Dog grooming

How to groom a dog

  • Grooming your dog regularly is essential for his or her welfare, whether it’s done professionally or at home
  • Owners should get their dogs used to being groomed at the earliest opportunity, ideally as a puppy
  • If your dog is frightened of being groomed, it’s important you get a handle on the problem straight away
  • Dog owners should be careful when choosing professional dog groomers to ensure they’re reputable

Why is it important to groom my dog?

Grooming is vital to prevent your dog’s coat getting matted, as well as removing dead hair, dirt and dandruff. Brushing also stimulates the natural oils in the skin and fur, which helps make for a glossy, healthy coat. But grooming isn’t just about brushing your dog’s fur, it’s also chance to check for any unusual lumps or bumps, and give them a general health check. You can use it as an opportunity to check for any signs of fleas or ticks, inspect their teeth, eyes and ears and make sure their claws aren’t overgrown.

When should I start grooming my dog?

Grooming 2
The frequency of grooming sessions will depend on the breed of dog.

Owners should get their dogs used to regular grooming as early on in their life as possible, ideally as a puppy. It’s important that dogs are happy and comfortable with grooming, whether this is done in the home or by a professional dog groomer. By getting into a regular grooming routine with your dog, it also gets them used to this type of handling, and should make visits to the vets much easier.

How often does my dog need grooming?

For a short haired, smooth-coated dog, grooming should be done at least once a week. A rough or long-coated dog will need much more regular grooming and will often require clipping to keep the fur at a manageable length. Clipping can be required anything from every four to 12 weeks, with regular – usually daily – maintenance brushes and cleaning in between.

Terrier types and some other breeds may need ‘stripping’ rather than normal grooming to remove dead hairs in the coat as these dogs don’t shed hair as well as others.

Can I clip my dog myself?

There are a range of fur clippers on the market, but remember that professional groomers have had months of training and their job is not as easy as some people think it looks. Unqualified DIY clipping not only runs the risk of your dog coming out the other side with an unintentionally extreme haircut, it can also result in injury to you or your pet - especially if you have a particularly lively or boisterous hound.

If you do choose to invest in your own set of dog clippers, ensure you do plenty of research before grooming your dog. Get specific instructions on the type of breed you have, use dedicated equipment with safety guards and, if using scissors, make sure they have rounded ends when tackling sensitive areas. It’s vital that you can keep your dog calm and under control when clipping is being done, so a second pair of hands may well be needed.

Choosing the right groomer for my dog

Whether or not your dog has long or short hair, you may prefer to take them to a professional groomer. As the groomer you choose will be responsible for the welfare of your dog when it’s in their care, it’s important that you choose a reputable individual or salon. The grooming industry is currently unregulated, but there are a number of things you can consider to help make the right choice:

  • If possible, ask your vet for recommendations on good local groomers. Failing that, can any of your dog-owning friends or family endorse a groomer?
  • Look out for groomers that are members of trade bodies such as the Pet Care Trust or the British Dog Groomers’ Association – this is a strong indication of a well-qualified and reputable groomer
  • Ask about qualifications. Although dog groomers are not legally required to have any, it’s a good sign. The most recognised qualification in the UK is the City and Guilds.
  • Does the groomer check that your dog is up-to-date with vaccinations, flea and worm treatments? This is crucial in preventing the spread of diseases, infections and parasites.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for a tour of the premises if you want some extra reassurance – a good, reputable groomer would be happy to show you around

What are the best brushes or combs to use at home?

If your dog is nervous about being groomed, some encouragement with treats may help.

There are many different types of brushes on the market, so choosing the right one for your dog can sometimes be overwhelming. Different tools work better on different dogs, so it’s a good idea to ask your vet for advice on which brush would work best for your dog before any investment.

Pin brushes – good for smoothing out small tangles and removing dead fur from both the coat and undercoat. These brushes have metal pins with rounded ends to make it comfortable for your dog. The longer the pins on the brush, the better it is for dogs with longer, thicker coats.

Slicker brushes – these brushes have short, fine hairs on a flat brush and are suitable for removing knots from short to medium coat breeds, or those with curly fur. The pins are angled to avoid scratching the skin while brushing, but don’t apply too much pressure – and look out for any pins sticking out at the wrong angle.

Rubber brushes – ideal for removing dead fur and massaging the skin to encourage natural oils to be released, which make a dog’s coat look healthy and glossy.

Grooming mitts – a useful tool for removing dirt and dead hair from short-coated breeds, but not recommended for dogs with medium to long-haired coats.

Undercoat rake or de-shedding tools – these brushes are brilliant for gently removing the dead fur from a dog’s undercoat, while still brushing through the top coat and removing any dirt. These are particularly useful for dogs that moult frequently.

Bristle brush – these brushes are ideal for finishing off grooming, and for quick maintenance brushes in between brushes. They brush through the top coat, removing dead fur and dirt while stimulating natural oil production.

How should I bathe my dog at home?

It’s not always necessary to bath dogs, unless they are dirty or have skin problems, in which case seek your vet’s advice. Washing them too much can strip a dog’s coat of natural oils.

But if you are washing your dog at home, you can do this in a bathtub with a non-slip mat indoors or, if the weather permits, outside.

Remember to:

  • Detangle any matts before washing as they will only get worse during shampooing
  • Purchase a dedicated dog shampoo as human products have different Ph balances
  • Saturate your dog’s fur with lukewarm water before applying the shampoo
  • Avoid the face, mouth and ear areas and sponge wash these with clean water instead
  • Massage the shampoo in for at least five minutes for a good, thorough cleanse
  • Ensure you rinse thoroughly as any shampoo residue can irritate your dog’s skin
  • Towel dry your dog or, if he or she is comfortable with a hairdryer, ensure it is put on a cool setting

What should I do if my dog is scared of grooming or being brushed?

A negative association can develop because the longer the period of time between brushes, the more uncomfortable it can be for them; the more out of condition their coat becomes the more unpleasant it can become for them to be touched or stroked, let alone bathed or brushed. In extreme cases, this can then have a negative impact on the way they perceive human interaction altogether. So it’s crucial that you get a handle on the problem as soon as possible and tackle it in the right way that’s best for your dog.

If your dog is scared of being brushed, try taking a few steps back. Get out a few brushes but don’t use them, so your dog can just get used to them being around. You can also help them associate the brushes with something good by producing them at the same time as something your dog really likes, such as some really tasty food. Gradually reintroduce brushing by touching your dog very gently with a soft brush starting with short sessions, making sure you always reward him well for taking part!

If problems with grooming persist, consult your vet for further advice.

How do I know if my dog’s nails need to be clipped?

Seek advice from your vet on this, but it’s often not necessary. If a dog is walked on pavements or roads, their claws naturally wear down. Occasionally the dew claws will overgrow as they don’t reach the ground during walking. Overgrown nails are more likely if the dog is lame or arthritic as this shifts weight-bearing.

— Page last updated 30/05/2023