry feet attract everything, from the chemicals used on lawns, to burrs, to sidewalk salt. Trimming the fur between your pup’s paw pads is a preventative step to help keep debris from getting stuck.
Trimming dog toenails is a sensitive but essential task. Long toenails can be uncomfortable and increase the chance of your dog tearing one off or developing a more serious health condition. However, cutting them too short can cause pain and bleeding.
The regularity of trimming a dogs’ toenails varies. For example, active working dogs may naturally wear down their nails, as will regular long walks on hard surfaces, like concrete and asphalt. Conversely, dogs who take shorter walks or primarily play on soft surfaces, like the dog park, will need more maintenance.
Dog toenails are sensitive and consist of multiple parts: the outer nail, the inner nail and the “quick,” a blood vessel and nerve running through the nail.
Because bleeding is a possibility, have styptic powder or cornstarch on hand. As you prepare to cut the nail, pay close attention to the quick (the part you want to avoid cutting)—it’s noticeable as the pink part for a dog with white nails. Unfortunately, it’s harder to discern for dogs with dark nails. When cutting, follow these tips:
The best dog nail clippers vary from animal to animal. The most common tools are:
Dog ears are a magnet for dirt, yeast, infections and parasites, which makes cleaning them a vital part of dog grooming. Some dogs—like those working in the dust and dirt of a farm or field—need their ears cleaned consistently, while others rarely need it at all. Overcleaning a canine’s ears removes healthy bacteria and increases the odds of infection, so simply knowing if cleaning is needed is as important as knowing how to clean dog ears.
A healthy dog ear is:
Signs of an ear that needs cleaning include:
It’s common to see advice on how to clean dog ears with hydrogen peroxide or how to clean dog ears with vinegar, but the best way to clean dog ears is with a solution specifically formulated for the task. Dog ears are sensitive, and homemade remedies can cause irritation or exacerbate an existing problem.
Regularly cleaning your canine’s teeth prevents bad breath, dog dental disease, infections and tooth loss. Plus, regular dog dental care can help you steer clear of an expensive trip to the dentist.
“Numerous health issues can crop up with dental disease in dogs. Dental disease can cause infections and abscesses in the mouth. Aside from issues with eating and oral health, dental disease can affect the heart and other organs if severe and untreated,” says Dr. Currao.
Try these methods to keep your dog’s mouth in good shape.
Pet parenthood is a big responsibility, and dog grooming is an aspect that requires regular attention. Dog grooming at home can save you from expensive, time-consuming trips to the groomers, show your pup just how much you love them and make them look even more fetching.