How to groom your dog at home

Our veterinary expert Brian Faulkner shares his dog grooming tips in this handy video guide and explains how to keep their coat in tip-top condition.

Grooming your dog regularly not only helps them look and feel their best, but is also great for their health. The benefits of grooming dogs include allowing you to check them for parasites, as well as any injuries, skin allergies or lumps and bumps that are hidden under their fur.

It’s also an opportunity to remove dead hair, dandruff and any dirt and debris your dog hasn’t been able to shake off, such as grass seeds lodged in their paws or ears. Plus, if you learn how to groom your dog at home instead of (or as well as) taking them to a professional groomer, it can be a great bonding experience for you both.

Dog grooming tips

These top tips will help you get the best out of grooming sessions with your dog.

Pick your moment

Patience is key to grooming your dog at home. Choose a time when your dog is relaxed and sitting comfortably, and just do a little bit at a time if they’re inclined to fidget. For brushing legs and feet, it’s best to teach your dog to stand, says Pamela Campbell of Ayrshire Grooming Salon and Grooming School, the only National Pet College training school in Scotland. ‘Hair in these areas tangles easily if your dog has been walked in long grass, or rubbed dry with a towel.’

Choosing the right dog grooming tools

There are all kinds of dog grooming tools on the market, and different breeds have different needs. Pamela recommends that if you’re not sure what you need to groom your dog at home, ask your vet or groomer – they’ll be able to advise which brush will work best for your dog’s coat type.

  • A pin brush – typically an oval-shaped brush head, with metal teeth capped with plastic – is a gentle, good-all-round dog grooming tool.
  • A soft bristle brush may be enough for brushing short-haired, smooth-coated breeds, but it’s unlikely to be tough enough to tackle tricky tangles or longer hair.
  • A fine, long-toothed comb may be useful for getting down to the roots of longer-haired breeds.
  • A slicker brush – typically a curved or slanted brush, with fine, closely spaced metal teeth – is good for tackling matting and removing dirt and dead hair in curly and longer-haired breeds.
  • A flea comb can also be a useful dog grooming tool. Its closely spaced teeth are designed to collect and help you spot fleas and eggs (but are no substitute for regular flea treatments).
  • Dogs with tangle-prone hair or very dense undercoats may also benefit from a rake-style detangler, or regular trims with a shedding blade to strip dead hair.

Get grooming

Try starting with a soft pin brush, which doesn’t tug too much. Brush their hair a section at a time and smooth out small tangles. In longer-haired dogs, a wider-tooth comb can then be used to gently work out any knots nearer the base of their hair. Keep your hand close to the skin to avoid tugging on the hair from a distance. Brush your dog’s back and sides first, before gently rolling them over to do their belly, and carefully brushing their head and neck. A finer comb may be useful for these sensitive areas.

Watch out for fleas

Grooming is a good opportunity to give your dog an all-over health check and keep an eye out for any skin problems or parasites. Fleas aren’t always easy to spot – try wiping the comb on a moist piece of white tissue, to look for any tiny reddish-brown specks that might be flea droppings.

How to minimise matting

Prevention is always better than cure, and it’s much pleasanter for your dog – and easier for you – to take steps to prevent matts from occurring in the first place. ‘Excessive friction over a small or large area will cause hair to matt and tangle,’ says Pamela. ‘Dogs can get knots behind their ears, tails, hips, groins and underarms, and this can be due to their ears moving or their tails wagging and rubbing on their legs and back.’

Pamela’s top tips for avoiding friction matts are:

  • Steer clear of jackets and tight-fitting clothing, as friction from the coat moving can cause matting.
  • When using a towel to dry your dog, pat them down instead of rubbing them.
  • Using the correct tools, brush and comb out regularly. Advice from your groomer and vet will help make sure you have the right tools for the job.
  • When brushing out, give particular attention to the tricky areas of legs, underarms and hips.

How to groom a dog that hates it

Ideally, dogs should start being groomed as puppies so that they’re comfortable with being handled. If your dog doesn’t like being groomed, introduce the dog brush gradually! At first, simply keep the brush at hand while you’re sitting and stroking your dog, before progressing to touching them with it, and short brushing sessions. Be sure to reward them with a treat or bit of fuss at every stage, and after a grooming session, so that they have positive associations with the experience.

Do I need to bathe my dog before grooming?

It’s generally best to brush your dog before bathing them, rather than afterwards, to loosen dirt and work through any matting, since shampooing your dog can make tangles worse. Most dogs only need a bath from time to time, but benefit from more regular grooming sessions.

How often should I groom my dog?

Your dog’s grooming needs will depend on their coat length and texture. Different individuals require different amounts of grooming. If you’re unsure, check what’s recommended for their breed, and ask your vet for advice. Short-haired breeds such as Labradors, Greyhounds and Staffies tend to be relatively low maintenance, but will benefit from a brush down around once every month, depending on whether they are moulting at the time. For medium-haired breeds, this may need to be upped to at least once a week, if not more. Breeds with long, curly or silky hair, or with a woolly coat that gets matted easily, such as Shih Tzus, Yorkshire Terriers, rough-coated Chow Chows and many Poodle mix breeds, may require daily brushing. Some dogs, including terrier breeds, may need a helping hand with stripping dead hair, as they don’t shed as much as other dogs.

Remember that the longer you leave it between grooming sessions, the more matted your dog’s coat will get – and the more uncomfortable and time-consuming it will be to untangle. This can put dogs off being groomed or handled, so it’s in both of your interests to groom them little and often.

How to keep your dog’s coat healthy

Regular grooming and the occasional bath will help to keep your dog’s coat clean and healthy, and stimulate blood circulation to the skin through gentle massage. You can also do your bit to look after your dog’s coat by making sure they’re getting a healthy balanced diet with a mix of easy-to-digest proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fats. Inadequate nutrition or long-term stress or illness can also show up in your dog’s coat – so, if they’ve lost their lustre, their hair is looking greasy or they’re shedding more than normal, it’s worth booking them a veterinary check-up.

Want more tips on keeping your dog in top condition? Don’t miss our expert advice on cleaning your dog’s teeth and giving them a bath if they need it.

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