Basics in Dog Grooming

The need and frequency for grooming depends upon the breed, purebred or mix, of your dog.  At first glace, it may appear as if only show dogs, dogs with long hair or poodles require regular grooming.  However, grooming is much more than just clipping or brushing a dog’s fur.  It also includes cutting nails, cleaning out ears and eyes, cleaning teeth and possibly expressing anal glands.  Some of this can be done at home and others are best performed by a groomer or a vet.

Do-It-Yourself Grooming

First, there are the tasks you can perform yourself at home:

  • Brushing – Most dogs love to be brushed, so this may not be as difficult a task as it may seem at first.  (Although, if you have a dog that hates to be brushed, it may be easier to bring him/her to a groomer on a regular basis.  That way the dog builds up a grudge against the groomer and not you.  This may help you keep an extra pair of shoes or two, which may be eaten in retaliation for the brushing.)  All that is needed is a good brush and a little one-on-one time with your four-legged friend.  Brushes are very easy to find and don’t need to be that expensive.  They can be purchased at a local pet store for as little as $15, although the “deluxe” brushes can get as expensive as $50 per brush.  However, if you have a dog with short or medium hair, it is cheaper to buy the brush and brush your dog once per week than it is to pay for regular grooming sessions.  And, brushing a dog is easy.  Just be sure to use gentle, but not too soft strokes moving in the direction that the fur grows.  (i.e., from the front of the dog to the back.)
  • Ear Cleaning – Proper maintenance of a dogs’ ears is important to ensure that the dog does not develop ear infections, breed ear mites in the ear(s) or ear canker.  It is important to check your dog’s ear at least once per month and if s/he plays outdoors for several hours daily, the ears should be checked more frequently.  This insures that the dog has not picked up something from the outside in its ears.  Before wiping the ear clean, check to see if anything is inside the ear.  This could be excess hair, which is starting to grow in the ear, dirt and/or plant matter from outside or tiny white specks in the ear wax (ear mites).  If you notice ear mites or if the plant matter has gone deep into your dog’s ear, call your vet immediately to clear-up the problem and insure there are no additional health risks to the dog. (If plant matter goes deep enough, it can cause permanent damage to the dog.)  Several products, such as ear swabs, ear cleansing pads and cleaners, are available at local pet stores and are not too expensive ($2 to $15 per package).  If you have any questions regarding how to properly clean your dog’s ear, speak to your vet during your next appointment.  S/he will help you understand the basics to caring for your dog’s ears.
  • Nails – Dogs nails grow just like ours do and they need to be clipped as well.  Local pet stores carry nail clippers for dogs, which cost between $10 and $35 per clipper.  Although it may seem easy at first, clipping your dog’s nails is harder than you’d think.  If you are interested in doing this on your own, it is best to go over the process with your vet so they can provide guidance regarding the best way to clip the nails.  If you have trouble doing this or are not comfortable with it, a groomer or your vet will be able to clip your dog’s nails on a regular basis.

Time to Hire a Professional

If you are unsure of yourself or just are not interested in grooming, a groomer can clean your dog’s ears or clip his/her nails.  In addition, most people bring their dog to the groomer for hair care and/or so their anal glands can be expressed:

  • Hair Care – Certain breeds are prone to matting and therefore, regular grooming is a necessity.  If you have a breed, pure or mixed, that requires this type of care, it is best to bring the dog to a groomer for a regular trim.  Depending on how quickly the hair grows, you may need to bring your dog in every six to eight weeks.  Visits to the groomer are approximately $40 to $80 per visit, so the cost is not prohibitive.
  • Expressing Anal Glands – Anal glands are the two small sacks, one located on each side of the anus, which fill with fluid.  Most dogs are able to express their glands on their own through their own daily grooming.  However, the glands of some dogs become impacted and smell, which is an indicator that they dog needs help expressing them.  If your dog has this problem, ensure that the glands are expressed by the groomer or contact your vet for care.

by Danielle Brogan