Unlike us humans, dogs don’t start each day with a shower, shave, and skincare routine. But skipping grooming altogether is a recipe for a stinky, dirty pooch. Instead of going to the groomer every other week, you could be saving time and money with DIY dog grooming.
Dog grooming isn’t just about helping your pup look its best. For many breeds, regular grooming is necessary for a healthy coat.
Despite what you might believe, DIY dog grooming is possible for almost every owner and their beloved pup. You just need to have the right tools and know the proper techniques.
The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to DIY Dog Grooming
At first glance, DIY dog grooming can seem like an insurmountable task. But when you break it down into its individual steps, it’s really not that hard at all!
Here’s what you need to give your dog the perfect spa day without ever leaving the house:
1. Claws and paws
Very few dogs get their nails trimmed as often as they should. Dogs need nail trims as often as every three or four weeks.
There are a few different tools to choose from.
Steel nail clippers are durable and straightforward. These come in different sizes for small and large breeds, so be sure to choose the right set for your pup.
Many dogs (and their owners) prefer a nail grinder to traditional clippers. These tools require just as much care as clippers to avoid damaging the quick.
You should keep your dog’s claws trimmed year-round. In the winter, you can also apply a moisturizing paw wax to protect and repair your dog’s paw pads from the harsh weather.
No matter how careful you are, accidents do happen. Keep a pet-safe styptic powder on hand to stop potential bleeding.
2. Brush it out
Regular brushing is the secret to giving your dog a beautiful, healthy coat. It can also cut down on day-to-day shedding.
No matter your dog’s coat type, it’s a good idea to have a pin brush or grooming gloves on hand. These tools are best for routine brushing and detangling between full grooming sessions.
For dogs with short and smooth coats, a boar bristle brush will do it all.
If your dog has medium, long, or curly hair, then you’ll need a few extra tools in your arsenal. Invest in a high-quality slicker brush. You’ll also want to have a wide-tooth comb to gently remove knots and tangles.
3. Bath time
Dog baths are nearly unavoidable. While bath time is an important part of DIY dog grooming, it’s also a must for those days after heavy rain or a trip to the dog park.
This is the perfect time to use your removable shower head. You can also invest in an all-in-one grooming attachment that connects to your regular shower or outdoor hose faucet.
Most dogs will benefit from a basic odor-control shampoo.
If your dog has a light-colored coat that’s seen better days, use a whitening shampoo to brighten it up.
Use a soft bath brush to loosen dead hair and dirt from your dog’s coat. A thorough bath can lessen the amount of time your need to spend de-shedding your dog’s coat later on.
(If Fido has a hard time staying still during bath time, try spreading peanut butter on your shower wall or using a lick mat with a suction cup attachment.)
4. Shed the excess
All dogs shed to some extent. But if you own a double-coated breed, you’ll want to add de-shedding to your DIY dog grooming routine.
Double coats feature a smooth, outer layer of fur covering a thick insulating layer.
Some popular examples of double-coated dogs include German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Pomeranians, Border Collies, and both Golden and Labrador Retrievers.
Recommended Read: So You Want a Border Collie Dog?
You’ll need to target the under-layer of your dog’s coat to remove the bulk of the loose hair.
The best way to remove the excess hair from your dog’s undercoat is with something like a FURminator Deshedding Tool or an undercoat rake.
5. Trim and proper
If your four-legged friend has a medium or long coat, you’ll need to add an extra step to your DIY dog grooming routine.
Cutting your dog’s coat can keep mats and knots at bay. It can also help your pup stay comfortable and look its best.
For light trimming around the face, paws, and backside (or to remove tough knots) invest in a pair of blunted scissors.
If your dog requires regular shaving or sanitary trims, then it’s a good idea to get some pet clippers.
6. Freshen up
It’s time for the finishing touches.
If your dog’s coat is dry or prone to tangles, it’s a good idea to follow up your grooming session with a spritz of leave-in conditioner. If you have a go-to shampoo brand, there’s a good chance they sell conditioner, too.
Some dogs get ear infections like it’s their job. Use a gentle, pet-safe ear cleanser to maintain your pup’s ear health. You can skip this step if your dog has healthy ears.
Recommended Read: How to Clean Dog Ears with Hydrogen Peroxide
Tear staining — the brown marks you see on some dog’s faces — is normal for many breeds. You can use a tear stain remover to erase these stains and ensure your pooch looks its best after your DIY dog grooming session.
How To Care for Your Dog’s Coat Between Baths
Some dogs are easier to groom than others. Whether your dog is a pain to groom or not will largely depend on its coat type.
If you’re not sure what type of coat your dog has, there are a few ways you can find out.
It’s easy to identify what type of coat a purebred dog has. Just look up the breed guidelines through the American Kennel Club or another trusted resource.
For mixed breeds (a.k.a. your beloved mutts), this can be a bit tricky. One of the best strategies is to ask your dog groomer what type of hair your dog has.
If all else fails, there are plenty of great online resources that can help you determine your dog’s coat type and how to best care for it.
While short-coated dogs — like Labrador Retrievers, Bloodhounds, and American Staffordshire Terriers — don’t experience knots and tangles, you might be surprised by how big of a difference some thorough grooming can make.
The good news is that it only takes a few steps to groom a short-haired dog.
Use a gentle rubber or boar bristle brush on your dog’s coat once or twice per week. This will remove loose, dead hair and keep it from getting all over your clothes and furniture.
Most dog lovers know what they’re getting into by owning a medium- or long-haired breed. These dogs require frequent grooming to prevent tangles and mats.
While you can use a pin brush for full-body brushing, you’ll also need to have a wide-tooth comb on hand for finding and removing knots. Don’t hesitate to use baby powder or a detangling product if it helps loosen tough tangles.
It’s okay to cut out tangles and mats if you can do so safely. Use a pair of blunted scissors for this task.
Dogs with curly coats tend to shed very little, which is great news for allergy sufferers. However, their tightly coiled hair is extremely prone to collecting dirt and debris and tangling.
Because curly coats are so thick, brushing the top layer of hair won’t be enough.
To groom a curly-coated dog, divide the hair into small sections so you can reach the innermost layer. Use a slicker brush to remove dirt and loose hair.
Follow up with a wide-tooth comb to locate and detangle any knots in your dog’s coat.
Some dog breeds, like the Cocker Spaniel, Schnauzer, and Irish Wolfhound, have wiry coats.
Since they don’t naturally shed, wire-haired dogs require a grooming technique called stripping. You can strip your dog’s coat with a tool or by hand.
Stripping pulls old hair out so that new hair can grow in its place. This does not hurt the dog as long as you use the proper technique.
You can strip your dog’s coat all at once or in small sections. Most owners choose the latter.
DIY Dog Grooming FAQs
Do you still have questions? We have answers!
What is the easiest blade size to use for DIY dog grooming?
If you’re just starting to groom your dog at home, start with a #7 and #10 blade. For sanitary trims, all you really need is a #10 blade.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a complete set of blade sizes. But sticking to just one or two blade sizes will make it easier to learn how to properly shave your dog.
Should I groom a small dog the same way as a big dog?
Generally, your dog’s size won’t affect the grooming process. But it can affect the tools you use.
Be sure to invest in brushes, nail clippers, and shears meant for your dog’s size.
Using the incorrect brush size will make the job take longer. Using the wrong nail clippers or shears could cause pain or even injury.
What is a sanitary trim?
A sanitary trim shortens the fur around your dog’s backside, groin, and stomach. This helps keep these areas clean of urine and feces.
Not all dogs need sanitary trims. They’re most popular for long-haired breeds and older dogs with limited mobility.
Is it safe to groom my dog myself?
While DIY dog grooming can be a great way to save money and bond with your pooch, it’s not for everyone.
Some of the most common risks of DIY grooming include trimming nails too short and cutting the dog’s skin. These injuries are relatively harmless but should still be avoided at all costs.
Make sure you use the correct tools for the job.
Dull or improperly sized nail clippers could injure your dog’s nails. Only use shears and scissors meant for grooming and with proper safety guards.
If you’re unsure how to cut your dog’s nails or hair, or if you’re unable to safely restrain your dog during grooming, it’s best to call in the professionals.
Should I shave my dog’s coat?
You cannot shave all dog breeds. In fact, most dogs should never have their coats shaved unless absolutely necessary.
It’s a common misconception that shaving a dog will help it stay cool in summer. For double-coated breeds, the opposite is true. The thick double coat helps these dogs block out the heat.
Shaving will also damage a double coat.
As the hair grows back in, the outer and inner layers of fur grow at different rates. Some groomers compare the resulting texture to Velcro (which is a recipe for attracting natural debris like burrs).
Professional groomers can easily recognize which dogs can and cannot be shaved. Before you try DIY dog grooming, it’s important to understand your dog’s coat type and how to properly care for it.
Rub-a-Dub-Dub for a Clean, Happy Pup
Is DIY dog grooming for everyone? No. But with patience and a gentle approach, most dogs can be easily groomed at home.
For your sake and your pup’s, it’s important to invest in the right tools for the job. Cutting corners can make grooming take longer and even make it more uncomfortable for you and your dog.
Don’t skimp on the treats, especially when first trying out at-home dog grooming. It’s amazing how easily a few yummy snacks can turn most dogs’ attitudes around!
And if all else fails, there’s no shame in turning to a professional groomer to ensure your dog is as happy and healthy as possible.
At the end of the day, what matters most is that your dog is cared for and loved.
What tips and tricks do you have for getting your dog to tolerate at-home grooming? Let us know in the comments below!