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Dog grooming guide

Keeping your dog clean is not just about aesthetic value, it helps them be happy and healthy. Trimming an unkempt coat will reduce shedding, prevent fur from matting, limit allergens, and make it easier for you to spot skin issues. 

We talked with some professional groomers about what aspects of grooming can be done by pet parents and which you should leave to the professionals.


DIY wash and dry

If you have a short-haired dog or frequent trips to the groomers are out of your budget, you should be able to carry out baths, brushings, nail trims, and ear cleanses at home. You'll need a brush that will remove an undercoat without irritating their skin, shampoo that suits their coat (i.e. a natural formula can be gentle on sensitive skin), fragrance-free paw wipes for in-between baths to remove allergens, and nail clippers. Then, should you also decide to attempt some dental care, you'll need a toothbrush.

Most dogs tolerate bath time, but if getting yours into the tub is a struggle, try enticing them with treats to distract them. Before you sit your dog down to trim their claws, we highly recommend watching a demo, there are plenty made by professional groomers available on YouTube. With clippers, you could accidentally cut the quick. The quick is a nerve that can bleed if cut and cause pain to your dog. It's typically visible in white/clear nails but challenging to spot if your dog has black nails. If that's the case, we recommend a file or grinder (start slow with the latter because the motor noise scares some dogs). If you’re not 100% confident, speak with your vet or groomer or advice.

Leave it to the pros

It's generally best to have a professional groomer trim your dog's coat. They are well practised in working around sensitive areas close to dogs’ eyes, ears, and muzzle. Long-haired and/or outdoorsy dogs should have regular haircuts. "Your dog's coat can pick up things like a dust mop," says groomer Laura Gamarro. "Especially the doodle set. Their hair grows twice as fast as any other dog, and their fur has many different textures - it's very unpredictable, stringy, curly, and super dense."

The service menu at many pet grooming salons may look familiar: haircut, blow-dry, manicure. Figuring out what to get your dog to depends on their breed (and your style). 

Picking a groomer

You would never trust just anyone armed with a pair of scissors to cut your hair, so make sure your dog is in the hands of an expert. When screening groomers, ask the following questions: 

  • Is the groomer certified and a member of a recognised grooming association?
  • Does the groomer show concern for your dog's health and behavioural issues?
  • Does the salon require confirmation that your dog is up-to-date on their vaccinations?
  • Is the salon clean, tidy, and organised (pee and poop smells should be deal-breakers)?
  • Can you tour the salon before your dog's appointment and watch a grooming procedure?
  • Does the salon have experience grooming your dog's specific breed and personality?

Once you've got an appointment, you can do a few things to prepare. Walk your dog before their appointment to let them go to the toilet and tire them out so they won't be anxious. Also, avoid feeding them right before. Bring a copy of their current vaccination record with you and explain any health or behavioural issues your dog may have to the groomer. For example, brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs and Boston terriers should be carefully monitored under the dryer because they can have breathing problems. An experienced groomer will know that but won't know if your dog is timid or skittish (or can get snappy and should wear a muzzle when the clippers come out).

Last but not least, remember to note how your pet looks and acts when you pick them up. Do they appear happy or seem traumatised by the experience? If your dog is comfortable with a particular groomer at the salon, be loyal to them, so they're a familiar face to your dog. And if not, "if your dog doesn't like to get groomed, it's probably time to look for another groomer," says Linda Easton, director of International Professional Groomers. "It's a spa treatment and should feel good - they're getting a warm back and a full body massage! And, of course, they should look nice when they come out."

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Written by:
Katherine Tolford
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