The Ultimate Guide to Grooming Your Dog – Tips for first-time Dog-Parents

Contrary to what some may believe regarding grooming, it is a necessity and not a luxury. It is one of the most crucial factors to be considered before you get a dog. The short-haired breeds require less maintenance than their long-haired counterparts. Long coat dogs such as the Bearded Collie, Yorkshire terrier, etc. can get tangles and mats quickly and therefore require routine care. So before getting a new dog, you need to ensure that you will be able to afford his grooming needs.

Benefits of At Home Grooming

If you are a first-time dog-parent the thought of nail clipping, brushing, etc. may seem daunting. Of course, if you don’t feel capable enough you can always take your pup to a professional. Even some experienced parents prefer bringing their furry friends to the groomers for trimming to get it done by someone skilled. But gradually you can practice the basics at home. Not only will it save the effort for your groomer but it will benefit your dog’s health.

Make your dog habitual of getting his teeth brushed, his hair combed, and bathed. These are activities that you should incorporate into your dog’s routine. It is especially vital for pups as they need to get desensitized- get used to someone touching and handling them. This article will talk about the basics of grooming and discuss tips and tricks for first-time parents.

Tips for Different Grooming Activities

Brushing and Combing

Let’s start with the first step, and that is brushing your pup. Even if you do get your dog groomed, combing at home between sessions is vital. It not only keeps your dog’s coat healthy but also reduces shedding and prevents tangles & mats from forming. It also helps distribute the natural oils around the hair and prevents dryness. If your dog’s fur is brushed, it will be easier for you to spot any bumps or any skin conditions.

As I mentioned before, for long-haired breeds you will need to brush your dog weekly. Short-coated dogs don’t require it weekly, but I would still suggest brushing every few weeks. Your pup may not have any mats, but it’s better to remove the loose hair.

What Will You Need?

Before we begin, let’s discuss the essential supplies. You will need the perfect brush! You will find lots of different varieties, select the one that suits your dog’s needs. A slicker brush is one that has rows of long and thin pins; it works for all breeds. For softer coats get a pin brush that has rubber coated tips and the bristle brush for short, wiry coats.

How to Begin?

Remember you need to be extremely gentle while brushing your dog. Don’t pull the hair as that can be very painful. Always comb along the direction of your dog’s coat and never backward. If you spot a mat, try softening it with a conditioner, and cut it out later on. But if you are newer to grooming, I wouldn’t recommend taking the risk. Take your pooch to a professional and let them handle it the right way.

Dental Care

Maintaining dental hygiene is a vital part of grooming that you shouldn’t neglect. You need to brush your dog’s teeth daily to protect him from periodontal diseases. If oral hygiene isn’t maintained, bacteria and plaque can gather around the gum line. The bacteria can enter your dog’s bloodstream and attack organs such as the heart, kidney, and liver.

Tips for Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth

If you have gotten a pup, then it’s best to develop the habit of brushing at an early age, but it’s never too late for your adult dog as well. Apply gauze on your finger and begin by gently rubbing it around your pup’s front teeth. The idea is to get him accustomed to someone touching his teeth, so he doesn’t freak out when you use the brush. Keep praising your pooch and give him treats for being obedient. Once he gets comfortable, apply dog toothpaste on your finger and repeat. After sometime bring in the toothbrush and gently clean his teeth at a 45⁰ angle. It will require persistence and patience, but the benefits are worth the effort.

Dental chews to remove plaque from your dog’s teeth are another option. You can use crunchy food such as carrots- give your dog some baby carrots to chew on, they will scrape off the tartar.

Controlling Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks are parasites in the environment that can lead to many health issues. They are painful, the bites are annoying, scratchy and may cause your pup’s skin to dry out or swell. They can also lead to anemia as they suck blood, and if your dog swallows a flea, it may cause tapeworms. Tick bites are no less harmful and can transmit illnesses such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and others that may even cause death. The problem with fleas is that they exist everywhere, from our bedding to carpeting the eggs can survive at any place. So you need to be extremely vigilant and take all sorts of prevention during flea season.

You may be able to notice fleas and ticks by visual inspection. But signs such as excessive scratching, licking the skin, hotspots or hair loss are indications of a flea infestation.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Fleas?

Let’s start with the indoors as that is where the larvae or eggs may survive. Make it a habit of vacuuming the house regularly. If you have carpet in your home, you need to use products such as diatomaceous earth (DE) and boric powder to kill the fleas. Wear a mask while using these chemicals and for DE use the food grade option. Be sure to clean all the areas where your pet likes to sit and wash his bedding every week. You can also use lemon spray on infected furniture to control the fleas.
For the outdoors, you need to protect your soil and backyard. Mow your lawns regularly so that the grass is always short. Keep rosemary, lemongrass or basil plants in the yard to protect the area against fleas. There are specific natural substances that are great at repelling fleas; garlic is one such ingredient. Add boiling water to chopped garlic and make a spray. Use it all over your lawn to prevent an infestation.

Now let’s discuss ways to control fleas on your pooch. You can use dog-safe sprays and monthly topical products to guard your pup against the parasites. If you are looking for natural ways, well then apple cider vinegar is your best bet. Mix the vinegar with equal amount of water and spray it on your dog. Bathing your dog can also help, use a mild shampoo and brush your pooch afterward. The acidic nature of the vinegar will make your pooch inhospitable for the insects. You can also use flea collars for protection but be sure to check for the duration of its effectiveness.


If your dog doesn’t like the water, getting him to bathe may be a difficult task but don’t let it daunt you. Now you may be thinking how frequently do you have to wash your dog? Well, that depends upon the breed, coat, and environmental conditions. However once a month works for most dogs. For dogs with smooth, double or water-repellent coats bathing fewer times would suit better.

Preparing for Bathtime

Some pet-parents initially make the mistake of using baby shampoo for their dogs. I would strongly advise you to get a dog-safe shampoo prescribed by your vet. You also need to make sure you get your dog to like the water before bathtime. Give him treats for getting into the bathtub and praise him for doing a good job.

Tips for Bathing Your Dog

Make sure you brush your dog before the bath to detangle any mats otherwise they may set in with water. Also, put cotton balls in your dog’s ears to prevent water from getting inside. Make sure the water is lukewarm and not extremely hot.

Once you put your dog in the tub soak him thoroughly. Begin applying the shampoo from the neck and go down to the tail. You can also empty and clean the anal glands if you are aware of the technique. Be sure to rinse the shampoo out entirely as it can irritate. Throw a towel on your dog as soon as you are done and dry him entirely. You can use a blow dryer if you’d like but keep it on the lower heat setting. Keep praising your pooch throughout the bath and reward him afterward for being a good boy.

Nail Clipping

Clipping your dog’s nails is crucial to prevent him from injuries. Long nails can cause your dog to adjust his posture in an unnatural way which could lead to arthritis. It will make it painful for your pooch to walk and play. Furthermore, the nails will exert pressure on the nail-bed & joints and will increase the risk of injuries. Unkempt nails can spoil the floor or carpeting, and increase the chances of you incurring an injury while playing or cuddling with your pooch.

Again I’d like to reinstate not to try it yourself until you have seen a groomer do it the right way. Some dog breeds don’t need clipping as their nails naturally wear out while others such as the Daschunds and Bassets do need grooming.

What Will You Need?

Okay so let’s talk about the required tools. There are different kinds of dog clippers available. The scissor clippers are suitable for large dogs with thick nails. The guillotine ones are better for small to medium sized dogs. You can also find nail grinders for pups that aren’t fans of clipping.

How to Clip the Nails?

Once you have the tools, let’s begin! But not too fast, you don’t want your pup to freak out just as you are about to cut his nails. So you need to accustom your pooch to the feeling of clipping and train him. Treating your pooch will help you out during the process. So begin by touching his paws, offer him a treat every time he allows you to do so. Do this for about 15 minutes until he gets comfortable. Now start holding the clippers in your hand and squeeze them to make the clipping sound, but don’t cut the nails as yet.

When you are confident that your furry friend is prepared it’s time to begin the act. Hold your dog’s paw gently in your hand and determine where the dead part ends. For most dogs, the live part (called quick) of the nails would be pink in color and easily identified. For pups with black nails, it will be difficult to find the quick. So when you notice a dark central part, stop right there. Always trim from the end. Hold the trimmer steadily in your hands and cut away from the live part in a quick squeeze.

Trimming or Shaving

You can clip your dog’s hair at home too, but get it done from the groomer the first few times to get some tips. If not, you can always read about your dog’s breed on the internet to get an idea of how the coat should look. If your pup has any mats or tangles, don’t try clipping at home and go to a professional.

You can get hair clippers for your pooch; get the less noisy ones, so they don’t bother your dog. Begin by letting your dog get comfortable with the feel of someone clipping the hair. If you have a pup, it would be easier to get him used to it. Begin trimming in a furry area so you can get an idea of how deep will it cut. Remember the clipper can get hot so keep turning it off in between to cool it down. If you have a long-haired breed, I would recommend leaving the trimming for the professionals.

The Ultimate Guide to Grooming Your Dog - Tips for first-time Dog-Parents

About the author : Jenny Perkins is an Animal Behavior Specialist and a passionate writer. She loves to write about the nutrition, health, and care of dogs. Jenny aims at providing tips to dog owners that can help them become better pet parents. She writes for the blog Here Pup.